5 Things That Affect the Effectiveness of Your Exam Gloves

Regular exam gloves exist for the sole purpose of providing a barrier between your hands and whatever you are touching. It is important to remember that standard exam gloves in the box are clean, but still require some degree of hand hygiene to protect your patients. In any setting where exam gloves are used, there are a number of things that can affect how well your gloves work that you should be aware of. Join us in today’s post as we discuss some of the common things that affect how effective your exam gloves are and what you can do to improve their efficiency, for the sake of you and your patients.

It is important to note that although we will refer to gloves in this article as exam gloves, everything discussed here applies to both sterile and non-sterile gloves as well as latex, vinyl, and nitrile gloves.

Hand Hygiene

Wearing gloves is much more like a bright visual cue that it is an effective barrier to preventing the transmission of disease. Exam gloves are effective at keeping body fluids and other contaminants off of the hands of the wearer, but when they are pulled out of a multi-pack box, handled, and then put on hands, they can be less clean for the person being touched than their own cell phone. To help reduce what the person being touched is exposed to on the exam glove, it is important to follow some simple hand and glove hygiene tips.

  • Wash hands prior to wearing — gloves are not a trade-off to clean hands.
  • Minimize handling of gloves.
    • Take them from the box and put them on
  • Protect the box that the gloves come in.
    • Do not combine boxes of gloves,
    • Do not put gloves back in a box if they fall out
  • Be mindful of what you touch.
    • Do not touch your face or hair.
    • Change gloves between touching objects and patient.
    • Change gloves between removing dressings and applying new ones.
    • Do not handle your cell phone or computer with gloves on.
    • Change gloves after touching common items — door handles, buttons, or carts.
  • Gloves are not your hands.
    • Do not wash your gloves.
    • Do not reuse exam gloves.

Exam gloves are meant to provide a barrier of protection for both you and the patient you are touching. Being mindful of what you touch can help improve the effectiveness of the gloves.

Cleaning Products

A variety of cleaning products can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your gloves. Cleaning products, whether meant to clean surfaces or skin, tend to be corrosive. Cleaning products contain chemicals that kill bacteria and other microbes but can also compromise the integrity of the already thin material of exam gloves. Bleach, rubbing alcohol, Cavicide, and other common medical cleaning products can all break down gloves. Exam gloves are used when handling these products to help prevent the skin of the user’s hand being damaged, but you should be mindful to change exam gloves both between cleaning products used and after using a cleaning product.

Glove Ingredients

The gloves themselves can cause a difference in effectiveness. There are different claims as to whether nitrile, vinyl, natural latex, or latex are best for use, but as a whole, the medical industry has reduced the use of latex overall. Regardless of what type of gloves you have in your facility, the materials that are used to create them can significantly impact the efficiency of the gloves. Fillers that some exam glove manufacturing companies use can reduce the efficiency of the exam gloves by more than 50%. Before you don your gloves, check them for quality, and then check again after putting them on. Check for rips, tears, and holes — even the smallest one will widen with wear.

Time and Friction

Nitrile exam gloves are not meant for long-term use. Continued use can degrade and develop holes as time passes. This is due to the stretching of the fibers and exposure to the environment as well as the sweat and oils on your hands. One study suggests that 12 minutes of use reduces the efficiency of exam gloves by nearly 35%.

Most people understand that time and exposure compromise the efficiency of their gloves and opt to wear two pairs, layered. However, this is very dangerous and the friction between the two pairs of gloves can actually cause both of the gloves to break even quicker. The solution is to wear a single pair of gloves and change them more frequently.

Oil-Based Lubricants

Oil-based lubricants break down latex and rubber by making the cells of the material swell or become brittle. This is not a guarantee that the material of your exam gloves will be completely compromised, but with use and/ or friction, there is a much greater chance of breakdown. While many exam gloves used in the medial industry are now latex-free, they still contain rubber. Water-based lubricants are a safe alternative to any other lubricant of choice. HR Lubricating Jelly is a medical lubricant that is safe for use in a variety of situations that involve exam gloves because it is safe for both the exam gloves as well as the patient.

At HR Pharmaceuticals, we make products that are safe for patients and medical professionals alike. Our HR Lubricating Jelly will not compromise the integrity of exam gloves, which helps keep everyone involved safer. Our medical lubricant is pH balanced and water-soluble, so you can rest assured it is not degrading the materials on your exam gloves. Additionally, it is bacteriostatic, meaning it won’t aid in the transmission of microbes. For a medical lubricant that you can count on, trust HR Lubricating Jelly.