Do latex gloves expire? What is the shelf life of medical gloves?

COVID-19 caused demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) to skyrocket, including face shields, goggles, and masks. Many people have also started regularly wearing disposable medical gloves.

Now that people have stockpiled gloves at home, we’ve been asked “do medical gloves expire?”

The short answer is that if you don’t notice anything odd about them, such as discoloration or a loss of elasticity, then they’re probably fine. Summary:

  • Exposure to air, light, or heat will degrade the material over time.
  • Latex gloves have a stated shelf life of 3 years.
  • Nitrile, polyvinyl chloride (vinyl), neoprene, and polyurethane gloves have a shelf life of 5 years.
  • In practice, properly stored gloves have been known to last 10 years in storage.
  • Non-sterile disposable gloves are not required by the FDA to have expiration date labeling, however some manufacturers will put a date. Sterile gloves should be labeled with an expiration date.
  • Gloves that have exceeded their shelf life can be used as long as they are in good condition.
  • If you are leery about using gloves that have exceeded their shelf life, use them for training, cleaning, gardening, or some other non-sterile task.
  • Gloves should be left in their original packaging until it is time to use them. This will protect them from ultraviolet radiation, moisture, and ozone.
  • Tearing, breaking, loss of elasticity, and surface cracks are all signs that gloves are not fit for use.

Glove materials

Most medical gloves are made from latex, nitrile, neoprene, polyurethane, or polyvinyl chloride. Let’s take a look at the most common materials of medical gloves.

Latex is a natural polymer that is commonly found in flowering plants, however the latex used in medical gloves come from rubber trees. Latex is a common glove material, but due to the natural proteins in latex, people can develop allergic reactions that can run from irritation to anaphylactic shock. Because of this risk, hospitals are opting to carry non-latex gloves made of nitrile or polyvinyl chloride instead. Latex gloves have a shelf life of 3 years.

Nitrile is a synthetic rubber that has gained popularity as a disposable glove. Nitrile has both a higher puncture and chemical resistance when compared to latex, and is excellent for medical examinations and surgical procedures. People can develop an allergic reaction to nitrile, though it is rare. Nitrile gloves have a shelf life of 5 years.

Polyvinyl chloride, aka PVC or vinyl, is a low-cost alternative to latex. Like nitrile, PVC is a synthetic polymer material, but it doesn’t have the same durability. Vinyl gloves are great as a basic barrier, but nitrile is better for surgery and serious medical examinations. Vinyl gloves have a shelf life of 5 years.

How to store medical gloves

To maximize shelf life, store your medical gloves in a cool, dry, and dark place, free of ozone. Ozone, temperatures above 90°F (32°C), and ultraviolet light will quickly break down the polymer composition of gloves. Medical gloves should be stored in their original packaging until ready for use.

Don’t open the factory packaging until you’re ready to start using them.

What if you come across an old box?

Can you use medical gloves that are out of date? Yes. If the gloves have been stored appropriately and the packaging appears to be intact, inspect the gloves. If the gloves look and feel normal, can be stretched without tearing, and the surface does not appear to separate or crack, they are probably fine.

Something to note about expiration dates. The FDA does not require non-sterile gloves to be labeled with an expiration date. If you plan on adding medical gloves to your preps, buy from a manufacturer that labels expiration date, or at least a lot number. You can also simply write the date of purchase on the box.



    • MainPugh

      Very useful blog post – I’ve often wondered about that myself.

      Sorry for the stupid qestion, but how do we actually know that a place is free from ozone?

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      • Thomas GomezStaff MainPugh

        There are no stupid questions when it comes to preparedness. 

        Ozone is used as a disinfectant, and some hospitals pump low levels of ozone into ducts. As long as boxes are sealed they should be fine. If you are in a healthcare setting, your safety officer should be able to tell you if your hospital is using ozone for disinfection, and in what capacity. 

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      • Liz Klein MainPugh

        Some home air purifiers that work off of ‘ionizing the air’ release ozone as a byproduct.

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      • Josh CentersContributor Liz Klein

        As an aside, you don’t want a purifier that puts out ozone or turn it off if it’s a switch. Ozone irritates your lungs.

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    • Bigwig

      It’s always great to read an article about the potential expiration of items that you normally wouldn’t think about.  I have some of the DoD Pandemic Flu Kits and am curious if the surgical and N95 masks have a shelf life.  The hand sanitizer doesn’t have a date so I’m assuming well past its best by date.

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    • MikeNZ

      As a lab technician I have found over the years that while latex or nitrile gloves don’t ‘expire’ as such they do have an increasing failure rate as time goes by. Every now and again we come across a box of gloves that has an unusually high rate of gloves ripping or disintegrating as you put them on, typically this turns out to be an older batch or a box that was at the back of the shelf and sat there for years unopened. This is not a big problem but does get annoying. However, because so many gloves out of a dud box tear, that box gets used up fast and then the problem goes away!

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    • ALS

      Thank you for this post.  It is a great reminder that I have preps that need to be used FIFO like food.  I appreciate the content.

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