Skip to main content

Glove conservation strategies during COVID-19

Glove demand is at an all-time high, and the current supply is severely constrained due to raw material shortages and manufacturing supply limitations

In fact, global glove demand is estimated at 585 billion, but estimated supply is limited to 370 billion.1 In these extreme cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends strategies that break with standard practice and allow for extended use.

With respiratory and flu season approaching, it’s important to understand your facility’s current glove inventory, supply chain and utilization rate, and determine the best glove conservation options for your facility. The CDC has recommended these four strategies to reduce and conserve glove use during COVID-19.

1 | Some gloves may be used past their shelf life

While many non-sterile gloves cleared by the FDA do not have an expiration date, some manufacturers do designate a shelf life. In this case, facilities may use these gloves past their designated shelf life. However, expired sterile gloves should not be used for surgical or sterile procedure.

2 | When to forego gloves

If contact with potentially infectious material such as blood, mucous membranes or contaminated skin is expected, gloves should be worn. However, healthcare providers may consider suspending use of gloves in other situations. The CDC does not recommend double gloves when providing care to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.

3 | When to use non-healthcare gloves

Non-sterile gloves should be prioritized when protecting hands from hazardous substances, however, when supply is severely limited, non-healthcare glove alternatives can be used. This includes food service or household gloves made of materials such as polyvinyl chloride, nitrile, and latex.

4 | Extending gloves between patients

During a glove supply crisis such as the one we are experiencing during COVID-19, medical gloves can remain on between patients but must be sanitized to prevent transmission of pathogens. Gloves should be cleaned while wearing them at times when normal hand hygiene would be performed.

The CDC also has provided guidance on glove usage in extreme shortages and when to dispose of gloves.

How to clean gloves for extended use during extreme shortage

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) is the preferred method when gloves (or hands) are not visibly soiled. Disposable medical gloves can be disinfected up to 6 times with ABHS or until the gloves become contaminated or damaged

  • Soap and water can also be used to clean donned disposable medical gloves between patients. In this scenario, long-cuffed surgical gloves should be worn as water can get trapped inside short cuffed gloves. Disposable medical gloves can be washed with soap and water up to 10 times or until the gloves become contaminated or damaged

  • Diluted bleach solution should be used as a last option for disinfection as there is potential for spills and respiratory irritation. Dip gloved hands into a diluted bleach solution for 5 seconds and allow the solution to remain on gloves for one minute before rinsing with water and wiping dry. A few pointers to keep in mind: ensure no tears or rips in gloves, keep hands in a downward position to avoid skin, mix the solution fresh each day, and do this in a well-ventilated room. Disposable medical gloves can be disinfected with a diluted bleach solution up to 10 times or until the gloves become contaminated or damaged

​Disposable medical gloves should be discarded when:

  • There is visible soiling with blood, nasal secretions, or other body fluids

  • There are signs of damage, such as holes, rips or tearing

  • Wearer has met four hours of continuous use

  • Doffing gloves – keep in mind that once removed, gloves should not be re-donned as the risk of tearing and contamination increases. As always, once gloves are removed, hand hygiene should be performed with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water

1: Prolonging disposable glove use during supply shortages, Ansell, 2020