Glove boxes

A glove box is a sealed container used to manipulate materials where a separate atmosphere is desired.  They are commonly used to protect workers from hazardous materials or to protect chemicals and materials that may be sensitive to air or water vapor. 

Glove boxes may be used under either positive or negative pressure.  Glove boxes operated under positive pressure usually contain materials sensitive to outside contaminates such as air or water vapor.  Exposure to outside contaminates can lead to degredation or a violent reaction with these compounds.  Negative pressure glove boxes are used to protect workers and are used for hazardous materials such as toxic gases or pathogens. 

Daily Inspections

When using glove boxes, perform daily inspections prior to use.   As part of your daily checklist, perform the following:

  • Check the condition of the gloves.  Look for holes, areas of discoloration representing a compromised integrity, and the connection to the exterior.
  • Inspect the condition of the window, paying special attention to the area where the window is connected to the rest of the box.
  • Perform a vacuum pump inspection and ensure that all lines are in good condition and that the oil (if applicable) has been changed recently.
  • Inspect vacuum pump exhaust oil-mist filter and ensure it is still within operating parameters.
  • If your box is equipped with a solvent scrubber and solvent delivery system, ensure that the scrubber cartridges are within operating parameters.
  • All pressure gauges and indicators are functioning and are within acceptable ranges.

Other Considerations:

  • If it is a shared glove box, assign 1 or 2 senior people in the lab to ensure that all maintenance on the box and components are up-to-date. 
  • Maintain service contracts with the manufacturer and have them perform routine maintenance on the system.
  • Avoid abruptly extending gloves into the box, this can severely stress the system and cause an overpressurization.
  • Use nitrile gloves on the glove box gloves.  This extends the life of the glove box gloves and helps to avoid cross contamination and makes cleanup easier
  • Train all individuals working in the box.  Document this training in a laboratory specific training file.
  • Ensure proper backup measures are in place for a loss of power or loss of facility nitrogen. 


Stanley Howell
Sr. Program Manager
Chemical Safety

Steve Elwood
Director for Research Safety