Since COVID-19, the shortage of personal protective equipment has become an issue for many organizations throughout the country. Disposable gloves are being disinfected between tasks using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It might sound like an acceptable practice under the circumstances, but did you ever think about what the alcohol does to the gloves that you are using to protect yourself and your patients from infection?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend disinfection of disposable medical gloves as standard practice. This practice is inconsistent with general disposable glove usage, but, in times of extreme disposable medical glove shortages, this option may need to be considered.
If there is a need to sanitize your gloves, they should be checked for signs of damage (e.g., holes, rips, tearing) or degradation (e.g., brittle, stiff, discoloration, tackiness). If any of these are observed, discard the gloves and do not disinfect.
It is important to remember, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can affect the porosity of gloves, causing them to become more porous and/or sticky. This can mean that chemicals, or potentially infectious agents you are working with can reach the skin. Typically, nitrile gloves are more chemical resistant than latex gloves. After sanitizing gloves with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, health care workers should check gloves again for signs of damage or degradation. Discontinue use and discard the gloves if any damage is evident.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the preferred method for performing hand hygiene of gloved hands in healthcare settings when the gloves are not visibly soiled. Research has shown multiple disposable latex and nitrile glove brands maintained their integrity when treated with alcohol-based hand sanitizer. According to December 2020 information distributed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), disposable medical gloves can be disinfected for up to six (6) applications of alcohol-based hand sanitizer or until the gloves become otherwise contaminated.
In summary, only in under extreme emergencies should disposable medical gloves be disinfected with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and even then, you need to follow the manufacturer’s information for use (IFU). Do not disinfect gloves more than six (6) times to avoid contamination to yourself and your patients.
Most importantly, stay safe out there!
• The Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity – COVID -19 FAQs – PPE Use
• Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Disposable Medical Gloves, Updated Dec. 23, 2020, CDC.