The Differences between Latex, Nitrile and Vinyl Gloves and When to Use Them
Before we break down the details of vinyl vs nitrile vs latex gloves, here’s an overview of the differences.
Highly elastic, flexible, and suitable for precision actions.
Thin, flexible, and high touch sensitivity.
Resistant to various chemicals, solvents, acids, and biohazards.
Low risk of punctures and tears, although damage to gloves can be hard to detect.
Cheap and cost-effective for low-risk tasks.
Tear and puncture-resistant.
Medium tolerance to come chemicals.
Suitable for short-time wear.
Made of natural rubber latex, which some people are allergic to.
Strong and flexible with high touch sensitivity.
Disposable gloves provide a protective barrier between your skin and a potentially infectious or harmful substance. When used in healthcare, gloves provide the first line of defence for healthcare workers against blood borne pathogens when attending to sick patients.
Disposable gloves aren’t just used by doctors and surgeons, mechanics, laboratory technicians, factory workers, and even hairdressers use disposable gloves to protect from chemical substances that could harm their skin.
The HSE states in its guide to selecting the right disposable gloves that:
“There are four requirements which must be met for any protective glove selected to be suitable. The glove must: be appropriate for the risk(s) and the conditions where it is used; take into account the ergonomic requirements and state of health of the person wearing it; fit the wearer correctly, if necessary, after adjustments; either prevent or control the risk involved without increasing the overall risk.”
What's the difference between latex, nitrile and vinyl gloves, and how do you know which ones you should use?
Nitrile gloves are sometimes called medical-grade gloves because they offer the highest level of protection in examinations and surgery. Nitrile gloves are known for their high tolerance of biohazards like blood, corrosive substances like hydrogen peroxide, and a wide range of solvents and other oil-based chemicals.
Nitrile gloves are made from copolymer nitrile butadiene rubber derived from bonding two chemicals: acrylonitrile and butadiene. These chemicals give nitrile gloves their chemical resistance and flexibility. Nitrile gloves are also puncture-resistant, and their composition means that if they do break, they are more likely to split, meaning no minute tears or punctures will go unnoticed, and the contamination can be dealt with quickly.
Because of this, nitrile gloves are used not only in healthcare and medical examinations but also in the automotive and mechanical industries. They are even used in beauty services like tattooing and piercing, where sharp tools are used that could compromise the protective barrier between the skin and harmful materials.
Comparing nitrile vs latex gloves' mechanic benefits or nitrile vs latex gloves chemical resistance benefits, nitrile will always come out on top because of its robust barrier that protects against corrosive materials and substances.
Where are nitrile gloves used?
- Veterinary Clinics
- Care homes
- Dental clinics
- Beauty salons
- Doctors surgeries
- Manufacturing facilities
- Tattoo and piercing shops
- Waste management facilities
The highly protective nature of nitrile gloves meant that for some time, they were very tough and didn’t afford a good level of dexterity and sensitivity. But thanks to advances in manufacturing, nitrile gloves are now made with a touch sensitivity akin to latex gloves, meaning they can be used to perform high-precision tasks and worn for extended periods. They are also often made in a range of sizes to ensure a close fit.
Benefits of Our Nitrile Gloves
- Our Nitrile Gloves are tested against British Standard EN455 parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 to determine the absence of holes, level of protection against cross-contamination, biological safety, strength testing, and shelf life of the product.
- Our nitrile gloves are powder-free, reducing the chance of cross-contamination through loose powder when gloves are removed.
- Our nitrile gloves retain excellent traction when wet, aiding dexterity in various situations.
- The gloves have an extra soft, flexible texture to help with intricate actions.
- Our nitrile gloves come in four different sizes to ensure you get a comfortable and close fit.
- Our nitrile gloves are affordable without cutting down on quality.
- The gloves are 100% latex-free.
Latex gloves have been the recommended protection in the medical world for decades against blood borne pathogens. They are made from thin latex rubber, making them highly flexible, malleable, and offering excellent touch sensitivity. Because of this, latex gloves are a good option when performing tasks that are detail-oriented and high precision, like surgery, medical examinations, and dental work.
