Glove Selection

There are different types of gloves to protect against various hazards, including chemical, biohazards, thermal, and sharps. You should always use the right gloves designed for particular functions. Appropriate gloves must be worn when handling hazardous materials.

Gloves are made from a wide variety of materials, including:

  • Leather, canvas or metal mesh
  • Fabric and coated fabric gloves
  • Chemical- and liquid- resistant gloves
  • Insulating rubber gloves

To select appropriate gloves, first consider the type of hazard:

The glove selection chart shown below provides an overview of the different types of gloves that are available for purchase.



Other Considerations for Glove Selection


Glove thickness is usually measured in mils or gauge. A 10-gauge glove is equivalent to 10 mils or 0.01 inches thickness of material. Thinner, lighter gloves offer better touch sensitivity and flexibility, but may provide shorter breakthrough times. The thicker the gloves are, usually the more protection they can provide. Even if they are made of the same materials, gloves from different manufacturer or different models from the same manufacturers may be thicker or thinner than each other.


Glove length should be chosen based on the depth to which the arm will be immersed or where chemical splash is likely. Gloves longer than 14 inches may provide extra protection against splash or immersion. Note that immersion of the hand or arm should be avoided and designed out of processes in so far as possible.  For example, tongs can be used to remove items from baths instead of immersion of the hand or arm.

Size and Comfort:

One size does not fit all for most types of gloves. Gloves which are too tight tend to cause fatigue and are more prone to failure and breakthrough, while gloves which are too loose will have loose finger ends which may make work more difficult. Glove color, cuff design, and lining should also be considered for some tasks.  For example, lighter or darker colored gloves may provide ease of visual identification of glove contamination depending on the materials that are being worked with.


Better grip on palm and fingers may be required for some dry, wet, oily or soapy work. Lack of good grip may lead to increased risk of accidents.


Thicker gloves can limit dexterity and tactility, which can lead to accidents in some situations.  You may consider double gloving to provide added protection with materials when dexterity is needed and can't be achieved with thicker gloves.  Immediately remove and replace the outer glove if there are any signs of contamination. In some cases, such as when wearing Silver Shield/Norfoil gloves, it may be possible to wear a tight-fitting glove over the loose glove to increase dexterity and provide optimal chemical protection.

Glove Inspection, Care and Other Safety Tips

For reusable gloves, check for signs of rips or punctures, prior contamination, and  signs of degradation (color or texture change), before and after each use.  Replace any gloves that are compromised.  Wash all reusable gloves after removal and air dry.  Consider wearing inner disposable gloves for extra protection.

Check the expiration date of disposable gloves. Do not use expired disposable gloves.  Degradation can cause higher risk of exposure to hazardous materials. The expiration dates are usually noted on the boxes or the packaging.

As gloves are worn to protect the wearer from contact with hazardous materials, it is important not to contaminate common spaces and clean areas by touching surfaces with gloved hands. Similarly, handling personal items such as cell phones and laptops with gloved hands can contaminate those items. Gloves must be removed promptly after the completion of work, and must be changed frequently to prevent breakthrough and contamination of clean areas. Hands should be thoroughly washed after wearing gloves and before exiting the laboratory.

For proper handwashing technique, please refer to Hand-washing Steps Using the WHO Technique video:

As gloves worn in the laboratory are contaminated, gloves must not be worn outside of the laboratory. If there is a need to transport a hazardous material from the lab, use appropriate secondary containment such that the use of gloves is not necessary.  If you have questions about proper transport techniques, please contact EH&S at or at (413)-545-2682.