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The complete guide to medical gloves: Nitrile vs latex

Person wearing nitrile gloves

Introduction 

During the pandemic, many businesses are struggling to understand all the new policies and practices they have to implement to keep their businesses safe and virus free. The question of gloves is a topic of confusion for many industries. There are many different types of gloves with different grades and for various purposes. The most common gloves are latex and nitrile gloves. They both come from the same rubber plant but undergo distinct processes. 

In this article, you will learn the differences between nitrile and latex gloves and consider which is better: nitrile glove vs latex.

If your business needs medical grade nitrile gloves, you can find Canadian approved nitrile gloves in bulk on our shop page. Nitrile gloves are durable and built for a wide range of applications. 

What are nitrile gloves?  

What is nitrile? 
Rubber trees provide a natural sap that constitutes the basis of all rubber products. Nitrile begins as latex, but the latex properties are removed through several processing methods, leaving a chemically resistant, waterproof, less allergy-prone material. This material is then commonly used in the popular protective nitrile glove.  

Nitrile Industrial Grade Gloves 
Industrial grade nitrile gloves are manufactured to be up to 5 times more resistant to chemicals and punctures than traditional disposable latex gloves. Because of their toughness, the following professions commonly use industrial grade and regular nitrile gloves: 
  • Mechanics; 
  • Custodians; 
  • Cooks; 
  • Plumbers; 
  • Dentists and; 
  • Painters.
Nitrile Medical Grade Gloves 
As the name suggests, medical gloves are used by: 
  • Surgeons; 
  • Paramedics and 
  • Nurses.  
These disposable gloves are commonly used in healthcare as the manufacturing process removes the latex proteins that typically cause allergic reactions. Medical grade nitrile gloves also protect against blood-borne pathogens.  

Why are nitrile gloves used? 

With such a wide selection of gloves available and best suited to different industries, it can be unclear what your business should have. As mentioned above, nitrile gloves are the first choice for many situations because they don't cause allergic reactions and skin irritation that latex gloves do.  

In support of using nitrile gloves, the US Environmental Protection Agency recommends nitrile gloves because they are ideal in many scenarios.  

Can you sanitize nitrile gloves with hand sanitizer?  

SW Safety® conducted a study where they repeatedly exposed common alcohol-based hand sanitizers to nitrile gloves to observe if they would deteriorate. 

They found that hand sanitizer "did not significantly impact the integrity of the nitrile gloves." Nitrile gloves are resistant to many harsh chemicals in the automotive industry and potentially harmful bacteria in healthcare. Hand sanitizer is not nearly as severe as those chemicals. For that reason, nitrile gloves will not degrade after repeated exposure to hand sanitizer.  

Is it okay to sanitize your nitrile gloves and continue to use them? 

Nitrile gloves are single-use. With the pandemic leading to many people considering ways to keep themselves clean and safe, the question of using gloves and sanitizing them for reuse is valid. It is, however, not recommended. The World Health Organization suggests that it is more effective to wash your hands. 

If you are a business and trying to determine which sanitizer is right for your employees and customers, see how to determine the safest and most effective hand sanitizer for your business

What are latex gloves? 

Latex gloves were the original protective material for medical staff. They were invented by William Steward Halsted in 1889 when he wanted to find a way to protect his staff when treating patients. Since then, latex gloves have become synonymous with the medical profession. The rubber extracted from rubber trees is used to make both latex and nitrile gloves. However, the manufacturing process is different.  

When to use latex gloves instead of nitrile gloves

According to Ammex, "Latex naturally offers the benefit of chemical resistance against most acids, bases, chlorine, iodine, and formaldehyde." If you're going to be using any of these materials in your workplace, latex gloves are the right choice. Many industries use latex gloves, including: 

  • Healthcare; 
  • Foodservice; 
  • Beauty services and 
  • Automotive 

Latex gloves are used instead of nitrile gloves because they conform tightly to the hand and allow for sensitivity to touch. Therefore, latex gloves are the glove of choice for medical industries that need a lot of dexterity.  

Non-latex gloves – what are vinyl gloves?

Along with nitrile gloves, vinyl gloves are another latex-free option. Vinyl gloves are appropriate for food-related tasks as they have less durability than nitrile or latex. 

Vinyl gloves are also latex-free, making them ideal for a situation that someone may have an allergy. Overall, vinyl gloves are suitable for short term tasks where you want a cost-effective alternative that is latex-free.  

Nitrile glove vs latex 

Nitrile Gloves Pros
Latex Gloves Pros
  • Latex-free Durable 
  • Long shelf life 
  • Puncture resistant 
  • Suitable when using harsh chemicals or dealing with abrasive surfaces 

 

  • Skintight 
  • Elastic fit 
  • Very dexterous 

 

Nitrile Gloves Cons
Latex Gloves Cons

 

  • They are not biodegradable 
  • Allergies to latex 
  • Easily punctured 
  • Lower chemical resistance 


How to choose the right gloves 

What are medical grade gloves? 

Medical gloves, also called exam-grade gloves, are different from other gloves because they have higher standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. Because they are used in the medical field, medical-grade gloves must be appropriate to be used in high-risk situations.   

What gloves should my business have 

Does my business need gloves during the pandemic?

If your business needs gloves during the pandemic, it is essential to know which ones are best suited to your business. If nitrile gloves are appropriate to your setting, you can explore our bulk options from reputable Canadian manufacturers. Additionally, find out if your business needs gloves for covid-19 protection.  

Powdered Gloves vs. Powder-free Gloves 

Depending on the context you are using gloves, you may need to be completely sterile, for example, in a medical situation. In other situations, you may not want to keep clean and avoid bacteria. 

It is common frustration to try and put on gloves when your hands have moisture or wetness because they will stick, and your hand won't slide in as easily. For this reason, many gloves are powdered. 

Powdered gloves have cornstarch inside them to make them easier to put on. In medical situations, however, the cornstarch can impede healing and cause tissue irritation. For this reason, they aren't appropriate for medical settings.  

Powder-free gloves are less form-fitting to make them easier to slide on. They are treated with a chlorine solution and rinsed to remove any contaminants. It is important to note that the chlorine can make the gloves less dexterous. Powder-free gloves are also more expensive due to the extra sterilization they require.   

With this context, it will be easier for you to consider whether or not powdered gloves are appropriate for your workplace.  

Conclusion 

Now you know the difference between latex and nitrile gloves and the benefits and drawbacks of both. 

Businesses need many different kinds of personal protective equipment, including gloves, during these uncertain times. To get more information on other personal protective equipment that your business needs, visit our blog

You can also find our Canadian-approved nitrile gloves in our online store, where you can find reliable PPE for your business. 

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