In the last months I have seen lots of articles about wearing masks and gloves to prevent the infecting yourself or others. In the case of the masks this is quite clear that we should wear them, but for the gloves I mostly found the opposite:

However, gloves have not been recommended as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 for the average citizen. That’s largely because of the evidence we have about how the disease is, and isn’t, transmitted.

The virus is not absorbed through skin, so you can’t contract COVID-19 through touch alone. To acquire coronavirus through touch, you would have to touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face.

Most sources indicate that gloves are not recommended for the regular folk.

This makes sense, but in the practice (at least for me), they seem to help:

  • we should often disinfect the hands (e.g. after touching things touched by others like door handles, elevator buttons)
  • disinfecting the smooth surface of a glove seems way easier than directly disinfecting the skin. Also the skin might not tolerate the substance (or at least dozens of applications per day)
  • normally one wears gloves only dealing with dirty and/or dangerous stuff, so I expect to act as a deterrent to touching the face when wearing them

I am interesting in recommendations coming from a medical professional perspective (ideally based on some studies), as the articles I have read do not providing any scientific references.

Question: Is it helpful for the average citizen (non medical professionals) to wear gloves and disinfect them instead of disinfecting the bare hands?

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    Your question seems to embrace a wider world of pathogens than SARS-COV-2. That being said, I generally wear gloves when I clean the toilet.
    – BobE
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:46
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    @BobE Most people who wear gloves during cleaning activities, including the toilet, do so to protect their hands from the cleaning agents (many of which are quite caustic) rather than infection.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 20:29
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    @BobE - yes, but such activities are typically short-lived. Put them on, use them for a while and get rid of them. When asking the question I was thinking among longer activities: get out of the apartment, touch some "dirty" objects (handles), go buy something, touch some stuff others touched before etc. Many sources mention to disinfect immediately after touching possibly infected items (and that can happen dozens of times per day) and I am wondering if this is easier to perform for the gloves instead of the bare hands.
    – Alexei
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 20:38
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    @Alexei "replacing the gloves without touching the outer surface is not very easy for the regular folk" -- That's only the beginning of the problems. Ever tried taking off a pair of gloves on a warm day and putting on a new pair? Virtually impossible if your hands are sweaty (and they will be on a warm day). And if you're not changing gloves between each "encounter" then you're accomplishing nothing. I think they're little more than a false sense of security with a respiratory virus. People will think they can skip hand washing/sanitizing because of the gloves.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 5:53
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    @alexei my personal experience does not support any difficulties in removing gloves. I have worn gloves for years to wash dishes, work on mechanical equipment, gardening and mowing the lawn. Peeling gloves off, starting at the cuff, so that the ‘soiled’ surface is now inside isn’t any problem at all.
    – BobE
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


This answer is based on experience and common sense, as there are no studies giving a definitive answer. There are plenty of studies about decontamination of surfaces, but none that I know of comparing gloves to skin. There is a paper discussing decontamination of gloves, though. Also another opinion piece on disinfecting gloves instead of hands when gloves are in short supply, which states

During glove supply crisis gloves can remain on but must be sanitized between patients within the cohort to prevent cross transmission of any other pathogens from patient to patient.

Is it helpful for the average citizen (non medical professionals) to wear gloves and disinfect them instead of disinfecting the bare hands?

Yes, in my opinion, it is helpful in certain situations.

Given that infection from surface contact is possible, if someone has a fresh, open wound on the hand, or has very dry skin, it's easier (and imo) better to wear clean gloves and to wash/disinfect the gloves rather than the hands, especially if making multiple stops.

As an example, signing an electronic pad for a purchase involves high contact surfaces, so, as everybody needs food whether they are infected or not, grocery store checkout areas are ripe for contamination. If you are concerned about possibly spreading the virus around from surface contact by going to, say, another store after grocery shopping, disinfecting your hands while wearing gloves is easier (and easier on the skin) than washing hands. You can also use harsher chemicals to clean gloves than skin.

Say you have a small bottle of 80% alcohol (ethanol better than isopropyl, but either will do) with you. You go to the supermarket and come out with potentially contaminated hands. You don't want to touch a bunch of surfaces (in your car or on public transportation.) All you need to do is to pour some alcohol on your gloved hands (making sure to pour enough to spread all over the gloves and keep them wet for more than an instant) and you've decontaminated your hands. Or you can use an industrial strength disinfectant on your gloves, e.g. used to decontaminate surfaces at the supermarket. Or pour bleach into your gloved palm. You can't really pill that off too often on bare skin.

However, if you're treating this seriously, you wash your hands with soap and water after removing your gloves, and remember that decontaminating disposable gloves can decrease their effectiveness as a barrier.

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