March 2, 2018 | Joe Geng |

Do You Know the Difference Between Cleanroom and Sterile?

“Cleanroom” and “sterile” seem like interchangeable terms, but the truth is they have very different and specific terms. Here is the information you need to know about the difference between the terms so you can select the correct glove for your application.


What is a Cleanroom?

A cleanroom is a controlled environment that keeps the level of pollutants like dust and airborne microbes to a minimum. Cleanrooms are classified according to the number and size of particles permitted per volume of air.

These classes go from Class 10,000 down to Class 1 — Superior Glove has a Class 100 cleanroom facility. Classes are based on the maximum particles measuring 0.5 microns per feet cubed. So a class 1 room means there can be 1 micron measuring 0.5 in one foot cubed.

For reference, an ordinary room has 1,000,000 particles per one foot cubed. These rooms need to be carefully maintained and one way to do this is by continuously removing particles through HEPA filtration.

How are Gloves Cleanroom Processed?

Gloves must be washed in water that has been filtered to .002 micron to be considered cleanroom processed. By comparison, municipal tap water is filtered to 20 microns.

The gloves must undergo three washes to remove excess particulate. After washing, they are inspected and packed on stainless-steel tables, then heat-sealed in poly bags and double packed.

This may seem excessive, but cleanroom processed gloves are primarily used in industries like pharmaceutical, electronic assembly and automotive paint line — where contamination from dust or skin particles can be a costly concern.

Can Any Glove Be Cleanroom Processed?

Because certain fibers and palm coatings have higher levels of particulate shed, not all fibers can be cleanroom processed.

By being seamless-knit, lint-free, non-shedding fibers, nylon and HPPE are preferred. HPPE also has the added bonus of offering a medium level of cut resistance.

Polyurethane is the preferred palm coating because it’s non-shedding and provides a lightweight coating that doesn’t interfere with touch sensitivity.

What Makes a Glove Sterile?

To be considered a sterile glove, it has to be treated to be bacteria free. This is done by using radiation to kill microorganisms that live with the fabric. The process is called gamma irradiation processing.

Can Any Glove Be Sterilized?

Any glove can be sterilized, so it comes down to purpose. The main areas that need sterilized products is surgical and medical fields. So you could sterilize a leather split-fitters glove but there wouldn’t be much benefit.

Typically, gloves are sterilized by request based on the specific quantity order. This way, gloves aren’t sitting around on shelves which increases the risk of contamination.

Other Options:

A sterilized glove is typically used once and then disposed, this means that sterilization may not be the best option for some users.

A glove treated with Ultra-Fresh Antimicrobial is the best option for the food industry. Ultra-Fresh inhibits bacteria and fungi growth. Along with regular laundering, this will extend the life of your glove.

About Joe Geng
Vice President of Superior Glove