What's the difference between Nitrile, Vinyl, & Latex Gloves?
Disposable Nitrile Gloves
Nitrile gloves are the main alternative to latex disposable gloves. While they are less flexible than latex gloves, their durability and chemical resistance outweighs their rigidity. Nitrile gloves are optimal for those handling hazardous or potentially corrosive chemicals that cannot be withstood by vinyl or latex. With their higher puncture resistance and lack of latex, nitrile disposable gloves are ideal for medical environments especially those where latex allergies are a concern.
Latex (natural rubber) gloves are useful with biological and water-based materials. However, they provide poor protection against organic solvents and offer little chemical resistance. They can also trigger latex allergies. For those who aren't allergic, latex gloves are comfortable, low cost, and have high touch sensitivity. These characteristics make them suitable for most medical environments where latex allergies are not a concern.
The main advantage to vinyl gloves is their low manufacturing cost. Vinyl gloves also avoid the risk of latex allergies. Disposable vinyl gloves are ideal for quick single-use tasks that require easy donning and removal in busy food service, medical, or industrial settings (non-hazardous and low-infection environments). They are less durable and offer less protection than nitrile or latex gloves as any stretching can reduce their molecular integrity.
3 mil - 8 mil is the most common range of glove thicknesses
Medical grade gloves have lower thicknesses and a corresponding increased dexterity
Thicker gloves (4 - 5 mil) are more suited to industrial environments
8 mil+ gloves are ideal when you need extra protection from corrosive chemicals or other hazardous evironments.
Longer gloves also provide additional protection such as disposable nitrile gloves with 12" extended cuffs
Disposable glove color is generally preferential based on the industry and application
Black disposable gloves are used in industrial applications to hide dirt or blood (think tattoo artist).
Varying colors are used to differentiate between departments in food processing. This can prevent cross contamination and if a foreign material is found in the product, it can be traced back to the source
Disposable gloves in medical applications are most often blue or indigo
Powdered vs. Powder-Free Disposable Gloves
Powdered disposable gloves have cornstarch added to make donning and removal easier, especially in busier environments. Powdered gloves have raised concerns about exacerbating latex allergies or sticking to hands, surfaces, or clothing after use.
Powder Free disposable gloves go through a process called chlorination, making them less form fitting and easier to don and remove. This process can reduce grip and make them harder to remove quickly.
Glove Grade & Standards
Glove Grade is determined by measuring Acceptance Quality Limit or AQL
AQL is the measurement of the percentage likelihood of pinhole defects in a batch of disposable gloves. A predetermined number of gloves from a batch are selected and tested for water tightness - or leakage. The AQL rating represents the percentage of gloves per hundred that leaked in a batch of disposable gloves.
Example: Gloves rated with a 1.5 AQL have 1.5 defects per 100 gloves.
Surgical gloves require an 0.65 AQL or lower
Medical Gloves & Exam require a 1.5 AQL or lower
Industrial grade gloves require a 4.0 AQL or lower
What's the difference between a medical and exam grade disposable gloves?
They are the same. Medical exam grade gloves can be referenced three ways - Exam, Medical, or Medical Exam Grade. All three labels are correct and equal. To use this label, gloves must manufactured with a 1.5 AQL or lower at an FDA authorized 510(k) facility.
What is a 510(k) for exam grade disposable gloves?
A 510(k) is a document approved by the FDA that allows medical devices to be introduced into commercial distribution.
Exam/Medical grade gloves are regulated by the FDA as Class I reserved medical devices that require a 510(k) premarket notification.
How can I tell if a glove is rated for food contact?
Food service gloves or food prep gloves are certified under FDA Title 21 CFR Part 177, stating that the material components of the glove comply with the FDA regulations and the gloves consist of “Substances generally recognized as safe for use in food or food packaging.”
How can I tell if a disposable glove is rated for use with chemotherapy?
If a glove is rated safe for use during chemotherapy that means it has been determined as compliant under USP 800 and ASTM D6978-0
These are standards for the handling of hazardous drugs to minimize the risk to the personnel handling them.
Gloves are approved by testing them for permeation against the various hazardous drugs used during chemotherapy.
How can I tell if a disposable glove is rated for cleanroom use?
Cleanroom gloves are rated for use using the ISO 14644-1:2015 classification system. This system creates classes of “clean” based on measured airborne particulates per cubic meter - numbered ISO 9 down to ISO 1 (cleanest).
Gloves specifically designed for these special applications are carefully laundered, tested and packed/labeled by the manufacturer to ensure a particle count that is compatible with the cleanroom environment where they will be used.