A Guide to Foodservice Gloves
In every commercial foodservice operation, gloves serve two important purposes: protecting food from contamination, and protecting employees from discomfort or injury when completing messy tasks or handling potentially dangerous tools and equipment in the kitchen. Kitchen managers should always make sure their guests and staff are protected by keeping an ample supply of the appropriate gloves on hand, but it's important to understand which gloves your kitchen might need since each type of foodservice glove is designed for specific tasks.
Using Foodservice Gloves for Food Prep & Safety
The most common type of foodservice gloves are the disposable gloves intended for food prep and serving, which are mandated by health codes that prohibit bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food. Since some people are allergic to latex, these are often made from polyethylene, vinyl, or another non-latex material. Disposable gloves made from polyethylene are clear and provide a looser fit; vinyl and non-latex gloves may be more opaque, tend to fit more tightly, and can be powder-coated to make it easier for users to get them on and off. Cotton gloves can be worn under disposable gloves to provide barriers between employees' hands and the plastic, but these gloves may also be worn when employees handle plastic packaging, cardboard boxes, and other containers with sharp edges that can cause abrasions.
Cut-resistant gloves, which may be metal mesh or made from special fabrics, can help protect chefs from finger and hand injuries while handling knives during food prep. Two other types of food prep gloves are also used in commercial kitchens: frozen food gloves and oyster gloves. Frozen food gloves provide insulation against below-freezing temperatures and can be worn by employees retrieving boxes and other items from walk-in freezers. Oyster gloves are designed to provide cut resistance and a secure grip, even when wet, to help protect cooks' hands from being injured while they prep oysters and clams.
Foodservice gloves made from neoprene or nitrile rubber can protect employees while they work with liquids and cleaning chemicals. These may be called dishwashing gloves, cleaning gloves, or rubber gloves, and are usually between 13 and 18 inches long to provide protection up to the elbows. Some are as long as 31 inches to provide protection up to the shoulders. Although rubber gloves can be worn for general-purpose cleaning tasks, dishwashing gloves and equipment cleaning gloves are more specialized. Dishwashing gloves are meant to be worn by employees handling pots, pans, and other items that need to be hand washed, as well as when they are loading and unloading commercial dishmachines or warewashers. Most equipment cleaning gloves are specifically engineered to provide some heat resistance, usually to temperatures between 180 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be worn when cleaning equipment like ovens and fryers that might still be warm.