Did you ever ask yourself why do latex gloves turn yellow? Don’t worry because many folks ask the same question. Color changes are never a good sign. When your rubber gloves turn yellowish or darkish, most people are ready to ditch them for a new pair.
Should you discard your latex gloves simply because they turned yellow? I’ll share the answer to this question, including why latex gloves turn yellow. Hopefully, it will help you decide what to do with your current latex gloves.
Why Latex Gloves Turn Yellowish?
Latex isn’t different from any other object made with rubber. You can look at your rubber shoes, balls, and other rubber items. They might have vibrant colors right after buying from the store but turn yellowish after some time. So, is latex gloves turning yellow inevitable? Let’s dig deeper.
- Sweaty Palms and Dirty Hands
Did you know that latex contains 55 to 65 percent water and 30 to 40 percent rubber particles? It also has minute amounts of proteins, resins, glycosides, sugars, and ash. Its chemical composition makes latex an excellent example of a polymer substance.
Unfortunately, its chemistry can react with elements or chemicals on the hands and the environment.
For example, sweat contains chemicals, such as sugars, salts, ammonia, urea, and water. These elements react with the latex chemicals, turning the gloves yellowish. Hence, people with sweaty hands will often have latex gloves that turn yellowish faster than others.
Dirty hands can also produce similar effects. We’re never sure what substances might be present on our hands before we don latex gloves. That’s why it’s always an excellent idea to wash hands thoroughly before putting on gloves.
The good news is that gloves don’t lose their performance when their latex turns yellow. You can still use this personal protective equipment unless there’s a tear or any visible damage. So, don’t ditch those yellowish latex gloves yet.
- Chlorine-treated Latex Gloves
How was your first time donning latex gloves? Was it challenging? Like any rubber, latex tends to stick to surfaces. That’s why latex gloves often have a powder-coated interior surface to facilitate sliding over hands and fingers. It makes glove donning and removal a breeze.
Unfortunately, removing these powder-coated latex gloves leaves powder residues on your hands. Combined with sweat, it can create an awful smell.
That’s why some manufacturers no longer coat their latex gloves’ interior surface with powder. Instead, they dip the latex gloves into a chlorine solution to make gloves more flexible and less form-fitting. Many people now prefer these powder-free gloves over the powdered versions.
One issue with powder-free gloves is their difficult removal. I also like to point out that the chlorination treatment will turn the gloves yellow. However, don’t worry because their performance and quality are still there.
- Prolonged UV Exposure
Have you asked yourself why my gloves turn yellow a few weeks after using them under the sun?
Exposing your latex gloves to sunlight can change their chemical properties, producing a yellowish hue. Unfortunately, it’s not only the discoloration that should concern you. Radiation can dry the glove, making it stiff or brittle. You risk tearing your latex gloves if you don them after this.
Hence, I suggest getting a new pair of latex gloves if you notice your old gloves getting brittle or stiff. It’s also wise to remember that environmental temperatures exceeding 86 degrees Fahrenheit can hasten the yellowing process.
Do Nitrile Gloves Change Color, Too?
I’ve encountered some people asking me why do nitrile gloves turn yellow? It’s not latex, so why should nitrile gloves turn yellowish, too?
Although nitrile is rubber, it’s a synthetic consisting of butadiene, acrylonitrile, and carboxylic acid copolymers. These chemicals can also react with acids and other elements in sweat and skin.
Hence, it’s not unusual to see blue nitrile gloves change color, especially on the inside surface. No matter, nitrile glove discoloration doesn’t impact its integrity and performance. You can still use it to protect yourself against chemical spills, oils, germs, and other harmful substances.
Can Bacteria and Other Germs Proliferate on Latex Gloves?
Latex gloves protect us against ketones, alkalis, acids, salts, bacteria, and other germs.
Unfortunately, gloves can make hands hot and sweaty. These conditions are ideal for growing and multiplying bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, especially if we forget to wash and sanitize our hands before donning gloves.
Microbial growth and proliferation in latex gloves can reduce their quality and produce bad odors. You’ll have smelly hands if you continue wearing these gloves without washing and disinfecting them properly.
It would be best to wash our hands thoroughly before donning latex gloves and right after removing them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends sanitizing our hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) if there’s no soap and water around.
How Should You Clean and Store Latex Gloves?
We can’t do anything about chlorine-treated powder-free gloves to prevent them from yellowing. However, we can do something with other latex gloves to make them look as pristine as ever. Here’s how.
- Wash your hands thoroughly to avoid introducing debris and other substances into the gloves.
- Fill a basin with water and add a tablespoon of mild detergent. Stir the mixture to make a homogenous solution. Get your latex gloves and turn them inside out. Dip the latex gloves into the soapy solution.
- Gently rub the latex gloves’ inside surfaces with the soapy solution using your fingers. Once done, apply alcohol or any other disinfectant to the protective gloves.
- Before storing, grab the latex gloves from the soapy solution and fill them with water. Check for drips that can indicate punctures or holes. If you see any sign of broken integrity, it’s best to discard the gloves.
- Air-dry the latex gloves. I don’t recommend using a dryer for this.
- Place the latex gloves into their wrapper if you still have them. You can always improvise if not.
- Store the newly cleaned latex gloves in a dry and cool place. Avoid exposing them to heat and the sun’s rays because these will damage the latex gloves.
There are three answers to why do latex gloves turn yellow.
- Sweaty palms react with the latex chemical composition to produce yellowing.
- Powder-free gloves undergo chlorine treatment that can lead to glove yellowing.
- Exposure to UV light and heat hasten the yellowing process.
You can still use your latex gloves if the yellowing is due to the first two reasons. If your yellowed latex gloves are due to UV exposure, there’s a chance they are brittle, too. I recommend using a fresh pair in such cases.
Our content editor is Joshua Clark. His writing and editing skills are such that he can simplify even the most intricate concept for the benefit of the reader. It’s excellent to have him on board since he can help us develop a comprehensive database on PPE matters impacting all construction workers, from amateurs to veterans.