Clean Gloves vs. Sterile Gloves

Many times people will use the words “clean” and “sterile” as synonyms. That is because they mean almost the same thing in just about every context—except for gloves. In the healthcare field, “clean” and “sterile” do not have the same meaning. Let’s explore sterile vs. non-sterile (just “clean”) gloves and what the major differences are.

What Are Clean Gloves?

A clean disposable glove is one that doesn’t have marks, stains, dirt, or debris present—basically, clean gloves are just normal disposable gloves that haven’t been used yet. Non-sterile gloves may be used for custodial work, food service, or in certain medical environments where patients aren’t at a high risk of infection. Clean gloves will typically come packaged in bulk.

What Are Sterile Gloves?

A sterile glove is a step higher than a clean glove because it is free from bacteria and microorganisms in addition to visible dirt and debris. When a glove is sterile, there is no micro-life form that has the potential to reproduce and spread dangerous germs or bacteria. Sterile gloves are typically sterilized by the manufacturer and packaged in individual pairs in order to keep them completely free from any germs. A glove can be classified as “sterile” if it meets certain sterilization standards set by the FDA.

What do you use sterile gloves for? Most commonly, surgeries and other medical situations where patients may be at risk for infection. Performing sensitive lab work is another situation when it’s important to wear sterile gloves.

The Significance

One of the major risks associated with surgical and other invasive medical procedures is the introduction of pathogens. Locations like hospitals, dentist offices, clinics, and even tattoo parlors must avoid exposing patients to these infection-causing microbes. That is why sterilizing single-use devices and tools, gloves included, that will contact patients is crucial to prevent the spread of infections. When should non-sterile gloves be worn? Most other scenarios that call for wearing disposable gloves: cleaning, retail, food service, law enforcement, etc. If you aren’t sure when to use sterile vs. non-sterile gloves, contact the Glove America team. One of our knowledgeable representatives will help you choose the best disposable glove product for the job.