Disposable gloves have evolved over the years and these days there are three main types used in Australian industries – latex, nitrile & vinyl. While they all look very similar, they each have unique qualities that are important to understand if you are to use them effectively and in the correct applications. This guide will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type, so you can buy smart and use smart!
Quick Summary – Latex vs. Nitrile vs. Vinyl Disposable Gloves
|Latex||Dexterity, comfort, strength||Latex allergies, lower chemical resistance|
|Nitrile||Latex-free, dexterity, strength||Price, non-biodegradable|
|Vinyl||Latex-free, cheap||Loosely fitting, easily punctured|
Latex is a natural product made from rubber, derived from a processed plant product. Latex gloves have become the trusted option in the healthcare industry thanks to its ‘second-skin’ like qualities. Ideal applications include the medical, janitorial, automotive & industrial industry.
fits like a second skin – great dexterity & comfort
- has the highest level of touch & tactile sensitivity due to their thinness, hence why they’re popular amongst surgeons
- high strength level, thanks to their elasticity
- provide superior barrier protection against bacteria/viruses & some chemicals
- natural material, so it’s biodegradable
- cost effective
- are lightly powdered, making them easier to put on and off
- latex allergies are increasing world-wide. This is the main reason for seeking synthetic alternatives
- lower resistance to punctures than synthetic types
- lower chemical resistance than synthetic types
- powder coating can make them ‘messy’
- cost can fluctuate according to the prices of natural resources
Nitrile gloves are made from a synthetic rubber and are relatively similar to latex gloves in terms of their stretchy feel. However, because they do not contain latex, they make a great alternative in applications or workplaces where latex allergies are a concern. This is also why nitrile gloves are often known as ‘medical-grade’ gloves. They also have a higher puncture resistance than the other types. Ideal uses include medical, cosmetic, janitorial and automotive industries.
- the most puncture resistant of all three
- mold to your hand similarly to latex, close fitting
- long lasting & durable
- can be worn for longer periods of time
- provide superior barrier protection against many chemicals & petroleum-based products
- long shelf life, being synthetic
- do not fit as well as latex
- more expensive to produce & hence, more expensive to buy
Vinyl gloves are also synthetic but provide different attributes again. They are the less expensive choice, but still provide adequate protection in situations where high levels of durability and protection are less of a priority. Vinyl gloves are popular in the food industry, where hazardous substances are not common, and glove turnover is higher.
- economical & cost-effective option
- loosely fitting
- susceptible to punctures
- provide little protection against hazardous substances, including infection or chemicals
- lower level of tactical precision
Powdered gloves vs. Powder-free gloves
You can generally purchase powdered and powder-free versions of all three types of gloves. Gloves are generally lightly powdered to make them easier to put on and off, however, they can be the cause of allergies due to protein and/or chemical content. Plus, it can make the gloves ‘messy’ as the powder is left on door handles and whatever else you touch! Powder-free gloves can be more expensive, because the powder coating is often removed, rather than the glove being manufactured initially without powder.
More disposable glove best practices
- Check each new glove you use for rips and punctures, especially if you are working with high risk substances.
- Gloves should never replace clean hands. Always wash & dry your hands properly before putting on disposable gloves.
- Never wash or reuse disposable gloves. Bin them and grab a new pair if their cleanliness is compromised.
- For extra protection, consider ‘double-gloving’, which provides another layer of protection from hazardous substances, should one layer be punctured.