Will my hand really turn skeletal?
September 28, 2008 5:19 PM   Subscribe

HouseholdChemicalsFilter: Due to a latex allergy, general hatred of inner-glove dampness, I prefer to clean the house without using gloves. Am I putting myself in any grave danger?

Ok, so I haven't died yet from bacteria, or had the skin melt of my hands from corrosive cleaners, but I'd really like to know what I'm doing to my hands.

I use chemicals like Comet, lysol disinfectant, pinesol and more rarely a general purpose degreaser (nothing heavy duty).

Specifically I'd like to know if I'm splashing bacteria water all over my hands in a bucket of hot water/disinfectant or if I'm absorbing/melting my skin with the cleaners. I always wash my hands with antibacterial hand soap between chemical and anything else. Is that necessary?

(and yes, I know I can get non-latex gloves)
posted by sunshinesky to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think your biggest risks are going to be severe dry skin on your hands and cracked/damaged fingernails. If you use a lot of strong cleaners, you also run the risk of irritating your skin enough to get them seriously itchy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:36 PM on September 28, 2008

Well, read the back of the container the chemical comes in, for starters. If it says to avoid skin contact, then that's what you need to do.

Sticking your hands in a bucket of scummy cleaning water isn't something you want to be doing all day long every day, I don't think, but then, well, my mum's been doing it for sixty years and she still has all her fingers. Provided you wash them thoroughly at the end you'll be fine. Hands don't really "absorb" anything.

Of course, you could just try a scrubbing brush, squeegee, rag-on-a-stick, etc.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:38 PM on September 28, 2008

You could consider using really basic, less chemically cleaners like baking soda and vinegar. They're pretty much all-purpose, cheap, and won't hurt you (or the environment).
posted by jschu at 5:46 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use these cleaners with bare hands quite frequently with only some dryness to show for it (and nothing that a little moisurizer can take care of). I think as long as you're not cleaning with them every day and thoroughly rinsing your hands when you're finished you'll be fine.
posted by LunaticFringe at 5:53 PM on September 28, 2008

Whoops, that's "can't take care off". I should learn to proofread things before I post them.
posted by LunaticFringe at 5:54 PM on September 28, 2008

Ugh, that's "of". Take care of. I'm gonna just go now...
posted by LunaticFringe at 5:55 PM on September 28, 2008

Probably not the best idea to go gloveless when using things like lysol. You risk more than just dry and cracked hands. I developed eczema when I had a summer job cleaning houses, and I was using gloves most of the time. Also, turgid dahlia is wrong. Skin does absorb things. That is why some medications are available as patches that you put on your skin.

I know you say you know this, but I am going to say this for others reading this thread who may not. Get yourself a box of disposable powder-free nonsterile nitrile gloves, which are available these days at drugstores and online. Nitrile gloves are in common use among medical professionals these days because latex allergies are so prevalent. If you don't like how your hands sweat in gloves, then you can wear light cotton gloves inside the nitrile gloves.
posted by gudrun at 6:02 PM on September 28, 2008

I also hate wearing clammy gloves and am allergic to latex, so I work with bare hands as much as possible. This includes laboratory work, so I've learned to pay attention to where my hands are going.

First, use some kind of "remote handling device" to keep your skin away from chemical contact. For example, a scrub brush with a long handle rather than one you grab directly. Try to avoid splashing and sloshing stuff around.

Second, wash your hands a lot with soap and water. You don't want splashes of stuff sitting on your skin; household cleaning chemicals are usually pretty mild (compared to some of our lab reagents) but you still don't want long exposure to them. Some can delipidate your skin pretty quickly, making it dry and prone to cracking, so wash often.

Third, if you have any open cuts or sores on your hands, bite the bullet and wear gloves. Intact skin is a pretty good barrier against most stuff but an open wound is a red-carpet invitation for nasties, both chemical and biological.

Have you tried cotton glove liners inside your regular gloves? They cut down on the dampness considerably. If you have household Playtex-type gloves that come with a cotton lining, turn them inside out after wearing so they'll dry.

