Protecting your hands

Gloves can help protect your skin from chemicals or other hazards you handle in your work. To get the best out of them you need to use them correctly.

Remember: Gloves reduce the chance of skin contamination but do not provide absolute protection. Wearing gloves can also increase exposure risks from any chemicals or other contaminants already on the skin.

Here are tips on how to use them well.


Good Glove Practice

Selecting gloves

Make sure you choose the right type of glove and the right size for you.


  • For most chemical work, nitrile gloves will be the best choice. However some chemicals can quickly penetrate or damage a nitrile glove.

  • Vinyl (PVC) gloves are usually adequate if you need protection against grime, or you are using gloves to protect the material you are handling e.g. clean room work or food handling.

  • Because of the risks of allergy, latex gloves should only be used for micro-biological work or for work requiring very precise manipulation.

  • Disposable gloves are good for single use to guard against splashes or incidental contact with chemicals but need to be changed after any splash or spill.

  • Re-useable gloves are tougher and are a better choice if you need protection against abrasion or if the job requires direct contact with chemicals (e.g. immersion or handling cleaning rags) or if large volume splashes are likely.


  • The right size of glove has a comfortable, close fit against your fingers. A glove that is too tight can cause skin rashes and is liable to tear in use. A loose-fitting glove interferes with your grip.

  • If you have to noticeably hold your fingers straight against the pull of the glove, then it is too small.

  • Have a range of different glove sizes available for all users.

Before use

  • Always cover any broken skin, cuts or grazes with a waterproof plaster before putting on your gloves.

  • If your hands are dirty, or you have been handling chemicals etc wash your hands before putting on gloves. Make sure you rinse and dry your hands well. Traces of soap held against the skin by a glove can cause irritant dermatitis.

During use

  • Remember to protect the skin above your glove. The sleeves of your laboratory coat should overlap the top of the glove during work. For greater security, tuck your sleeve into the cuff.

  • If you are using disposables change your glove immediately after any splash. Many chemicals can quickly pass through or damage disposable gloves.

  • Whenever feasible, change your gloves after more than an hour’s use. Gloves prevent the evaporation of sweat. This builds up and can cause skin waterlogging which can predispose to dermatitis. Dry your hands before putting on a fresh pair.

  • Avoid touching ‘clean’ surfaces such as telephones or door handles to avoid accidental contamination.

After use

  • Take care when removing your gloves so you do not touch the outer surface. Pull off your first glove so it turns inside out. Use this clean inner surface to hold the second glove while you pull it off.

  • Discard gloves into the correct waste stream. Latex gloves should be disposed of as clinical waste.

  • Always wash your hands after removing your gloves.

Hand care

  • Always rinse well to remove soap residues after washing your hands.

  • Never use chemicals such as paraffin or acetone to clean your hands. They remove the natural oils from your skin and cause dermatitis.

  • If you have to wash your hands often, then use a moisturising cream afterwards. These replace the natural protective is removed through washing.

  • If you develop a rash, or dermatitis— sore, cracked or inflamed skin— seek help from the Occupational Health Service. An OH Adviser can help track down the cause and help you avoid a recurrence.