With these shortages in mind, people are beginning to wonder if, and how, they can make their supply stretch a little further. Normally, we’re instructed to change to a new pair of gloves any time you change tasks or gloves become soiled or torn. Medical professionals and other disposable glove users are wondering if the life span of disposable gloves can be extended by applying extra strength hand sanitizers or running disposable gloves through an autoclave.
A couple main concerns come to mind when considering whether disposable gloves can be reused. First is the effectiveness of the decontamination process and second is the effect this decontamination has on the protective properties of the glove.
There is research that supports the decontamination process of disposable gloves. When using strong chemical and alcohol based cleaner, you can squeeze a little extra life out of those disposable gloves, because the cleaner helps to remove any remaining microorganisms that were left on the surface of the gloves.
The downside of this decontamination method involving alcohol and chemical based cleaners is that it can cause the glove materials to weaken and even dissolve, rendering them unprotective and useless. Additionally, studies have shown that using an autoclave to clean gloves is not great because gloves stick to themselves and then tear upon opening.
It is important to keep clear guidelines of when a glove can be re-used and when it needs to be disposed of. If there are obvious and visible signs of the glove being soiled, it should be thrown away. You should also determine how many times is appropriate for gloves to be reprocessed for use, and keep track of those usages. It is also important to closely inspect gloves after they’ve gone through the reprocess system to make sure that they are not too far damaged for use.
A few other ways to consider for extending the life of your disposable glove, especially in a medical setting, include:
- Use up those gloves that are beyond the manufacturer shelf-life
- Rather than changing to a new pair of gloves, wash your hands thoroughly when moving between patients (who do not have an infectious disease)
- Consider using non-medical grade gloves in dire situations