Glenn Rasin

By: Glenn Rasin on May 8th, 2020

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Different Types of Gloves: A Facility’s Guide to Selecting the Safest One

Gloves, a form of personal protection equipment (PPE), are one of the first lines of defense in protecting workers from injury and other serious health risks. 

As the 2019 Coronavirus situation continues there is a high demand for personal protection equipment, including gloves. As a result, it may be difficult to get the gloves your facility currently uses and you may need to identify other gloves that can meet your needs. 

Gloves are used in several industries for many different applications. Choosing the best and safest glove will require you to consider several factors to identify what glove materials will be effective in your facility. 

It is important to understand that there are different types of gloves, and they may not all provide adequate protection in certain applications. For example, thin latex gloves will not be useful in situations where there is a risk of punctures or tears. 

The best glove for your facility will be based on several factors including: use, thickness, tensile strength, elasticity, and puncture and chemical resistance requirements.

Below, we’ll provide you with the information you need to select the best glove type for each application in your facility. We will begin with defining the different factors to consider when selecting a glove, and then we'll identify the most common glove types as well as their pros and cons.

What to Consider When Selecting A Glove:

Gloves are available in disposable or reusable options.

Disposable Gloves

There are many different disposable glove substrates available, each to suit different needs, but there are two main types of disposable gloves: general purpose and medical/exam grade gloves.

General Purpose Gloves

General purpose gloves are commonly used for:

  • Food handling
  • JanitorialGloves
  • Salons/Spas
  • Automotive
Medical or Exam Grade Gloves

Medical gloves include:

  • Examination gloves
  • Surgical gloves
  • Chemotherapy Gloves
  • Other types of healthcare gloves

They have specific standards from the FDA which they must adhere to.

The material that the glove is made from will affect the level of protection, comfort, durability and more. Disposable gloves are for one-time use and should only be used for one task. They should be discarded after every use.

Reusable Gloves

Reusable gloves, sometimes labeled as industrial or heavy-duty, offer greater protection and are less likely to tear in use than disposables. They also provide greater protection against chemicals and hazardous materials. However, they are thicker than disposable gloves and are less flexible and limit touch sensitivity.

To maintain usefulness, reusable gloves must be washed and dried after every use. Proper care is especially important if the gloves were used with chemicals to avoid cross contamination as well as user injury.

Reusable gloves should be inspected before each use for discoloration or any signs or damage. If any signs of wear and tear are found, they should be discarded. They should also be discarded if the inside of the gloves become contaminated during use.

Commercial Gloves Guide 101

Specific Regulations or Requirements by Industry

Foodservice Industry

Foodservice Gloves

State and local health codes require that general purpose gloves be used in foodservice operations. Gloves that come into contact with food or a food contact surface are also regulated by the FDA through the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). 

In addition, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) has developed a protocol for food service gloves identified as “P155: Disposable Food Contact Gloves.” The P155 protocol establishes criteria for product quality like tensile strength, leakage, an

Cleaning Industry

Gloves used in the janitorial industry are not regulated by the FDA. However, different glove materials have different chemical and tear resistance. 

If your staff regularly works with harsh chemicals, make sure you select a glove material that is extremely resistant to chemicals and intended for high risk situations. 

Healthcare Industry

Medical Gloves

In the healthcare industry, medical gloves are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Class I reserved medical devices that require a 510(k) premarket notification. 

According to FDA guidelines, medical gloves must meet certain performance criteria such as leak resistance, tear resistance and biocompatibility. Medical gloves must also be powder-free.

Disposable gloves must have FDA approval to be used for patient care.

Glove Thickness

The thickness of gloves is measured in mils. A mil equals one-thousandth of an inch (0.001 inch). Gloves generally range from 2-15 mils thick. 

In general, the thicker the glove, the more protection it provides, but increased thickness will lower touch sensitivity and may make it harder to work. Reusable gloves will be thicker and provide more protection.

