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Baystate Health Beat healthcare information and tips

Why you shouldn’t wear gloves to the grocery store

May 26, 2020

All Massachusetts residents are required to wear a mask while in a public place where they cannot socially distance themselves from others, according to a recent mandate by Governor Charlie Baker.

As you head out into public places, you may see some people wearing gloves as protection against COVID-19 too.

But infectious disease experts warn that wearing gloves may actually do more harm than good for some.

Why shouldn’t you wear gloves?

Many people wonder if they should wear household gloves for grocery shopping, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend non-healthcare workers wear gloves at all.

The CDC recommends:

  • Washing your hands often and at least for 20 seconds
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people and people outside your home
  • Wearing a face covering in public
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  •  Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched services


When people put on gloves, they typically assume their gloves are clean, offering them protection against coronavirus. But after initially putting on those gloves, people go on to touch other surfaces. This can contaminate the gloves.

Those wearing gloves can forget about the possible contamination and touch the outside of their gloves if they do not take them off properly. Wearing gloves can also make them overconfident enough that they do not wash their hands as often as they would have otherwise.

The false sense of security may make people more likely to forget preventive measures, such as not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with possibly contaminated gloves.

Increasing the spread of germs

Although it may seem counterintuitive, gloves can actually increase the spread of germs if they are not changed often enough.

For example, Sally may wear her gloves to the grocery store, unknowingly coming into contact with the virus while inside. If she does not change her gloves, they will transfer the germs when she then goes to the pharmacy. Another customer at the pharmacy then has a higher chance of being contaminated, because germs were brought from the grocery store to the pharmacy via the gloves.

This transfer of the virus, though accidental, is extremely dangerous.

Handwashing is more efficient

It’s actually safer to do your essential errands without gloves.
When gloves become contaminated, they must be thrown away. You cannot clean and reuse them.

On the other hand, you can always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after each stop of your trip.

Gloves aren’t foolproof

Wearing gloves does not guarantee you are completely protected from germs.
There are lots of microscopic holes that the virus can seep into, making contact with your skin.

Gloves can also be damaged. Fingernails or jewelry can make small tears in the material without you knowing. Moisture, heat, and chemicals can damage certain types of gloves, like vinyl, latex, and nitryl.

This is also why it’s so important to wash your hands after wearing gloves.

So, when do you need gloves?

With all the downsides, you may be wondering what the point of wearing gloves is.

When the right people use gloves in the proper way, gloves can help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC recommends healthcare workers and caregivers of people who are infected with coronavirus are encouraged to wear gloves when cleaning and disinfecting.

They should use gloves when they are:

  • Using a cleaning solution that requires it for safety reasons
  • Cleaning infected hard, non-porous surfaces
  • Washing infected clothes or linens
  • Feeding and cleaning up after an infected person
  • Washing infected dishes

How to properly put on and take off gloves

Wearing gloves isn’t helpful to anyone who doesn’t use them properly.

It is critical to follow these steps provided by the CDC:

  1. Grab the outside of your gloves, closer to the wrist, without touching your skin.
  2. Take off the glove, pulling away from your body and turning it inside out.
  3. Hold the glove you just took off in your remaining gloved hand.
  4. Put your glove-free fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist to take off the remaining glove.
  5. Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body. The first glove should still be inside the first one.
  6. Throw the gloves in the trash.
  7. Wash your hands properly.

Print out the CDC poster, which has pictures for each step of the process.

Following each step is very important. It ensures you are not transferring germs from the gloves to your hands. Washing your hands helps makes sure you get rid of any germs that seeped through the glove’s pores or accidentally transferred during the removal process.

Throwing away gloves properly

If you are wearing gloves, make sure to throw them away in a trash can.

ABC News is reporting city officials across the country are noticing more and more people littering their used gloves.
Not only does littering hurt the environment, but this type of litter puts public works staff at risk. Leaving used gloves everywhere may also contaminate even more surfaces with COVID-19.

Doing your part

The best things you can do to stop the spread of coronavirus is to practice social distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

It’s important to know the facts about gloves, instead of letting fear take over.

Read more about COVID-19