Unfortunately, because of their material makeup, latex gloves can cause allergic reactions in people who suffer from latex allergies.
Despite the benefits of nitrile as a highly protective material for gloves, latex affords more elasticity and touch sensitivity. Latex gloves offer moderate resistance to tearing and puncturing, but the material also conceals breakages well, meaning the protective barrier could be breached and holes and tears go unnoticed.
Latex gloves also offer medium-level protection against some chemicals that can damage the skin, such as sodium peroxide and sulphuric acid.
Where can latex gloves be used?
- Care settings
- Beauty services
- Dental surgeries
- Food preparation
- DIY and home improvement
The latex glove is an excellent go-to disposable glove for protection against potentially harmful substances, prevention of cross-contamination from germs on hands, and protection of the skin. But only if the wearer and anyone else coming into contact with the gloves do not have a latex allergy. If you plan to use your gloves when making physical contact with someone else, such as a patient or customer, ensure they do not have a latex allergy or opt for nitrile or vinyl gloves instead.
The difference between latex and nitrile gloves comes down to the task at hand and personal preference. When considering nitrile vs latex work gloves or latex vs nitrile gloves for food, use your discretion to choose either option. You may want a cheaper but lower-quality glove, so a latex glove is a good option. If you want more protection and a better fit while avoiding latex use, choose a nitrile glove.
Vinyl is the most lightweight of the three disposable glove types. As such, vinyl gloves are the most widely available and cost-effective option but aren’t suitable for high-risk tasks involving a more significant infection or injury risk.
Vinyl gloves won’t stand up to long periods of wear. They are usually more loose-fitting than nitrile or latex gloves that need to offer a close fit. Made from polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC, vinyl gloves are best suited to cleaning operations and other tasks that don’t involve any corrosive chemicals but where the extra degree of barrier protection helps to keep hygiene levels high and protect the skin on the hands from repeated exposure to substances and actions that dry it out.
The difference between nitrile, latex, and vinyl gloves is usually in the degree of protection needed. Nitrile gloves are required when handling sodium hydroxide in a lab to protect against the risk of spillage. However, using nitrile gloves when preparing sandwiches in a commercial kitchen could be considered overkill. Staff could get through several pairs of gloves in a day in the kitchen, which could become an expensive investment for the business owner. Using vinyl gloves would be far more cost-effective and fulfil the purpose of protecting the food from skin contact.
Blue vinyl gloves should be used in food prep environments under HSE guidance to minimise the risk of food contamination. While vinyl gloves are an excellent solution for various food prep tasks, they are not approved for handling fatty foods. This is because phthalate plasticisers are not chemically bound to the PVC from which vinyl gloves are made and can evaporate into the fatty foods and become soluble. In this case, nitrile gloves are recommended.
Vinyl is anti-static and protects against shocks and chafing when stripping back sheaths on cords and wires, so vinyl gloves are well suited to some electricians’ work.
Where are vinyl gloves used?
- Cleaning (without highly corrosive chemicals)
- Food preparation (apart from fatty foods)
- Hairdressing to protect hands from chemicals and repeated exposure to water
- Painting and DIY
- Working with wires and cords
When comparing vinyl vs latex vs nitrile gloves, vinyl gloves are the best short-term solution in a wide range of cases. Generally, vinyl gloves are a cheap and easy option when you need temporary protection for a low-risk job. Vinyl gloves can protect from low-level hazards, maintain good levels of hygiene, minimise cross-contamination, and make certain jobs more tolerable by protecting the skin on the hands from contact.
Benefits of Our Vinyl Gloves
- The gloves come in catering-friendly blue to comply with HSE food safety recommendations and clear opaque for a professional aesthetic suited to businesses like spas and hospitality or Physio clinics.
- The gloves come in four different sizes for a closer fit.
- The vinyl gloves are 100% latex-free.
- The gloves are powder-free to reduce the risk of cross-contamination through powder.
- Our Vinyl gloves are also very cost-effective.