Can you wash or reuse disposable gloves?
Because the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted on contaminated surfaces, some people take the extra step of wearing gloves to provide visible protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear gloves when disinfecting high-touch surfaces in the house and discard them after each cleaning. If your sole purpose for using reusable gloves is to remove coronavirus from your home, the CDC says you should only use them for that purpose.
But what if you want to use and reuse gloves to buy food or do other things around the house?
Health experts say none of these methods are recommended.
You probably shouldn't wear gloves at all.
One reason health experts disapprove of wearing gloves outside is that they give the wearer a false sense of security and the belief that they don't need to wash their hands.
According to the World Health Organization, wearing gloves outside is not effective in preventing coronavirus infections. "Regular hand washing is better than wearing rubber gloves to prevent COVID-19," WHO said in a Facebook post.
During a coronavirus pandemic, even disinfecting gloves may not prevent the spread of the bacteria.
It is difficult to use gloves without causing any contamination.
Lucy Wilson, chair of the Department of Emergency Health Services at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, noted that latex and nitrile medical gloves
are designed for single use.
One reason, she said, is that "it's hard to take them off, and taking them off can contaminate yourself and them." Properly removing the gloves requires turning them upside down, which can make it difficult to avoid contaminating them.
After turning the gloves upside down, she says, if they are to be reused, "a way must be found to bring them back to their normal shape without contaminating them." This would be difficult because of their fragile shape.
Cleaning disposable gloves can compromise their integrity.
Once you touch a surface that could be contaminated by a glove, you risk using it after cleaning. Medical gloves are not an unstoppable barrier. OSHA states that even applying hand cream under latex gloves
can damage the material.
Disposable gloves are not designed for long-term wear," said Kelly Reynolds, director of the Center for Environmental, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment at the University of Arizona. "Reuse of disposable gloves
may increase the risk of exposure to viruses because small cracks can develop over time. Cleaning gloves can damage the integrity of the glove, so it is not recommended."
Keeping your hands clean is easier than wearing gloves.
If you want to sanitize your gloves for reuse, realize that most people's hands are easier to clean and maintain than gloves.
For example, you touch surfaces that happen to be contaminated, although statistically that is relatively unlikely outside of a health care setting," says Thomas Russo, chair of the University at Buffalo's Department of Epidemiology. "The secret then is to go ahead and disinfect your hands and/or gloves. The problem is that gloves are more difficult to disinfect."
Russo notes that rubber latex gloves can easily tear and break when washed and reused, but your hands can withstand this regular cleaning. It's really easy to keep your hands sanitary," he says.
Remember how this coronavirus is primarily transmitted. It's not absorbed through unbroken skin, but through mucous membranes or openings, Wilson notes. Your skin itself is the protective layer, but you must wash your hands wisely and carefully," Wilson says.