With so many options out there, it can be difficult to choose the right glove for your needs. Should you go with nitrile? Latex? Powdered?
It’s a lot!
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the glove game, the demand for disposable gloves is higher than ever, so how do you choose?
Consider Your Industry First
While glove types may be used across different industries, it’s still worth considering your use case when looking at gloves.
Medical-grade gloves, or exam-grade gloves, are non-sterile and are used for non-surgical procedures and medical exams. These types of gloves are always powder-free. They’re rigorously tested and must meet FDA requirements based on their chemical and puncture resistance. If you need sterile gloves, surgical-grade gloves will be ideal.
Industrial-grade gloves are recommended for use in non-medical environments where there is no contact with bodily fluids or contaminants. These types of gloves are rigorously tested still and must meet stringent requirements.
Food-grade gloves are designed for a variety of tasks and aren’t designed for prolonged use. They’re approved for food prep and handling or other light-duty, low-risk tasks.
What’s The Difference Between Powdered And Non-Powdered?
Powdered gloves are priced lower than powder-free because the powder remains on the gloves as part of the manufacturing process. They’re cleaned to remove this powder, so they take a little longer to manufacture.
The powder used is cornstarch and is applied to the inside of the gloves. The benefit to powder is that the cornstarch will absorb moisture, so they can be easier to put on and it keeps the gloves from sticking to you.
Powder-free gloves tend to be the preferred option in manufacturing and kitchens because the powder can leave some residue which can cause cross-contamination in certain environments.
What About Glove Thickness?
Glove thickness is measured in mils or grams.
People often assume that a mil is a millimeter, but that’s not the case. 1 mil = 0.001”. When looking at the total number of grams, the heavier the glove, the thicker it is.
Generally speaking thin gloves, 3 mils and under, are used for food prep. Gloves 5 mils and up are the preference for heavier duty tasks. Gloves between 8-13 mils tend to be the go-to for EMS and for heavy industrial tasks.
With these specifications in mind, we can shift to the materials used for the gloves themselves.
Nitrile gloves feature a heavier design which makes them tough and form-fitting. Nitrile is completely latex-free, so they’re suitable for anybody with a latex allergy.
They come in many styles and can be used for almost any task. Because of their versatility, durability, and comfort, they’re the preferred glove in several fields including heavy industrial work, medical exams, cleaning, and food prep.
The kitchen staff will love their resistance to Animal Fats, Shellfish, Vegetable Oil, Poultry, and Oleic Acids.
Mechanics use them because of their resistance to gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil, and brake fluid.
In fact, nitrile stands up to more chemicals than the competing materials. You should go with a nitrile glove if your work involves handling Asphalt, Cyclohexane, Diethyl Ether, Hexane, Hydrogen Peroxide, Kerosene, Linseed Oil, Methyl Alcohol, Mineral Oils, Naphtha, Pine Oil, Turpentine, and Wood Preservatives.
Nitrile gloves are the best choice for use with most acids. They have excellent resistance against hydrofluoric acid 30%, hydrochloric acid 30%, and diluted sulfuric acid. If you’re working with concentrated sulfuric acid you may want to consider vinyl gloves, as they will hold up better than nitrile in this case.
Latex is one of the most popular types of gloves because they are reliable and have been around for so long. Latex is best for medium-duty tasks and has excellent tear and puncture resistance. They are a popular go-to for dentists, tattoo artists, dishwashers, and cleaners due to their reliable and functional design. If you have staff with latex allergies, nitrile gloves would be the best alternative for them.
There are a few chemicals where latex gloves perform much better than other materials. If you will be using Acetone, Chloroacetone, Acetaldehyde, or Acetic Acid, we highly recommend using latex.
Vinyl gloves are latex-free and will protect you from mild irritants such as garden chemicals, weed killer, fertilizer, and photo developer fixer. Vinyl will also hold up against Fluorides, Sulfuric Acid, Sodium Hypochlorite, Silicates, Phosphoric acid, Formaldehyde 37%, Creosote, Citric Acid 10%, Bleach, and Ammonium Hydroxide.
Vinyl is used primarily for food prep and cleaning. They’re more durable than poly gloves, and form-fitting to prevent them from slipping off.
Poly gloves are made from High-Density Polyethylene. They’re very thin, measured at less than 1 mil. Because of this, poly is best used to provide basic protection for quick tasks that need frequent glove changes.
Poly is not recommended for protection against any chemical compounds.
Their most common use is for cutting vegetables and making salads or sandwiches and are sometimes used for basic cleaning tasks. Poly is a popular choice for bakeries, restaurants, and delis.
Hybrid type gloves, a food service protection option, use less material than traditional poly gloves and may be recycled anywhere plastic bag recycling is encouraged. If you’d like a glove for basic cleaning or food prep that is less wasteful, a hybrid option is the best way to go.
Hybrid gloves are made from Low-Density Polyethylene and tend to vary between 1-3 mils thick. These gloves are a cost-effective alternative to vinyl and offer up to 300% more stretch.
Some gloves are advertised as being textured or having textured fingers. This simply means that the material is rougher for a better grip. A good grip is especially important for tasks where you use small instruments, such as lab work.
With so many options out there, it’s difficult to know what will work and what won’t for your specific needs! We hope this clears up some of the confusion around selecting the right gloves for your line of work.
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