You can also look for nitrile gloves, which are good for people with latex allergies and are more chemical-resistant than latex. Also more expensive, unfortunately, but on the plus side they're more durable so one pair will last longer. I wear nitrile when I absolutely have to wear gloves.

Work carefully, use common sense, find some gloves that you can tolerate when you really need to use them, and you'll be fine.
posted by Quietgal at 6:04 PM on September 28, 2008

Seconding the nitrile gloves. I have to use gloves all the time in the lab, and the nitrile ones tend to be more comfortable and result in much less glove-hand dampness, even without liners.
posted by Gneisskate at 6:08 PM on September 28, 2008

I rarely wear gloves while I clean, but then, I don't clean with anything that harsh. I have the superduperfun combo of latex issues with general chemical sensitivities. (I can't even go down that aisle in the grocery, I have to send my roommate and tell him what I can be around). I can tell you I developed my latex issues long before I developed the chemical ones, and my doc said they're often found together, so you might not want to press your luck going elbow deep into that stuff.

nitrile gloves aren't that much, though. I use them when I dye my hair. Sally Beauty Supply has them in big boxes for cheap.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:08 PM on September 28, 2008

Best answer: Assuming you're just cleaning the house, I don't think you have that much to worry about bacteria wise.

For most household cleaners you're mostly looking at dry skin to mild chemical burns - if you're having issues like rashes or persistent itching, then another vote for nitrile gloves. There are also some creams out there that essentially act as a barrier to things like this (or so an actor paid to pretend to scrub the grout will tell you) but I have no idea of how well any of them work or how easy they are to remove when you are done.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:19 PM on September 28, 2008

I never use gloves while cleaning and I use the same chemicals you mention. Just wash your hands with soap frequently, and if you're not having issues with dry or cracked skin you should be fine.
posted by thejanna at 7:01 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: Well, it will age your hands. I don't know how old you are...you may not care about it now, but just bear in mind that when you're in your mid-thirties and your hands look decidedly older, you may wish you'd worn gloves all those years.

Otherwise, your biggest risks are eczema and dry skin. Seconding "remote handling devices" and washing your hands after.
posted by desuetude at 7:46 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: Kellydamnit has some real good points.

I used to use chemistry without gloves, back when they didn't really use gloves much. After enough exposure, I developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivity secondary to some autoimmune diseases that make you prone to that. My mother has no predisposing problems, and she basically reports that everything she used forever without gloves now gives her excema and irritations. To be fair, I worked around paint and petroleum products for several years, and I believe that made it worse. Mom just used household cleaning products.

I should also mention that if I used something really abrasive to the respiratory system, like ammonia or bleach, it would irritate the heck out of the nasal mucous membranes, and I nearly always came down with a cold or something in the next day from cooties getting into the raw mucous membranes.

IANAD, this is just a couple of things I thought were worth sharing.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 8:55 AM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, so you're all awesome and right. Can I mark you all best answer?

I don't have much trouble with dryness, but I do have occasional bouts of crazy-middle-of-the-night-wanting-to-tear-the-skin-off-my-hands itching. Oddly enough, I have noticed more of a correlation with dish soap than I have with any of the other chems, and it doesn't happen consistently, thank god.

I'm only 23, but I have noticed that my hands are starting to look a little old'er'. I've never been good at keeping my hands looking very ladylike anyway. They're smaller than most 12y/o girls' hands with short stubby fingers and not so elegantly shaped nails. Fortunately I pride myself on my worn hands, because it's an indication of a hard working lifestyle. I'm sure I will regret it in my 30s though, so I'll heed some good old fashioned AskMe advice and get some hand cream, as much as it grosses me out. I might also try the cotton glove-liner idea, though I'm still skeptical about the dampness reduction.

Thank you all!
posted by sunshinesky at 10:00 AM on September 29, 2008

I like Method products. Clean well, smell great, and very safe. One of the execs even drank some as a stunt. Not that I recommend that, but I have very sensitive skin and haven't had a problem with normal use. They even say they are anti-rubber glove on the bottle!
posted by villain extraordinaire at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2008

One more thing: Make sure you don't clean without gloves if you have any open cuts, or you risk poisoning. My dad had to go to the ER for this.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:55 AM on October 2, 2008

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