Selection of Glove Materials and their Importance

Hand and finger injuries are one among the common accidents with more than a quarter of recordable workplace harms in the United States. Such incidents are being tackled to a large extent by the use of gloves, sleeves and finger cots. This personal protective equipment (PPE) products are made of different materials to protect workers’ hands from on-the-job hazards. At times, these gloves fail to protect hands in certain conditions. Why does that happen? The reason is the wrong selection of gloves made from materials inappropriate for the application. Thus, simply wearing gloves won’t help much in preventing hand or finger injuries, instead ensure that you are wearing hand protection equipment manufactured with the right materials to match the job at hand. This helps to prevent workplace injuries. To understand the things better, this post lists some of the most commonly used materials by the glove manufacturing industry. The post, which contains two parts, also lists a few guidelines when choosing the right gloves for the job.

Glove Material Selection Guide

9 Popular Glove Materials You Need to Know About

What are gloves made of? Have you ever thought of this? If no, then you will find the following information useful. There are many advanced polymers formed into hand covers to protect workers and the products they handle. Some common materials:

  • Butyl: Butyl offers high resistance to oxidation, assures low gas permeability, good heat resistance, flexibility and is resistant to tension and tearing. Butyl is offered in varied thicknesses for high sensitivity or extra protection. It is has been a standard for NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) protection for military, glovebox and research activities.

  • Natural Rubber Latex: Natural rubber is known for its high degree of dexterity and elasticity. Gloves made from latex assure a good grip even when used in both wet and dry conditions. Latex, which had been a dominant player in the disposable glove industry, is the best choice when applications demand biohazard protection and optimum dexterity. These gloves are also used for Acids and (Anti-C) Anti-Contamination applications for Nuclear Refueling. Advances in Nitrile softness and formulation have propelled nitrile into the forefront of medical exam glove applications.

  • Neoprene (Polychloroprene): Neoprene is a solid glove choice when your application demands soft, yet durable material prone to oils, acids, solvents and caustic chemicals. Widely used in wet, dexterity-intense environments, this glove material withstands aging, sunlight, ozone, oxidation and weather at a reasonable price point. With good resistance to cuts and abrasion, heat and flames, the gloves made from this material rightly suit automotive, civil engineering, sports, chemical and laboratory research and production at a reasonable price point.

  • Nitrile: This synthetic polymer is widely chosen in the glove fabrication market for its excellent abrasion resistance, durability, tactility and cost. The gloves manufactured from this material are available in a wide range of colors such as black, blue, orange, white, opaque, as well as in various styles. Nitrile gloves are the best option for high volume medical applications with people who are sensitive to natural rubber latex. The material is resistant to oil, fuel, and other chemicals. There are two major categories in Nitrile glove styles: Industrial and Medical. The industrial styles are often more rigid and thicker sometimes longer, up to 18” or even 32” long. They have a solid performance with Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide and have good anti-static properties for cleanroom and electronics manufacturing. The Medical styles are ‘carboxylated nitrile’ and can have a softness similar to that of natural rubber latex if formulated properly. They are typically 9” to 12” long and are also widely used in cleanrooms for pharmaceutical and medical products manufacturing.

  • Hypalon – Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene (CSPE):  With exceptional resistance to ozone aging, oxygen, and weathering, CSPE gloves are chosen for applications in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, semiconductors, nuclear sectors, defense and manufacturing sectors. CSPE maintains a long life in various harsh environments and offers high levels of protection from caustics, oils, concentrated alkalis.

  • Viton: Highly resistant to corrosive acids, ketones and esters, this material has a high permeation resistance and offers the widest variety of chemical resistance in dipped polymeric gloves. It is sometimes co-laminated with butyl or nitrile for advanced permeation or physical properties. Because of the broad spectrum of chemical resistance, Viton makes is the most costly glove material sometimes costing more than $1200/pair.   

  • Polyurethane: Polyurethane gloves are useful due to their physical properties. They are sometimes co-laminated with CSPE to offer chemical resistance as well as strong physical properties. Polyurethane gloves provide users with a strong grip, and offer improved puncture and abrasion resistance.  

  • Leather: Featuring superior abrasion resistance, tensile strength, breathability, and heat resistance, leather readily adapts to the surrounding temperature and environment. This material is ideal for many applications and ensures the greatest longevity. Leather gloves are widely used as ‘over-gloves’ to protect Electrical Line Workers in conjunction with glove liners and natural rubber Lineman’s gloves.

  • EPDM:  EPDM resists aging from exposure to oxygen, UV rays and ozone. These are good laboratory gloves and can withstand temperatures up to 130 °C for repeated sterilization. 

Guidelines to Choose the Right Glove Materials

As previously mentioned, knowing the type of glove that works best for the job, will help users immensely with product and personnel safety. Be aware that not every material gives proper protection against every type of chemical or other conditions and exposures existing in the application areas. Thus, the selection of glove materials demands utmost care and communication.

Keep in mind the guidelines as listed below when choosing the glove material.

  • Compatibility with the manufacturing methods
  • Sterility vs general purpose
  • Physical conditions in the application area (Cleanroom Class, Sterile, Aseptic, General)
  • Size, Grip, length, dexterity, comfort, and insulation requirements
  • Chemical compatibility
  • Cut and puncture resistance
  • Electrical hazards such as shock, ESD, Arcing
  • Cost considerations 
  • Glovebox vs. General Laboratory vs Medical

Understanding the pros and cons of each material leads toward a wise purchase and helps guarantee maximum hand protection in workplaces. Partnering with a leading glove manufacturer /supplier will enhance your knowledge of options and availability. Plan ahead as shortages can also be a factor.

If you like to know a manufacturer who provides a wide range of gloves made from the materials aforelisted and with exceptional technical assistance, please contact Renco Corporation. As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of gloves and accessories for laboratory glove boxes, Renco has the experience to meet the hand/finger and product protection requirements in today’s workplace.

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