JAIC 1984, Volume 23, Number 2, Article 6 (pp. 153 to 158)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1984, Volume 23, Number 2, Article 6 (pp. 153 to 158)


Lucy Commoner


THE FOLLOWING IS only a general guideline for glove selection. The performance of a specific glove depends on its manufacture and the particular working conditions in which the glove is being used. There are no national standards for the testing and classification of work gloves. Efficacy of protection will be affected by the thickness of the glove, physical wear, chemical concentrations, temperature, and length of exposure. Gloves should be selected according to the manufacturer's own recommendation chart and should be tested in actual working conditions for the presence of liquid or vapor inside the glove. A simple test for permeation is to turn the glove inside out, fill one finger with the solvent in question, and seal it at the base of the finger. After three to four hours, the glove can be inspected for leaks or other changes. Visual damage to a glove does not necessarily correlate with permeation. Some manufacturers offer a trial order program where a sample quantity of gloves can be purchased on a guaranteed basis or free samples of gloves can be ordered for testing purposes.

Guideline for Chemical Resistance of Glove Materials

Proper care of protective gloves will increase their usable life. Some suggestions for the care of gloves are:

  1. Inspect gloves regularly for holes, tears, and other signs of wear. Pneumatic glove testers are available to inflate test rubber or plastic gloves. A water test can also be used.
  2. Wash gloves with soap and water before removing the gloves and hang to air dry with fingers up and cuff down.
  3. Personal protective equipment, such as gloves, should not be shared. Each individual should ideally have two pairs of each type of glove required which can be alternately worn.
  4. Aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons will cause swelling of most glove materials. If this occurs, the gloves should be switched for a fresh pair and the swollen gloves allowed to dry and return to normal.
  5. Gloves should not be stored near sources of heat, moisture, sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet radiation.

In addition to gloves, a second way to protect the hands is with the use of barrier creams. Barrier creams are applied to the hands before working with chemicals. Barrier creams are used to prevent solvents from removing the natural skin oils and to help clean the hands after working. These creams provide less protection than gloves and may not be practical in a conservation lab. Protective creams, however, can be used in conjunction with gloves in case any solvent accidently enters the glove.

There are two types of protective barrier creams. One is water soluble for protection against non-aqueous irritants such as paints, varnishes, and organic solvents. The other is a water resistant cream for use with water containing substances such as mild acids and dye baths. For maximum protection while working, barrier creams should be frequently washed off with soap and water and reapplied.

A third way to protect the hands from contact with dangerous materials is by using mechanical handlers, such as tweezers and swab sticks. It is important to be aware, however, that some solvents, such as morpholine and dimethylformamide (DMF) will be carried up through a wooden swab stick causing skin contact on an unprotected hand.

A final note of warning: some waterless hand cleaners used to remove paints and inks from the hands contain alkalis, solvents and abrasives that can be hazardous to the skin. If a waterless skin cleaner is used, it should be followed by washing with soap and water.

Copyright � 1984 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works