What is the Effect on Gloves When Disinfected Using Alcohols?

Within life sciences settings (pharmaceutical manufacturing, biotechnology and R&D) spraying a 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) onto gloves prior to usage as a disinfectant is commonplace. To measure the chemical resistance of glove materials towards alcohol disinfectants, permeation tests are carried out according to EN 16523-1:2015 (Determination of material resistance to permeation by chemicals - Part 1: Permeation by liquid chemical under conditions of continuous contact), part of the EN ISO 374 standard.

Data Testing

Ansell™ Chemical Guardian is a database which stores permeation test data and extrapolations for different glove materials against a range of hazardous chemicals including alcohols such as IPA and ethanol. This database test data on IPA and ethanol permeation times against four different glove materials can be seen in Tables 1 and 2 below. Looking at the test data extracted, we can conclude that natural rubber latex or polyisoprene gloves have a lower resistance towards IPA and ethanol than neoprene or nitrile.

Table 1:

Permeation Breakthrough Times

Table 2:

Permeation Breakthrough Times

"In practice, when spilled on a glove or applied on a glove for disinfection, the alcohol will evaporate rather than permeate, because in that setting it is exposed to air and not prevented from evaporating. "

Interpretation of Theoretical Test Data for Alcohols

Looking purely at the published permeation breakthrough times, but the following has to be noted: During the chemical permeation breakthrough test (whether this is according to standards ASTM F739, EN374-3 or EN 16523-1), the challenge chemical is completely enclosed in the test cell with no other possibility than to permeate through the glove. Additionally, alcohols used in the test have proven to provide very variable test results.

In practice, when spilled on a glove, or applied on a glove for disinfection, the alcohol will evaporate rather than permeate because in that setting it is exposed to air and not prevented from evaporating. This means that the lab test conditions, in this case are not necessarily in line with the real-world application conditions. In practice, neoprene and nitrile gloves will show good behavior towards alcohols if the alcohol is left to evaporate naturally.

However, when there is additional rubbing together of gloved hands after alcohol treatment, it is difficult to predict how this affects the chemical resistance of the gloves. It’s important to note that the rubbing action could generate particles and thus add an extra contamination risk in the cleanroom.


If sterile gloves are purchased, there is no need to additionally disinfect them by applying IPA; however, this is often part of the standard operating procedure in cleanrooms. Although alcohols could have a deteriorative effect on the glove materials, this effect will be minimal because of the very short contact time.

Nitrile and neoprene materials will generally have better resistance to alcohols compared to natural rubber latex. We recommend against the rubbing together of gloved hands after the application of alcohol disinfectant, as this could aggravate the chemical deterioration effect as well as generate particles in the cleanroom environment. We advise the application of alcohol via a spray device and to allow it to to evaporate naturally on the gloves.


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