Glove Tensile StrengthTensile Strength

Tensile strength is the amount of force or pull it takes to break the glove. Tensile strength is measured in mPa (megaPascal).

The lower the mPa rating, the more likely it is that gloves will easily tear.  

Medical gloves must have a minimum tensile strength of 11 mPa.

Elongation

This is the measurement of the glove's ability to be stretched without tearing or breaking. 

Medical gloves need a 300% minimum elongation.

Chemical Resistance

Different glove materials are resistant to different chemicals. 

Gloves can provide effective protection against chemicals depending on how they come into contact with them. There are two types of chemical contact: incidental contact or extended contact.

Incidental Contact

When gloves are accidentally exposed to slight overspray, spills or splashes, it is considered incidental contact. If you think you will have incidental contact with chemical or hazardous substances choose a disposable glove that has some chemical resistance and then dispose of it immediately after contact with the chemical.

Extended Contact

If you or your staff will be working with highly contaminated or hazardous materials, high temperatures, or will be continuously submerging hands in a chemical solution then the safest glove option will be reusable gloves. Reusable gloves are thicker and provide greater protection in extended contact situations. 

Always check with the glove manufacturer to identify the chemicals which the gloves are tolerant.

Length

The length of the gloves is the measurement from the fingertip to the wrist opening. Longer gloves are necessary when staff is working in areas of increased risk such as submerging hands into a solution.

Powder vs Powder-Free Gloves

Certain types of disposable gloves are available as powdered or powder-free.

Powdered gloves were popular because they were easier to put on and were more resistant to tears than powder-free gloves. However they are more messy and have also been proven to spread pathogens. As a result, the FDA banned powdered gloves in the USA for medical purposes effective in 2017. The use of powdered gloves has declined in other industries as well.

Now, the most common gloves are powder-free. Powder-free gloves are finished in one of two ways: chlorination or polymer coating.

With chlorination, the gloves are washed in a chlorine gas or hypochlorite and hydrochloric acid solution and then rinsed. Chlorinated gloves are easier to put on than those coated with polymers.

Shelf Life

Each glove substrate has its own shelf life, but shelf life will ultimately depend on how and where the glove is stored. The best way to help ensure you get the most life out of your disposable gloves is to ensure they are stored in a cool, dark area.

Gloves which are stored improperly or are used after their intended shelf life will have reduced performance such as increased risk of tearing.

Different Types of Disposable Gloves

Common Types of Disposable Gloves:  

  • Nitrile Gloves
  • Latex Gloves
  • Vinyl Gloves
  • Poly Gloves

Nitrile Gloves

What are nitrile gloves used for: 
  • Healthcare/Medical Examination 
  • Food Prep 
  • Janitorial/Maintenance 
  • Tattoo Parlors 
  • Industrial
Nitrile DisposableAdvantages of Nitrile Gloves: 
  • High puncture and chemical resistance 
  • Moderate protection against pathogens 
  • Provide good comfort, soft and flexible
  • Easy to detect tears 
  • Can handle moderate temperatures 
  • Long Shelf Life: Typically 5-Years
  • Latex-Free

Disadvantages of Nitrile Gloves: 

  • More stiff than latex
  • Reduced dexterity or ability to complete intricate tasks
  • Reduced touch sensitivity
  • Most expensive disposable option

Latex Gloves 

What are latex gloves used for: 
  • Healthcare/Medical Examination
  • Dental
  • Food Prep 
  • Janitorial/Maintenance 
  • Salons/Spas

Latex Disposable

Advantages of Latex Gloves: 
  • Extremely flexible
  • Offer the best fit and sense of touch 
  • High tensile stretch or ability to resist tearing 
  • Good protection against pathogens 
  • Available as powdered and powder-free 
Disadvantages of Latex Gloves: 
  • Latex allergies are becoming more prevalent. 
  • Latex may be banned in some states
  • Should not be used with organic soils, oils, gas, or grease
  • Hard to detect tears
  • Second most expensive disposable glove option
  • Moderate Shelf Life: Typically 1-3 Years 

