Beyond the Products

How to Choose the Right Disposable Gloves: Latex vs. Nitrile vs. Vinyl vs. Vitrile

Many options for disposable gloves are available to companies seeking personal protective equipment for their employees. While latex gloves have historically been the most popular choice for hand protection of all types, new synthetic materials have made nitrile, vinyl, and vitrile increasingly popular disposable glove options.

Due to the different properties of each material, latex, nitrile, vinyl, and vitrile gloves all serve specific purposes and environments. For janitorial staff and cleaning suppliers, any of these glove types could be appropriate.

Taking a look at the specific properties, affordances, and limitations of latex vs. nitrile vs. vinyl vs. vitrile disposable gloves will help you make the right choice to protect your staff.

Pros and cons of latex gloves

Latex is the most traditional, trusted, and popular choice for disposable glove material. Latex glove material comes from natural rubber latex proteins. Latex disposable gloves come in several varieties, including chlorinated and nonchlorinated gloves and powder-free and powdered gloves.

There are many advantages to using the most natural and traditional disposable glove type, but latex gloves do come with some limitations.

Uses of latex gloves

Latex gloves are useful in any situation in which the wearer needs a strong, flexible barrier of protection for their hands. Latex is a popular material choice for medical gloves, especially surgical gloves, because of the high degree of touch sensitivity afforded by latex. Latex is also a favorite medical glove because of latex gloves’ unsurpassed ability to protect the hands from biohazards.

Because latex gloves are flexible and comfortable, they are also popular options for workers who need to wear gloves for long periods of time. Some latex gloves come with cornstarch powder, which makes wearing and removing the gloves easier and cleaner. However, powder-free varieties are available to customers who do not like the residue or allergen potentials of powdered gloves.

Advantages of latex gloves

Three features set latex gloves above their synthetic counterparts: flexibility, grip, and biohazard protection.

First, natural rubber latex provides a stretchiness that vinyl and nitrile have not yet duplicated. This means that latex gloves are generally more comfortable for long-term use and fit the wearer better.

Second, latex gloves provide good traction grip and tactile sensitivity even through a thick protective barrier. That grip makes latex gloves favorites of workers like surgeons, tattoo artists, and mechanics who rely on a high degree of dexterity. Some varieties of latex gloves have powder that can compromise that grip, but a process called leaching can eliminate that powder.

Finally, the strong biohazard protection of natural rubber latex remains far superior to that of nitrile, vinyl, or any other synthetic competitor. Among disposable gloves, latex glove material creates the most reliable protection against biohazards such as viruses, bacteria, and blood-borne pathogens.

Disadvantages of latex gloves

The prevalence of latex allergies has caused latex and other natural rubber gloves to fall out of favor. For instance, medical latex examination gloves are decreasing in popularity because of the risk that a health care patient might have a latex allergy. Suppliers for professions that require direct person-to-person contact, such as for tattoo artists, hairdressers, and food service workers, have also followed this trend away from latex gloves.

Pros and cons of nitrile gloves

As negative side effects from latex allergies have become more prevalent, scientists and consumers have pushed for a latex-free disposable glove option. Disposable nitrile gloves, made from a synthetic material called nitrile butadiene rubber, are the best-performing alternative to latex gloves. While certainly not perfect, nitrile gloves provide many benefits and advantages to the wearer.

Uses of nitrile gloves—chemical protection

Nitrile offers the strongest chemical protection of any disposable glove material. Due to a step in its synthetic processing, nitrile protects against many of the chemicals found in cleaning products, such as bleach and ammonium hydroxide. Cleaning staff and janitorial workers who use chemical cleaners can benefit from the increased chemical protection offered by nitrile gloves.

The University of Pennsylvania Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety offers a full list of the chemicals against which nitrile gloves offer protection.

Advantages of nitrile gloves

Nitrile gloves offer many of the same advantages as latex gloves but minimize the risk of latex allergies. Nitrile gloves are made from the same raw materials as natural latex gloves, but a synthesis process in the production of nitrile material removes the organic proteins that cause allergic reactions. This glove material is the most flexible, comfortable, and durable option that does not leave the wearer at risk for allergic reactions.

Due to its ability to retain the properties of latex gloves without the allergen potential, nitrile has become the favorite glove material for medical gloves. Nitrile exam gloves are especially popular for contact with patients.

In terms of durability, nitrile gloves have the greatest disposable glove strength. Nitrile gloves offer up to three times more puncture resistance than latex gloves, creating a strong and reliable barrier of protection for the hands. Importantly, nitrile disposable gloves visibly tear when punctured, giving the wearer a hard-to-miss sign that it’s time to change gloves.

Innovation in the production of nitrile has made nitrile gloves cost effective, supporting their huge boost in popularity. Disposable nitrile gloves are often a similar or lower price to disposable latex gloves.

Disadvantages of nitrile gloves

Nitrile is not able to perfectly mimic latex, so nitrile glove wearers do sacrifice some amount of comfort, elasticity, and tactile sensitivity. Some surgeons have resisted the trend of medical gloves toward nitrile because of the extreme dexterity that surgeons need. However, for most everyday tasks, nitrile gloves are up to the job.

Some consumers have questioned the use of synthetic materials like di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) in gloves, and scientists have studied DEHP health risks. Although local regulators have approved nitrile gloves for medical, food service, and laboratory use, some scientists are still looking into the effects of synthetic materials on human skin and the environment.

