Gloves are designed specifically to protect the wearer’s hands from some type of injury — cuts, spills, burns, or even repetitive use injuries that only manifest over time. The challenge is as straightforward as finding the right glove for the job — balancing comfort, performance, and protection. In cleanroom environments, there are delicate ecosystems dedicated to research and manufacturing that are sensitive to even minute impurities, and 80 percent of those impurities originate from people. Gloves and other personal protective equipment must limit the introduction of any particulates into the cleanroom, which means these special-use gloves are designed to protect the products as much as the wearer.
While preserving the sanctity of the cleanroom is an important component of glove selection, it can’t take precedence over the safety and protection of the worker. Cleanroom hazards fall into three categories: physical, biological, and chemical, each of which requires unique characteristics from a glove.
While cleanroom gloves start out as any other typical single use glove they go through additional manufacturing steps to ensure they meet the rigorous requirements of cleanroom personal protective equipment. Those steps include multiple washing and leaching, or rinsing, cycles to remove production chemicals and thoroughly clean the finished gloves. The final laundering happens in a cleanroom itself, and those gloves then are bagged (or double-bagged) in vacuum-sealed plastic bags in yet another cleanroom. Truly sterile gloves go through a sterilization process involving irradiation after cleaning and packaging. It’s an expensive, time-consuming process and some manufacturers may cut corners. Responsible decision-makers should ask questions about the cleaning and packaging processes used by their cleanroom glove manufacturer.