Vinyl Gloves 

Vinyl Disposable

What are vinyl gloves used for: 
  • Food Prep 
  • Janitorial 
Advantages of Vinyl Gloves: 
  • Lightweight and soft. 
  • Provide average resistance to some chemicals like common alcohols. 
  • Can be used to handle low heat, such as hot food items.
  • Long Shelf Life: Typically 5-Years
  • Latex-Free
Disadvantages of Vinyl Gloves:  
  • Low tensile strength, meaning it will tear easily. 
  • Low protection against pathogens
  • Looser fit and less dexterity when compared to nitrile and latex
  • Less expensive than nitrile and latex 

Poly Gloves 

Poly DisposableWhat are poly gloves used for: 
  • Food Prep 
  • Deli Counters 
Advantages of Poly Gloves: 
  • Thin 
  • Have easy on and off applications. 
  • Least expensive disposable option
  • Latex-Free
Disadvantages of Poly Gloves: 
  • Very loose 
  • No protection against pathogens
  • Should not be used around heat or hot surfaces

Different Types of Reusable Gloves

Common Types of Reusable Gloves: 

  • Reusable Latex Gloves 
  • Reusable Nitrile Gloves

Reusable Nitrile Gloves

Nitrile ReusableWhat are reusable nitrile gloves used for: 
  • Janitorial/Maintenance
  • Automotive 
  • Plumbing 
  • Food Processing
  • Extended chemical contact situations
Advantages of Reusable Nitrile Gloves: 
  • Resists punctures 
  • Provides a snug fit
  • Greater chemical and temperature resistance
Disadvantages of Reusable Nitrile Gloves: 
  • Can lead to cross contamination if not properly washed and dried
  • Most expensive reusable glove option on this list

Reusable Latex Gloves 

What are reusable latex gloves used for: 
  • Janitorial/Maintenance 
  • General Heavy-Duty Cleaning 
  • Industrial

Latex Reusable

Advantages of Reusable Latex Gloves: 
  • Ideal for scrubbing and scouring pots and pans 
  • Good for general cleaning
  • Least expensive reusable glove option on this list
Disadvantages of Reusable Latex Gloves: 
  • Less chemical resistance 
  • Can lead to cross contamination if not properly washed and dried

Final Thoughts

Whether you need protection from sharp objects, punctures, bodily fluids, OPIMs (other potentially infectious materials), or caustic chemicals, you need the right glove to keep you and your staff protected. 

Each type of glove has its own specifications as well as pros and cons. When selecting the right glove, there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind. Choosing the right one for your industry or application is critical.  

It is important to note that OSHA requires gloves to fit all employees, meaning you will likely have to purchase a variety of glove sizes. Gloves come in sizes small to extra, extra large and can be packaged in boxes with quantities ranging from 100 to 300 or more. It will be important to consider how many gloves are included in your shipment to ensure that you can use the gloves within their recommended shelf life. 

EBP has been a leading distributor of commercial cleaning supplies and janitorial cleaning equipment for over 100 years. 

Our product offering has a variety of popular personal protection equipment including hand, hearing and eye protection as well as safety signs to help keep your workplace safe.

While EBP is not immune to supply shortages, we are committed to helping keep you protected against COVID-19. Given the current Coronavirus situation, you may not be able to get the normal gloves that you order due to the shortage. Reusable gloves may be in higher supply than disposable gloves and may be a good option to consider. 

To help you better compare some of the replacement products we put together a quick reference guide:

Commercial Gloves Guide 101

About Glenn Rasin

Glenn Rasin is the Chemical Specialist for EBP Supply Solutions and Lead Trainer for the EBP Training Academy, which offers CMI-certified training courses for supervisory and front-line cleaning professionals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. He is an ISSA CMI-certified trainer, with over 35 years of experience in the janitorial and sanitation industry.