White gloves being used to test the thoroughness of a cleaning job. If you run your finger across the mantelpiece, shelf, or back of a chair and if it comes back clean, you know a good job was done. Truth in Television (the basic motion, with or without the gloves).
This doesn't require gloves. A cloth will do. Yet old money characters will use their High Class Gloves for this.
- On Hayate the Combat Butler's first day, he does this so well (to a window ledge, but same principle) that the maid says (at least in the sub) "Very thorough in the smallest places."
- In Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Commander Mardukas performs the test on a windowsill in Sousuke's classroom while touring the school in preparation for Tessa's visit. Criticizing Sousuke's cleaning at school (and later at home) is just another aspect of his Overprotective Dad tendencies.
- In Engaged to the Unidentified, Mashiro does this to the windowsill in her room upon first moving in. She's disappointed to find no dust, as her host family is particular about such things.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Grumpy does this when the dwarfs arrive home and are surprised to find their cottage clean.
- Discworld: Nanny Ogg uses this test after her daughters-in-law clean her house.
- In Carole Nelson Douglas' Spider Dance, Sherlock Holmes is asked to investigate a matter in the home of William Kissam Vanderbilt. Holmes comments on the cleanliness of the house (he's actually chagrined that so much evidence is lost), and it is noted that Mrs. Vanderbilt tests the cleaning staff's efforts this way and fires those who fail.
- Roald Dahl wrote about a prefect at his Boarding School of Horrors who would do this after having his fags clean his study.
- Navy SEALs: BUDS Class 234, a documentary on basic training for U.S. Navy SEALS. In one episode the instructors perform an inspection of the candidates' rooms, including a white glove test on the room's furnishings to see if they're clean.
- In Upstairs Downstairs, Rose the head house and parlour maid does this to see if the new girl Sarah has done passably or not.
- Keeping Up Appearances: Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") does this on occasion. She's rarely impressed.
- In an episode of Hannah Montana, Jackson, disguised as a health inspector in an attempt to get his Mamaw to quit as school lunchlady, tries this. It fails spectaculary (He even despairs "They're cleaner then when I put them on!"
- In Black Books, when Manny brings in a professional cleaner to clean the shop, he puts on a pair of white gloves and wipes a finger through the air. The finger of the glove turns black.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Ensigns of Command." The Sheliak are hailing the Enterprise, but Picard makes them wait by going over to the dedication plaque and performing a gesture signalling this trope. This confuses Worf but amuses Riker. Remember that the Enterprise is a contained environment and dust is unlikely to ever settle on the dedication plaque unless things have gone horribly wrong. See this in action here.
- In an episode of the short-lived Private Benjamin TV series (based on the 1981 Goldie Hawn movie), Captain Lewis conducts an unannounced white glove test on the company barracks with a pre-dirtied glove.
- An Urban Legend from the army about an officer who liked to do this. Whenever he found dust (and he always did), he would blow it into the face of the poor grunt and ask "Can you still see me?" One day, one of them retaliated by slapping both his hands on the officer's ears and ask back "Can you still hear me?"
- Part of the ritual for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery is the Relief Commander (who do wear white gloves) ostentatiously checking every part the incoming Guard's rifle.