The biggest reason protective gloves are used is the simple fact that each pair is used only once and then disposed of. It’s really that simple! While they’ve been available for decades, it was the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s that brought out the massive surge for these rubber hand gloves. It brought to light, not only protection from the AIDS virus but also, the common sense that many diseases and infections are contractible so why shouldn’t people be protecting themselves?
Many people tend to associate protective gloves specifically for hospitals or food service workers and while this is certainly a very important reason to use these gloves, there are many different purposes served by these gloves that you may or may not be aware of. During this 3-part series, the three most popular types of gloves (vinyl, latex and nitrile) will be identified along with what makes each so special to its protective uses.
Over a hundred years ago in 1890, William Stewart Halsted, from Johns Hopkins University, was the first person to use sterilised medical gloves after a publication of the germ theory came out. A strong advocate of sanitary surgical practice, his obsessive habits of cleanliness pushed him into discovering better ways to keep surgical operating rooms and patients as sanitised as humanly possible.
It came as no surprise that Halsted’s patients healed much at a higher rate and stayed in the hospital for noticeably lesser amounts of time than other doctor’s patients. Because his patient improvement rate was so high, in 1886, Dr. William H. Welch, from John Hopkins University, offered Halstead an invitation to join their faculty and begin work on improving surgical techniques for suture wounds and healing.
Four years later, one of William Halsted’s nurses became infected through another patient’s disease which inspired him to conjure up the invention of rubber gloves. In the 1800’s, obviously technology wasn’t what it was today which kept rubber gloves very basic, thick and reusable. Not necessarily the most sanitary way we’re used to today but definitely a progressive movement during that era.
It wasn’t until 1964 that disposable latex gloves were brought to light in a much newer, safer and more comfortable fashion by Brian Ansell, founder of Ansell Limited. Ansell initially ran a balloon manufacturing company. During his travels, he began thinking of different ways to use the rubber material in helpful ways to expand his company. Putting his son, Harvey Ansell to work, they developed an even more sanitary and comfortable feeling disposable latex glove for medical staff worldwide.
Considering the billions of latex gloves used worldwide, it may seem as though rubber trees might become extinct but fascinatingly, the latex sap that these trees produce dries up very quickly, stopping the tree from dying and allowing it to keep producing.
After this special sap is gathered, it’s then measured per size of the hand mould and put inside of a huge vat of substituted phenols. Because of the allergies that natural latex rubber can cause people, a protective elemental ingredient call aluminium hydroxide, also known as Al(HO)3, is added to include protein to the chemical bonding process while it’s still in liquid form.
The Al(HO)3 element helps remove the natural impurities in latex sap also forming a jellylike substance that suspends all unwanted materials and bacteria. This process allows the remaining mixture to be harvested and moulded into the glove shape while also cutting down on those nasty allergic reactions.
Once the latex has been shaped and hardened, it’s then dipped and rinsed of all residual proteins, packaged and shipped for everyone’s safety enjoyment.
There are now powdered and non-powdered types of latex gloves available for everyone which is simply a matter of personal choice. For powdered latex gloves, cornstarch is used as a layer on the inside to help prevent the sweat that accumulates when wearing them for extended periods of time.
The whole purpose of wearing gloves is to keep bacteria and other yucky molecules from touching your skin. In order for your hands to stay germ-free, the outside of the gloves must NEVER touch the inside of the gloves. As long as you remember this rule, you’ve mastered the main part of wearing your disposable gloves properly!
There are many techniques to putting them on as well as removing them but the easiest method is to keep the wrist part of the glove rolled up a couple of centimetres towards the outside. This keeps the clean hand only touching the inside of the glove and not the outside. After you’ve put your gloves on, you can then unroll the cuffs easily on any clean surface.
The method for removal is practically the same as putting the rubber gloves on. Again, rolling up the glove at the wrist opening, take your index finger and lift up the rolled part while pulling your other hand out. This will turn the glove inside out and keep you from touching the dirtied parts of it. Follow the same step with your other hand and voila! You’re bacteria and dirt free!
Just like anything else that’s used on a daily basis, different industries call for different measures which is why latex gloves are given different grades to distinguish the size and strength of protection against chemicals or infections. The most common grades used to determine which glove to use for which profession are economy, general, premium and medical.
Economy grade gloves are designed for light food handling or light cleaning whereas general grade gloves are designed to handle the rougher parts such as food preparation or production.
The reason latex gloves are so popularly used everywhere is that no matter where you work or live, disposable gloves are extremely versatile and indispensable – even if you’re just cleaning out the gunk in your kitchen sink!
Stay tuned for Part II of our Disposable Gloves Series to learn more about vinyl disposable gloves and the popular uses for them!