right hand of a person donned with blue latex gloves

Do Latex Gloves Expire?

Given enough time, bread gets moldy, bananas turn brown, milk gets smelly, and latex gloves…well, they can still seem fine.

Disposable latex gloves aren’t a product most people associate with that kind of degradation, but it’s true: they do at some point get past their prime.

It can be hard to tell whether a box of disposable gloves that seems perfectly good is still okay to put on and work with, but we’re here to help provide some clarity.

In this article, we’ll answer the question of whether latex gloves expire, talk about why they have an expiration date in the first place, and what happens if you keep using them anyway. We’ll also touch on why that shelf life matters and how to squeeze a bit more time out of a set.

Of course, if you’d rather not trust an antique set of gloves to protect your hands, we’ve got a great selection of some of the best, brand-new latex gloves on the market.

Do Latex Gloves Expire?

In short, yes! They do expire, just like any other type of disposable gloves. And if you’re using a latex glove past its lifespan, it won’t do its job very well.

Most latex gloves have a labeled shelf life of three years. Remember, they’re made of natural material unlike, for instance, nitrile gloves, so they’re going to age faster.

However, that three-year lifespan only applies if you’re storing gloves in optimal conditions (i.e. in the original unbroken packaging, with no ozone or ultraviolet exposure, in cooler temperatures).

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to check if your glove is past its expiration date. Again, a deteriorated glove will show clear signs of degradation, and you’ll be able to feel the difference as soon as you try to put it on. Any signs of discoloration, tears, cracks, or thinning, and it’s time to throw a glove away.

That said, a glove may be used past its labeled lifespan as long as it’s in good condition.

Why do Latex Gloves Have an Expiration Date?

Technically, the Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to put an expiration date on their gloves. However, most manufacturers choose to do so anyway. So...what gives?

Most manufacturers put an expiration date on their gloves because they recognize that nothing lasts forever--not even disposable gloves. All materials eventually break down over time, and gloves are no exception (even highly durable ones like nitrile gloves).

Manufacturers want to ensure the gloves you end up using provide the same quality as what they’re advertising. After a certain point, they can’t guarantee that. An expiration date is simply an estimation of when the manufacturer thinks the gloves are past the point when they can guarantee they’re still going to be useful.

What Happens if You Use Expired Latex Gloves?

Assuming they aren’t old enough to get a driver’s license, expired gloves are probably okay to use if they’ve been stored in a cool, dry place and are unopened. “Probably” is the key word here, since every situation and set of gloves are a little different.

Before donning a pair of expired gloves, it’s important to check for signs of deterioration, like:

  • Any hardness or lack of stretch
  • Brittleness
  • Surface cracks
  • On powder free gloves, a gooey texture inside

If you don’t see anything like that, the gloves are most likely still usable. Remember, the whole point of disposable gloves is to protect your hands, and if they’re brittle, cracking, or are leaching an old chemical coating onto your hands from the inside, they won't do a good job of that.

Basically, if you have any reason to think the glove may not be able to perform, discard it and get a fresh pair of gloves (or rather, a fresh box--if one pair is expired, the rest are too).

It should go without saying, but if you’re asking this question about potentially using expired gloves as medical gloves, just…don’t.

Why Shelf Life Matters

It all comes down to performance.

Technically, most glove shelf life estimates are quite conservative. A glove with a labeled shelf life of five years may well last for up to ten years in the box. The problem is it’s harder to guarantee a glove’s performance as it ages, and no manufacturer will risk overpromising in case it comes back to bite them.

This is in part because the manner of storage significantly impacts the glove’s overall lifespan. Manufacturer lifespan recommendations are only applicable when gloves are sealed in their packaging.

Once the packaging seal is broken, the gloves are removed from their original packaging, or they’ve been exposed to moisture, shelf life guidelines no longer apply.

There are also certain factors that reduce a glove’s lifespan, even if it’s stored in the original unbroken packaging. For example, any amount of ozone or ultraviolet light exposure reduces a glove’s lifespan.

Gloves stored in areas with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit also won’t last as long as gloves in cooler climates.

This is important because when a glove degrades over time, it no longer provides the same level of protection.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Gloves

Basically, you’ll want to avoid all of the conditions we listed above that can degrade a pair of latex gloves.

First of all, as soon as a glove is taken out of its packaging, its lifespan goes down closer to those three years we mentioned earlier.

If you’re not using the gloves, there’s no reason to open the box. If you just need one pair, that’s okay, but be aware that the rest of the gloves in the box are no longer as protected now that it’s open.

Keep boxes of disposable gloves in a cool, dry, dark place. The better they’re sealed away from heat, light, and oxygen, the longer they’ll remain in the state they were when they left the factory floor.

Of course, not everyone has a glove cellar at their disposal. Do your best, and when it does come time to open the box, take a quick look to make sure the gloves are still in good shape before putting them on.

Time for Brand New Disposable Gloves?

If the gloves you’ve got are past their shelf life, and you’ve inspected them to confirm that there’s just no saving them, it’s time to let go and pick up a new box.

We’ve got you covered there, too. We’ve put together an excellent selection of some of the best latex gloves on the market. Even if the gloves themselves don’t last forever, our commitment to selling only the highest-quality gloves at affordable prices has lasted decades, and we’ve got no plans to let that expire anytime soon.