Here's what you need to know about wearing gloves at the grocery store.

Isadora Baum
May 15, 2020
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Wearing a mask to the grocery store has become the norm as a means to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, so you're probably used to seeing people covering their faces when picking out their fresh berries or stocking up on pasta. Yet, some people are even taking it a step further and wearing gloves to the grocery store. But, is it necessary? Here's what the experts say.

Getty / Kathrin Ziegler

Should you wear gloves to the grocery store during COVID-19?

Gloves are meant to keep germs away, so you can better avoid exposure. "Gloves are used to add a layer of protection from germs and bacteria found in surfaces," says Dr. Niket Sonpal, MD, New York Based Internist and Gastroenterologist and Adjunct Professor at Touro College.

"Gloves add a buffer between your skin and a possible virus on a surface, but if while wearing gloves, you are touching your face, holding your phone up to your face or touching them all over when removing, you are defeating the purpose," he explains. So, to really make the most of those gloves when shopping, you'd need to not touch anything on your face or your accessories to really make it work. (Which is pretty hard!)

Not to mention, the CDC doesn't recommend wearing gloves unless you're cleaning or caring for someone who's sick. The CDC's website says: "In most other situations, like running errands, wearing gloves is not necessary. [Doing this] will not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs. The best way to protect yourself from germs when running errands and after going out is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol." (Get our 10 tips to grocery shop safely right now.)

However, if you feel safer wearing gloves, there are certain things you should definitely keep in mind. First, elastic rubber latex gloves are best. Dr. Sonpal says, "These gloves are not reusable, but they do help prevent contact with the virus." Second, don't keep any gloves to reuse—you want to discard the gloves ASAP and grab a new one for each trip, as bacteria will still remain on the dirty, used gloves.

So, should you wear gloves to the grocery store?

You can if you do it right and makes you feel better, but if you misuse them, you're better off ditching them. "Like I mentioned, holding your phone up to your face, touching your nose, mouth or eyes while wearing gloves makes them obsolete," Sonpal says.

"Gloves are used in medical environments because doctors and nurses are dealing with bodily fluids like blood and open wounds. Gloves are removed before leaving a patient's room and hands are washed before tending to another person," he adds. The CDC has an additional resource to teach people how to properly remove their gloves as many people transfer germs onto their hands during removal, so if you're adamant about wearing them, definitely do some research beforehand.

"One benefit of gloves is that if you are conscious of what they can and can't do, you can use them as visual reminders to avoid touching your face. But washing your hands properly, gloves or no gloves, is the most important way to protect yourself from infected surfaces," Sonpal explains.

The takeaway?

Gloves can add a layer of protection, but only if you use them right (and we've seen a lot of people using them wrong). And they are definitely not necessary—washing your hands after grocery shopping can be just as effective.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.