What’s the difference? Choosing between nitrile, vinylor latex gloves

Whatever healthcare environment you work in, disposable gloves are a firmly entrenched staple – even more so now that Covid-19 has rocked the way healthcare is traditionally delivered.

Of course, the nature of the environment will impact your choice of disposable gloves. Investing in the wrong type of glove for the job can be a common nuisance leading to wasted resources and reduced efficacy.

With powdered gloves raising risk concerns, and popular brands like Mun gloves infiltrating the surgical scene, it pays to keep up with how the make and quality of gloves can impact your patients. This simple guide outlines the key differences between your three main types of gloves: nitrile, vinyl and latex.

Nitrile gloves: reduced flexibility but more resistance

Gaining popularity in the 90s due to their prominence as a nifty alternative for those with latex allergies, nitrile gloves are ideal for most medical environments. They tend to offer a stretchy feel while providing superior barrier protection against chemicals and petroleum-based products.

  • Made from: Acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber, a synthetic material that is naturally resistant (it’s the same type of rubber used for things like moulded goods, footwear and floor mats).
  • Pros:Latex-free, highly puncture-resistant, close-fitting andlong-lasting.
  • Cons: More expensive, non-biodegradable and do not fit as well as latex.
  • Suitable environments:In addition to medical environments, nitrile gloves are often used in automotive, janitorial and cosmetic industries.

Vinyl gloves: affordable yet low durability

As a synthetic type of glove, vinyl gloves offer adequate protection at a cheaper price. They are commonly used in low-risk, high-volume situations, where the fit and durability of the glove is less of a priority.

  • Made from: Polyvinyl chloride – better known as PVC, a petroleum-based film. The nature of this material means that the individual molecules of the glove separate when stretched, thus severely compromising the integrity of the glove.
  • Pros: Budget-friendly, latex-free, minimal allergic reactions and comfortable to wear.
  • Cons: Loose-fitting, susceptible to punctures, non-biodegradable and low degrees of touch sensitivity.
  • Suitable environments: Industries that are typically free of hazardous substances, wherein glove turnover is high (for instance, food production).

Latex gloves: cost-effective, comfortable and touch-sensitive

Last but certainly not least, we arrive at what is often hailed as the holy grail of disposable gloves. Latex gloves largely rose to fame in the 80s due to their protection against bloodborne pathogens such as HIV, and have enjoyed the spotlight in the medical scene ever since. In addition to their superior barrier protection, these gloves are a popular choice due to the fact that they are very thin and therefore fit like a second skin, thus offering high levels of dexterity and comfort.

  • Made from: Natural latex rubber, derived directly from rubber trees.Chemicals are added during the manufacturing stage to give the gloves a soft-and-stretchy feel while boosting their strength and durability.
  • Pros:Close-fitting, comfortable to wear, high degrees of touch sensitivity, high levels of strength, biodegradable and cost-effective.
  • Cons: Unsuitable for latex allergies, lower resistance against punctures and chemicals compared to synthetic gloves.
  • Suitable environments:Surgical procedures and other medical environments, as well as automative and janitorial industries.

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