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A Complete Guide to Nitrile Gloves

what are nitrile gloves

What are nitrile gloves and why should we use them? Nitrile Gloves are alternatives to latex gloves and vinyl gloves. Nitrile disposable gloves offer many benefits over latex or vinyl, with less skin irritation and a lower risk of allergic reactions.

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What are nitrile gloves and why should we use them? Nitrile Gloves are alternatives to latex gloves and vinyl gloves. Nitrile disposable gloves offer many benefits over latex or vinyl, with less skin irritation and a lower risk of allergic reactions.

While nitrile gloves cannot be used with all substances (due to the potential for degradation), they can successfully handle many tasks, from using toxic chemicals in laboratories to preparing dishes in a restaurant kitchen.

This nitrile gloves guide will help you decide if it's time to say goodbye to latex and vinyl gloves.

What are Nitrile Gloves?

Nitrile disposable gloves are a synthetic type of glove. The nitrile rubber is resistant to common chemicals found in the lab including acids, bases, and solvents. Nitrile is also more puncture-resistant than latex and offers good tactile sensitivity.

You may sometimes see the term nitrile rubber gloves. This can refer to nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) or a hybrid rubber glove treated with nitrile for extra durability. Either way, you’re still dealing with the same nitrile substance.

Neil Tillitson and Luc DeBecker first formulated nitrile gloves in the 1980s as an alternative glove material for people allergic to latex gloves. Nitrile is highly popular today for several benefits that latex doesn’t offer—all of which come back to the material’s unique chemical composition.

Disposable nitrile gloves are significantly more durable and chemically resistant than other disposable gloves. They became the leading alternative to latex in the 1990's.

What are Nitrile Gloves Made Of?

person donning a dark blue nitrile gloves

Nitrile disposable gloves are made from synthetic rubber. The "nitrile" in the name refers to the chemical compound "butyronitrile" that is used in the production of these types of gloves.

What is Nitrile Used For?

Nitrile (nitriloin) is a synthetic compound derived from nitrate, and is the third most important industrial polymer (behind polyethylene and styrene). NBR (nitrile butadiene rubber) is used in a wide range of materials, from aerospace, shoes, molded products, glues, sealants, sponges, foam, and, of course, gloves.

How Are Nitrile Gloves Made?

The rubber in nitrile gloves is a copolymer. The production process involves bonding butadiene and acrylonitrile - each providing a different benefit.

The first molecule, butadiene, gives the gloves a stronger resistance to tears and punctures. At the same time, acrylonitrile increases its resistance to chemicals. The production process involves mixing these materials together, injecting them into a mold, and allowing them to cure. The nitrile glove materials are then extruded through a spinneret, which forms long strands that are later cut and formed into gloves.

Manufacturing plants use a hand-shaped ceramic piece of equipment to mass-produce hand coverings. They first run the equipment through a cleaning solution every run to remove any remaining residue. After it dries, a combination of calcium nitrate and calcium carbonate coats the equipment to help harden the synthetic materials.

Then the ceramic is dipped into a vat of liquid nitrile. The glove comes into formation as the synthetic rubber dries under high temperatures.

If you've ever used plastic gloves when cooking in the kitchen, you know the struggles of trying to get them on. Nitrile glove manufacturers combat this problem using two methods:

  1. Polymer coating. A layer of polymer is spread along the inner surface.
  2. Chlorination. The glove is exposed to chlorine to give it a firmer feel and a slicker surface.

What Are Nitrile Gloves Used For?

an artist with black gloves tattooing on a client's right arm

Short answer: nearly any kind of work where a tough, disposable barrier against contamination is useful.

In the past, a majority of industries that use gloves preferred latex gloves. This is due to it being recommended as the recommended glove to protect medical professionals from pathogens such as HIV.

Latex gloves were once the rock stars of the glove world. This was because of their high flexibility, comfort, and protection.

However, it wasn't 100% perfect, and it wasn't for 100% of the population. After its widespread use, a high number of allergic reactions to the latex rose. So manufacturers began producing nitrile gloves in response.

At first, nitrile gloves were stiffer and not as comfortable, but they have been closing the gap with recent advancements in their manufacturing process.

