Nitrile, Vinyl, Latex, or Hybrid: Which Glove Is Right for Your Customer?

Nitrile, synthetic hybrid, vinyl, or latex: Which glove is right for your customer?

In last week’s blog post, we wrote about disposable glove thickness, which can be a source of confusion for end users (and sometimes even distributors). This week we examine how to choose the right glove material for the job.

When the coronavirus went global in early 2020, the disposable glove market was turned upside down. Inventory of nitrile gloves—far and away the most popular—soon dropped as pricing rose substantially. Now, a year later, nitrile inventory is coming back, prices are coming down, and the amount of available gloves is working its way back to pre-pandemic levels.

Before long, AMMEX will again be selling its full product line, which includes disposable gloves made of three primary materials—nitrile, latex, and vinyl—as well as synthetic hybrid vinyl, which incorporates elastomers to give vinyl gloves greater strength and versatility. (We also carry polyethylene, or poly, gloves for use in food service.)

Nitrile: The glove material everyone wants

Of these materials, nitrile has the highest puncture resistance and barrier protection against chemicals. Nitrile is popular in both exam grade and industrial grade—determined by ratings under the Acceptable Quality Limit (AQL) system—and features such innovations as raised diamond texture, an exceptionally aggressive texture that channels away liquids for enhanced grip.

Its fit, feel, and comfort rival that of latex, without concerns about aggravating sensitivities to natural rubber. It also has a longer shelf life than latex.

Nitrile is preferred for automotive, manufacturing, janitorial, plumbing, paint shop, chemical, industrial, and food processing uses. It is especially popular for working with tools and machinery, and applications that involve petroleum-based chemicals.

One of the great things about nitrile is that you often can get away with a thinner glove and still enjoy strong barrier protection.

Latex: Still the best comfort anywhere

Once the industry standard, latex has slipped in popularity over concerns about allergies. Latex allergies are present in less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, but potential reactions can be severe, ranging from skin irritation to anaphylaxis, a possibly life-threatening condition.

Studies also have shown that prolonged exposure to latex can cause sensitivities to emerge over time, so more organizations are opting for nitrile to avoid this risk. A number of states have banned its use in food contact.

The standout traits of latex are extremely high comfort and superior dexterity and fit. Nothing conforms to the contour of the hand as well as latex (although nitrile is a close second). Latex offers the highest elasticity, resilience, flexibility, and tactile sensitivity.

Latex gloves are still preferred in many applications from manufacturing to paint to automotive to tasks that require high levels of dexterity, such as electronics assembly.

Vinyl: A versatile and value-forward choice

In the year-plus since COVID-19 went global, vinyl gloves have taken on new importance because of versatility and pricing. Reduced availability and higher cost of nitrile and latex put vinyl squarely in the spotlight.

Vinyl is a synthetic material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It’s less elastic than nitrile and latex, giving it a looser fit and a smooth, comfortable feel. It helps eliminate allergic reactions to latex proteins. The puncture resistance is the lowest of the major glove materials, but vinyl delivers dependable barrier protection against most cleaning solutions and common chemicals.

A value-forward option for applications where frequent glove changes are required, vinyl is popular in restaurants, as well as grocery stores, cafeterias, catering, and food-processing operations, janitorial, painting, light plumbing, and beauty & salon use. It is not recommended for petroleum-based chemicals.

Vinyl gloves also are available in exam grade, which makes them an excellent, cost-effective option for non-sterile medical use.

Hybrids: An alternative with promise

Synthetic hybrids combine the versatility, lower cost, and greater availability of vinyl with some of the attributes of elastomers: improved fit and feel, greater comfort, and better barrier protection. Adding synthetic rubber to vinyl gloves imbues them with nitrile-like properties, enhances their elongation rate, elasticity, and flexibility, and increases their tensile strength.

For an overview of AMMEX’s disposable gloves, download our product catalog. More information about vinyl is available in our Guide to Selling Vinyl. For more detail including data sheets and other valuable information for distributor partners, our Product Toolkit is an essential resource.

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