The pros and cons of vinyl gloves

Vinyl gloves are another synthetic, latex-free disposable glove option made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Even though vinyl gloves have the lowest level of protection among disposable glove materials, they provide an accessible hand protection to low-hazard workers.

Uses of vinyl gloves

The most popular setting for vinyl gloves is food preparation and service, where the wearer doesn’t need more than a simple barrier to protect the skin and block the spread of germs. Because vinyl gloves are so inexpensive, they are also popular in large group activities with low material risk, like outdoor cleanups or community meals.

Cleaning and janitorial staff might also prefer vinyl as a glove material. Vinyl gloves are great cleaning options for those who do not encounter hazardous chemicals or body fluids. If cleaning staff wear gloves to avoid getting messy materials on skin or to avoid getting human germs on nontoxic surfaces, vinyl gloves are effective.

Check product ingredients, hazard warning guidelines, and other cleaning recommendations from experts to monitor the chemical risks of your cleaning products.

Advantages of vinyl gloves

Vinyl gloves provide an allergen-free alternative to latex and a low-cost alternative to high-tech nitrile. Essentially, vinyl gloves offer a simple barrier between the skin and solid materials such as food, dirt, or nontoxic cleaning products. This makes them highly useful in nonhazardous environments where there is a low risk of either chemical or biohazard glove penetration.

Disadvantages of vinyl gloves

The foremost limitation of vinyl gloves is their inability to protect the wearer from chemical or biohazard risk. The PVC material in vinyl gloves cannot withstand the advanced hazard risks of chemicals, bacteria, or viruses. Consequently, vinyl is not an approved glove material for medical gloves.

Companies considering vinyl as a means of saving money when purchasing disposable gloves should make sure that their employees will not be in high-risk chemical or biohazard environments. In the case of those risks, a products manager’s glove selection might favor latex or nitrile gloves.

The PVC glove material in vinyl gloves is also stiff and plastic like, which makes the gloves relatively uncomfortable. The glove material cannot stretch without breaking the protective barrier, so these gloves are not especially flexible or durable and limit dexterity. Additionally, the PVC film retains moisture, often making the hands hot and sweaty with prolonged use. Most workers avoid vinyl gloves for long-term glove wear.

Pros and cons of vitrile gloves

Many consumers and cleaners look for a middle ground between different types of disposable gloves when they don’t need medical gloves like nitrile but do need more protection than vinyl gloves can offer. So scientists have developed vitrile as a highly effective compromise for purchasers looking for a sweet spot.

Vitrile, a blend of vinyl and nitrile, is an exciting new technology that promises innovation in disposable glove efficacy and affordability.

Uses of vitrile gloves

Vitrile has already proven itself as a capable alternative to other glove materials in automotive, dental, veterinary, food preparation, food service, laboratory, janitorial, and cosmetic settings.

Individual local authorities have also approved it for some medical uses. However, the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet tested vitrile as a medical glove material in advanced medical settings, such as for chemotherapy and home infusion.

Advantages of vitrile gloves

Vitrile gives consumers the advantages of both of its main components: vinyl and nitrile. Vitrile is up to three times stronger than vinyl gloves, but only around half the cost of nitrile gloves. And because vinyl and nitrile are both synthetic materials, vitrile gloves are safe against latex allergies.

Especially when compared to vinyl PVC gloves or nitrile rubber gloves, there are many advantages to using vitrile gloves. Engineers developed vitrile specifically to answer some of the gaps left by the other synthetic, latex-free gloves. As a result, vitrile gloves are affordable, durable, and comfortable disposable glove options.

The biggest affordance of vitrile gloves is their feel and flexibility. While vinyl gloves are stiff and uncomfortable, vitrile can stretch and flex without losing its protective barrier. Users can wear vitrile gloves for longer than vinyl gloves without the gloves becoming stiff, and vitrile gloves also last longer than nitrile ones without becoming loose and floppy.

According to one study in the British Dental Journal, vitrile gloves offer more touch sensitivity than either vinyl or nitrile. This is because the mix of materials allows the glove to remain thin while still offering a reliable protective barrier.

Of course, the biggest advantage of vitrile gloves is their cost! While still somewhat more expensive than vinyl gloves, vitrile gloves are significantly less expensive than either nitrile or latex gloves. Predictors expect the price of vitrile gloves to decrease as demand grows and production innovates.

Disadvantages of vitrile gloves

The biggest disadvantage of vitrile gloves is simply that they are relatively unknown. The material itself is a very recent innovation, and there has not been enough time for a wide range of users to offer their reviews of the glove material.

The environmental impacts of vitrile are also still relatively unknown. PVC gloves, including vinyl and vitrile, are known to cause environmental damage upon disposal due to the polyurethane used in the creation of the material. Experts expect more research and testing on vitrile’s environmental impact soon.

Purchasing the right gloves

Latex, nitrile, vinyl, and vitrile gloves all offer unique protections and limitations. When it comes to buying gloves and other personal protective equipment for your janitorial staff, you cannot be careful enough. Keep your staff safe by working with a reliable, top-quality cleaning supplier.

To purchase gloves or fulfill your other cleaning supply needs, contact Spruce Industries.

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