Disposable Glove Thickness: What You Need to Know

When it comes to evaluating disposable gloves, thickness isn’t everything. The material they are made of, and whether they are industrial or exam grade, are also key factors in determining their appropriate applications.

But the question of how thick any particular glove is will always be an endless source of conversation—and often consternation—among those who buy disposable gloves, or sell them for a living.

An important rule of thumb for distributors is to listen to your customers and let their needs guide your glove recommendations. Obviously, an automotive technician is not a good match for 3-mil vinyl gloves, just as a nail & beauty technician has no need for 8-mil nitrile.

Question No. 1: How does it feel?

Just as important is having your customers try on samples. It’s true that the coronavirus has limited face-to-face contact between distributor and end user. With the economy reopening and a sense of normalcy returning, however, remember that nothing beats the tactile experience of pulling on a pair of gloves in deciding whether they are right for you.

When a customer tells you that a glove ripped, the first question you should ask is: Do you have the right  size? Yes, there are bad gloves in any batch; that is why gloves have an Acceptable Quality Limit, or AQL, rating. But we find that the majority of ripped gloves are because an extra-large hand tried to force its way into a large glove, not as much about whether the gloves are too thin.

The following guidelines are evergreen and come in handy in any consideration of disposable gloves:

These basics are worth memorizing

Glove thickness is usually expressed in mils. Contrary to frequent belief, a mil has nothing to do with millimeters; it is a unit of thickness equal to one-thousandth (.001) of an inch.

Gloves of 3 mils or less are suited for jobs that do not require strong protection from chemicals or hazardous materials. Because their cost is lower, they are preferred for applications that require frequent glove changes, from food service to janitorial to salon & beauty.

Gloves in the 5-mil to 6-mil range are dependable for numerous uses, from general duty to heavier automotive or industrial needs involving tools and machinery.

Gloves 8 mils and above are rated for heavy-duty use, and as mil thickness increases, more specialized uses become prevalent. For example, Gloveworks Blue Latex Exam Gloves are 13 mils and recommended for both medical and industrial environments.

Another thing to remember about glove thickness is that disposable gloves have three thickness ratings. When gloves are made, hand-shaped formers are dipped in liquid material, with fingers pointing down.

The fingertips are always the thickest

As they begin drying, the law of gravity applies as solution is pulled downward: Fingertips are thicker than wrists, with palms somewhere in the middle. AMMEX uses palm thickness to differentiate its gloves.

The thicker the glove, the stronger the chemical resistance (but the more dexterity is reduced). Thicker gloves are more expensive to make, and therefore cost more. Glove manufacturers generally state that doubling the thickness of a glove quadruples the breakthrough time of a chemical.

An invaluable tool for our partners is the Product Toolkit. It contains data sheets for all our gloves—including thicknesses, size, weight, and product codes—as well as a variety of glove images that can be used on your website.

As always, feel free to reach out to your AMMEX sales rep with questions or concerns.

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