Latex Gloves Still Have a Strong Following Despite Challenges

A user works on an engine while wearing Gloveworks heavy-duty latex gloves (ILHD).

It may have the distinction of being the original disposable glove material, but natural rubber latex often gets a bad rap.

The primary concern is about latex allergies. About 4% of the world’s population has some form of latex allergy. It is more problematic for health care workers, especially dentists and surgeons, because of repeat exposure to exam-grade latex gloves.

Latex has for years been the dominant material for medical use, especially for sterile surgical gloves, because of its precise fit, supreme comfort, and heightened tactile sensitivity. Although nitrile has become much more popular in exam-grade use, latex gloves have a devoted customer base.

The glove of choice in nail salons

They are popular with nail salon workers because latex stands up better than any other glove material to the acetone used in manicures and pedicures. Hair salons tend toward lightweight nitrile or vinyl gloves for such tasks as hair coloring.

One of AMMEX’s sales reps whose client list includes most of our salon business says that extra-small and small latex gloves are preferred in nail salons. Many nail technicians are from Southeast Asia and tend to have smaller hands, she says, and they want the fit and feel of latex for today’s ever-more intricate nail designs. Preferred gloves are Gloveworks Ivory Latex (TLF) at 4 mils and X3 Ivory Latex (LX3) at 3 mils.

Other industries are also still buying latex. Surprisingly, it tends to be popular in restaurant usage, even though there is a growing movement against it. Illinois just joined seven other states in banning the use of latex gloves in food preparation; the new law will take effect Jan. 1, 2023 and will also ban latex use for EMS workers. It enacts a general latex ban effective in January 2024 for all medical services.

Food service users cling to their latex

Despite the issues surrounding the combination of latex and food, one of our distributor partners in Florida has a steady demand for latex gloves from the restaurant business. Many of his customers prefer powdered latex, which is becoming increasingly rare. (AMMEX does still sell Gloveworks Ivory Latex Powdered (TL) but its days are numbered.) He also sells latex to auto mechanics, car dealers, and hotels.

Before the pandemic, latex’s spot as the No. 1 glove of choice appeared to be over. Because it is made from a natural substance, it is more susceptible to fluctuations in raw materials costs, and the price of latex is currently elevated. (Should you see cheap latex making the rounds now, it was likely produced before the current market conditions took hold.)

Because of high prices and limited availability of nitrile during the height of COVID, customers started buying latex gloves simply because they could get their hands on them. They have since stuck with latex because they don’t want the hassle of switching back, or because they love the fit, feel, and comfort.

Even mechanics love their latex

One of AMMEX’s senior national sales reps, who deals mostly with automotive clients, says many are buying Gloveworks Industrial Ivory Latex Gloves (ILHD), an 8-mil heavy-duty glove. Even as nitrile has become easier to obtain, many automotive users are sticking with latex.

With gas prices continuing to go up, trouble at U.S. ports looming, and the busiest ocean shipping season just starting to heat up, the glove marketplace is volatile and full of uncertainty. If your customers want latex, the time to secure your inventory is now before prices go even higher. Talk with your AMMEX sales rep or log in to our Online Portal to see what’s available and place an order.

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