When disposable exam gloves first came into high demand, most gloves were powdered. Without the powder, gloves were difficult to don and doff. But cornstarch powder became a problem. Today, powder-free exam gloves are the healthcare industry standard.
So how do glove manufacturers make a glove donnable without cornstarch powder?
Glove factories employ one of two treatments – chlorination or polymer coating.
Chlorinated Disposable Gloves
In the online chlorination process, exam gloves on formers are dipped in a dilute chlorine solution. This reduces surface friction and tack on the interior of the glove. The glove is then washed in an aqueous ammonia solution, then washed in water and dried. The result is a strong glove that dons easily, with a surface pH close to that of water.
Double-chlorinated gloves receive this treatment on both the inside and the outside of the glove. These gloves are smooth with low tack and suitable for double-donning.
Chlorination is desirable in disposable latex gloves. The process significantly reduces the level of extractable latex proteins, making the glove less likely to cause latex allergy in the wearer. Nitrile exam gloves are chlorinated when no polymer coating is preferred.
Polymer-Coated Disposable Gloves
In this newer process, a polymer coating is applied to the interior surface of the glove, giving it a smooth finish for fast and easy donning. The coatings normally used on medical gloves include hydrogels, acrylics, silicone polymer, polyurethane, polymer-blends and nitrile.
Polymer coatings are odor-neutral and promote consistent, even color. Most white nitrile exam gloves are polymer coated, as chlorination causes yellowing.
In latex gloves, polymer coatings provide a barrier between the latex glove material and the wearer, helping to limit the migration of latex protein.
Both chlorination and polymer coatings are effective at creating a glove that dons and doffs easily. Done correctly, both processes yield gloves that exceed FDA and ASTM standards for hand protection.