As of 2021, disposable gloves are available in nitrile, vinyl, latex, TPE, PE and Vitril. The material determines the intended use. Below we explain the differences between the individual variants.
Nitrile is a copolymer with the main component acrylonitrile, from which thermosets (for example, Lego bricks) are also made. Nitrile rubber is produced by copolymerization; additional plasticizers are not required. When cooled, nitrile is elastic like rubber. In the medical field, nitrile gloves for single use are very popular. They are flexible, resist alkalis and acids relatively well, and are considered resistant to cracking. The properties of nitrile are similar to those of latex, to which some users are hypersensitive. Gloves made of nitrile are also easy to put on and take off without powder. The tactile sensitivity with the gloves is good, which is why they are often used as examination gloves by rescue services, doctors and in quarantine stations. Other areas of use include bakeries, bars and restaurants, the entire food industry, the cleaning trade, welfare centers and nursing homes. It should be noted that the disposable nitrile gloves fit snugly and can therefore cause heat build-up with perspiration when worn for long periods, which is why attention should be paid to hand care. Protective creams on an oil-water basis are perfect for this purpose.
Latex gloves are the classic in the medical field, but are not tolerated by everyone. Their most important properties are tear resistance, elasticity and good tactile sensitivity. They are manufactured mainly from natural rubber, although a synthetic content must be included, which in turn lowers the cost. This is significant for single-use applications. They are also popular in the medical field because of their good chemical resistance. They are used as examination gloves and in nursing activities to protect against body fluids and aggressive disinfectants. Microorganisms basically do not penetrate the latex. Due to their high stretchability, they ergonomically adapt to any hand shape and size. The wearing sensation on the skin is very pleasant. If you are sensitive to latex, you should not wear powdered latex gloves: These can trigger eczema. Powder-free models maintain the natural ph value. The AQL value is 1.5, and the glove material is low in proteins. Latex is a polyisoprene as raw material, the extraction is from rubber juice. For further processing, resins, few proteins and minerals are added. Powdered latex gloves are especially suitable for rather wet hands.
The raw material for vinyl gloves is PVC. These gloves are worn by people who are highly allergic to other materials. Vinyl is resistant to greases, oils, acids and alkalis. They can be worn powdered or non-powdered. An important area of use is, for example, horticulture (including the preparation of pesticides), but they are also worn in medical environments.
PE gloves are made of polyethylene. The material is transparent, which means that the wearer's hand remains clearly visible. This can be an advantage for certain handling operations. Since PE has very little elasticity, these gloves require a wide entry. They therefore do not close flush, even when optimally sized. Where contamination with germs is to be expected, they are therefore not suitable. The material is otherwise stable, tear-resistant and resistant to acids, alkalis, alcohols, fats and oils.
TPE is the abbreviation for thermoplastic elastomers. This novel material is similar in quality to silicone but does not contain it, has a skin-colored tone and is odorless. Plasticizers are not used in the production process. TPE gloves are well tolerated by the skin, soft, smooth and sufficiently sensitive to the touch. A major advantage is the relatively low price. The main areas of application for gloves made of TPE are the catering, care, cosmetics and food industries. The material has no harmful effects on foodstuffs.
Vitril is a vinyl-nitrile mixture. The nitrile it contains makes Vitril gloves somewhat more tear-resistant and resistant to chemicals. The wearing comfort is similar to that of nitrile and vinyl gloves.
Choosing the right disposable gloves
As the overview shows, disposable gloves have similar properties in many areas. The fact that they are nevertheless repeatedly manufactured from new, sometimes quite innovative materials, such as Vitril, indicates how difficult it is in some cases to decide on the suitable material according to the intended use. The following applies in principle: for the medical sector, where protection against germs is required, you need gloves that close tightly at the cuff. They must therefore be made of nitrile, vinyl, latex or Vitril. Gloves made of TPE are suitable within limits, gloves made of PE as described are not. Otherwise, the deciding factors are wearing comfort, possible skin intolerance (for example, to latex) and cost.