Know Your Glove Materials: Part IV Poly

Polyethylene is the most affordable glove material and is used in the food service industry. Food service workers need a glove with enough durability for short-duration tasks, and poly gloves are the right choice.

What is polyethylene?
Like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene was first created by accident. German chemist Hans von Pechmann made the first polyethylene in 1898. In 1933, Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett, two scientists at Imperial Chemical Industries, also accidentally created polyethylene, and their employer would be the driving force behind the material's innovation in early years.

Polyethylene is a polymer that is synthesized from ethylene and a thermoplastic that is formed into various shapes as it cools from a liquid state to a solid state.

There are different forms of polyethylene, with one being high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is the harder form of the plastic. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is thinner, less opaque than HDPE and used to make plastic grocery bags, dispensing bottles and disposable gloves. It is a flexible and tough material though not as durable as other glove materials.

LDPE is a non-leaching plastic in its natural state. This means it will not release unwanted chemicals into food, which is why poly gloves are suitable for the food service industry. Additionally, LDPE is used for creating protective film for food packaging.

Two polyethylene sheets are seamed and sealed with heat to create disposable gloves. Because poly gloves are not dipped like latex, nitrile and vinyl gloves, they are not impervious to liquids. Vinyl gloves are a suitable alternative for food services tasks where liquids are present.

"Poly gloves are made from low-density polyethylene."

What are the benefits of poly gloves?
The food service industry requires workers to change their gloves often. In a sandwich deli, for instance, an employee would make one customer's order. Afterward, he or she should follow proper handwashing guidelines and don a new pair of gloves for the next customer. Given the frequency of these changes, the industry requires a cost-effective glove material, which is why poly gloves are the preferred choice.

Poly gloves are also powder and latex free. Both traits are beneficial for preventing allergic reactions among workers and customers. Given that the gloves directly touch food that is ingested, the latex and corn proteins that cause the reaction could easily enter a customer's body, possibly leading to a more severe reaction. Poly gloves are a safe alternative. Not sure if poly gloves are best for your application or industry? Talk to a glove expert today.