Surgical glove integrity is essential for universal precautions; glove safety is verified by the water load test (WLT). Concerns regarding glove injury have prompted newer testing methodologies, including electrical conductance testing (ECT); however, the sensitivities of these tests are not known. We compared the sensitivity of WLT and ECT in detecting glove needle-stick injury in two commonly used brands of surgical gloves. Punctures were made with hollow-bore and solid surgical needles of various configurations. The WLT failed to detect glove holes from the smallest-caliber needles and only detected the injury in 60 per cent for the largest caliber. The ECT provided a graded index of glove injury in all holes made by both solid surgical needles and hollow-bore needles. The WLT is a poor test for clinical defects in latex surgical gloves; the ECT is significantly more sensitive and provides a gauge of the cross-sectional area of the defect. Interbrand differences in self-sealing properties of surgical gloves were evidenced and may be clinically relevant after glove perforation.