A Closer Look at Disposable Gloves

disposable gloves

By Ayisha Malik, EMEA

Choose the right one for your application

If you work in research, healthcare, industry, hospitality, or within custodial services, it is likely that your workday starts with you slipping your fingers into a pair of protective disposable gloves. Disposable gloves are one of the most widely used safety products in the world. They create a protective barrier around your hands, preventing infection transmission through bodily fluids, burns from hazardous chemicals, and general wear and tear. Gloves also help to minimise the risk of cross-contamination, protecting products, equipment, samples and surfaces you need to handle.

It is not only important to use and dispose of your gloves properly for maximum effectivity but also to choose the right kind of gloves based on your needs. There are several factors to consider when picking your gloves, including level of protection, allergies, environmental impact, and so on.

Latex gloves

Showa Best® Derma Thin® natural rubber latex gloves in lab

Showa Best® Derma Thin® latex gloves.

Natural rubber latex gloves were once the most common choice for disposable gloves across all industries. Despite the arrival of newer and more advanced synthetic formulations, latex gloves remain popular; elastic, resilient, and form fitting, the gloves offer a great deal of dexterity, tactility, and comfort, making them perfect for medical, mechanical and food services applications. Latex gloves come in a range of thicknesses, offering different levels of durability against punctures and tears. They can be powder-free or powdered with corn starch to make it quick and easy to put on.

However, latex is a known allergen and can cause symptoms from dry skin to severe dermatological problems; 9.7% of the world’s population suffers from latex allergies, while another 12.4% are sensitive to the natural rubber product.[1]

Vinyl gloves

Vinyl is a synthetic material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC); it is cheap to produce and has a long shelf life. Like their latex counterparts, vinyl gloves also come in a range of thicknesses, with the options of powdered or non-powdered. Although the gloves are comfortable and easy to put on, they are not very form fitting and therefore offer limited dexterity and tactile precision. Vinyl gloves are best used for food service and other applications that do not require extensive or intricate movement of the fingers. Additionally, the protein-free formulation makes it less likely to react with the skin, but the permeable nature of the material makes it only usable for non-aseptic procedures with a low risk of contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

Nitrile gloves

Cole-Parmer®Thin-Touch® Powder-free Nitrile Gloves

Cole-Parmer®Thin-Touch® Nitrile Gloves.

Nitrile gloves come in a variety of thicknesses, powdered, lightly powdered and most often powder-free. Made from nitrile butadiene rubber, they are a suitable alternative for people with latex allergies. The gloves have an extended shelf life and increased resistance to punctures. They offer superior fit, feel, dexterity, and durability, and are more resistant to oils, solvents, and chemicals. They are ideal for use across several sectors, including research, laboratory sciences, agricultural, meat processing, medicine, and healthcare. Additionally, the nitrile formulation has a high tolerance for heat, making the gloves suitable for autoclave applications and it also effectively breaks up electrostatic charges on the surface to reduce particulate contamination – a desirable feature for cleanroom utility.

Given the wide appeal of nitrile gloves across many sectors and applications, its formulation has been modified further to offer additional benefits.

Antimicrobial nitrile gloves

While disposable gloves are used to prevent the spread of germs, improper use and disposal can have the opposite effect. Smart nitrile gloves, with anti-microbial properties, deliver added peace of mind for users who operate in a hygiene-critical environment. Built-in antimicrobial technology works at the cellular level and disrupts biological function to prevent microbial reproduction, continuously inhibiting their growth on the surface of the gloves.

Biodegradable nitrile gloves

Most disposable gloves have a negative impact on the environment. They are unrecyclable and millions pile up in the landfill every year. Nitrile gloves can take decades to degrade and during that time release acrylonitrile and butadiene into the surrounding environment, which can be toxic at high levels. Luckily, biodegradable nitrile gloves featuring Eco Best Technology® (EBT) allows complete biodegradation of these synthetic fibres within 1 to 5 years. When disposed in a biologically active landfill, microorganisms break down and metabolise EBT materials into organic soil, methane, and carbon dioxide, leaving zero waste behind.


It is crucial to choose the right gloves to ensure proper protection; the best formulation for your application and correct size for your hand. For effective personal safety, protection of others, minimisation of infection transmission and reduction in cross-contamination, remember to correctly store, wear, remove and dispose all single-use gloves.


1.  Wu M, McIntosh J, Liu J. Current prevalence rate of latex allergy: Why it remains a problem?. J Occup Health. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356959/#:~:text=Owing%20to%20the%20millions%20of,3, Accessed December 10, 2020.


Related Articles

How to put on sterile gloves in 10 easy steps
Finding the right fit for safety glovesi>
How to rate your cloves for chemical compatibility

3 Comments on "A Closer Look at Disposable Gloves"

  1. Stephen Ryan | May 25, 2022 at 7:16 am | Reply

    There are some types of materials to make gloves such as nitrile butadiene rubber, latex (or natural rubber), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and leather. Besides common gloves materials mentioned above, you might also encounter other types as follows: neoprene rubber material, polyurethane (PU) or synthetic leather, wool, butyl rubber, and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA).

  2. Stephen Ryan | June 2, 2022 at 2:00 am | Reply

    Your article is very detailed and engaging. I will continue to follow your new posts. thank you!

  3. Decheng Medical | June 6, 2022 at 8:50 pm | Reply

    very good article,thank you

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: