Until recently, the presence of color in a medical or cleanroom glove usually indicated a latex-free glove. Nitrile exam gloves were traditionally some shade of blue to help differentiate them from latex gloves, and latex gloves looked like – well, latex.
But not anymore.
Nitrile exam gloves can now be purchased in a rainbow of colors, and latex gloves are also available with added color.
While choice is nice, does glove color really matter?
In cleanroom environments, contamination is a constant concern –both from the glove and the environment. Because color is a glove additive, and additives can react with the product or process, less color is preferred.
Laboratories are frequently faced with the possibility of cross-contamination. This can happen when an employee inadvertently transfers substances on their gloved hands from one area of the lab to another. By assigning a specific color to each area of the lab, supervisors and employees have a visual cue that can help prevent costly errors and cross-contamination.
Black nitrile gloves are preferred by law enforcement, postal workers, mechanics and tattoo shops – all for different reasons. Law enforcement personnel wear black to differentiate themselves from medics and other first responders that frequently wear blue nitrile gloves and provide medical care. Postal workers wear black because of its high contrast with white powders. Mechanics and tattoo artists prefer them because black camouflages grease and blood respectively.
Health care facilities that have not converted to a latex-free environment may prefer a colored nitrile glove to help staff easily differentiate between a latex glove and a non-latex glove. A shade of blue is traditionally the nitrile color of choice in medical facilities, but in recent years other colors such as gray, purple and pink have become common. Glove color can also be used to help identify glove failure. Double gloving, wearing a dark glove underneath a light one, can help reveal punctures and small tears more easily, alerting the wearer to change gloves immediately.
Glove manufacturers that focus solely on the dental field have marketed a rainbow of colored and scented nitrile and latex gloves. For the dental hygienist, glove selection is largely a matter of personal choice.
Because glove color has become an effective marketing and branding tool, we will likely continue to see new exam glove colors. Glove color choice will still be influenced by the industry, purchasing decisions and cost. But factors such as glove fit, strength, thickness and overall comfort are considerations more heavily weighted than color.
What do you think? Does glove color matter?