Gloves are an obvious necessity in any scientific setting. When you work with harsh chemicals or are at risk of infection with a bloodborne pathogen, it only makes sense that the gloves you use have a long shelf life.

Nitrile gloves typically have a five-year shelf life compared to the three years that latex gloves have. The whole point of using gloves is to protect yourself and others.

So why would you risk using latex gloves that have a shorter shelf life and degrade quicker when exposed to the environment?

Latex gloves are becoming obsolete due to either preference or force. Now, many places have begun requiring the use of disposable gloves. California recently joined states like Ohio, Arizona, and Hawaii in banning the use of latex gloves in the food service industry. How soon will it be before the ban spills over into other sectors?

Who Uses Nitrile Gloves?

medical professional collecting samples from a sterile tube

Professionals who commonly use nitrile gloves include:

When and Where to Use Nitrile Gloves?

Nitrile gloves are the ideal choice for customers who need gloves to hold up to tough conditions. The material remains the gold standard for durable gloves, including puncture and tear resistance. This durability holds even when the glove is relatively thin.

It’s a good idea to use nitrile gloves in chemistry labs and other industrial situations where chemical hazards are present. They offer greater chemical resistance than natural latex rubber. You’ll often want to choose nitrile for handling corrosive acids, bases, and organic solvents.

They are also good for use in food processing and preparation because they’re waterproof and greaseproof. Nitrile gloves can protect your hands from odors and stains. Chemistry labs, with their dry chemicals and corrosive acids, use nitrile gloves.

Nitrile gloves are a good choice for any workers who need a hypoallergenic glove. Remember, a latex-free, powder-free nitrile glove won’t have many of the common skin irritants.

Are All Nitrile Gloves Medical Grade?

two surgeons in the middle of a surgical operation

The term "medical grade" is sometimes used when talking about nitrile gloves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts a series of checks on gloves before they can be sold to hospitals and medical facilities to ensure their longevity.

Nitrile gloves used in the food processing industry are generally not medical grade. Only surgical gloves and exam gloves are classed as medical grade which is referring to the purity of materials used.

What Do Nitrile Gloves Protect Against?

The standard nitrile glove is an industrial protective glove for protection against chemicals, cuts, and abrasions. It does not protect against electric shock or heat. It is also an effective medical glove for protection against infections and bloodborne pathogens.

Nitrile also offers good chemical resistance to:

What Are the Benefits of Nitrile Gloves?

In general, people use nitrile gloves because they offer greater puncture resistance and chemical resistance than latex gloves. They are available in both black and blue colors to help you identify punctures easier.

Manufacturing of nitrile gloves has improved greatly offering a better level of touch sensitivity. This type of PPE is disposable and affordable for the amount of high level of protection offered.

Here are some benefits of nitrile gloves:

How to Properly Use Nitrile Gloves

person pulling the blue gloves towards arm

The best way to use nitrile gloves is to roll them down over the fingers, shape them around the bottom of the hand, and roll the excess material up to form a cuff. This will provide a fit that protects both hands. Be sure to practice proper glove removal for personal and environmental safety.

What to Consider When Choosing Nitrile Gloves

As with any type of glove, nitrile gloves deliver the best performance when you put some thought into selecting them for the task. This applies equally to disposable gloves and reusable gloves.

Basically any nitrile glove will give you the same benefit: durability and chemical resistance. However, the right nitrile gloves will also deliver certain benefits based on unique features of the glove, and these benefits make the glove more or less useful for the given task. Always choose gloves based on the task, rather than choosing gloves at random.

Fit and Sizing

Here’s the thing: gloves aren’t one-size-fits-all. They certainly aren’t universally fitted for tasks.

In any task that requires dexterity and tactile sensitivity, you want a fitted glove. A food service worker who prepares sandwiches, for example, can get away with a looser glove because they only need a basic protective layer. But a worker who uses machinery or utensils doesn’t want extra material catching in their tools or compromising their ability to feel what’s in their hands.

Thickness Based on Task

Regardless of whether you’re choosing a disposable glove or a reusable glove, the thickness of nitrile gloves is always based on the task. The thicker the glove, the more durability, but on the other hand, the thinner the glove, the more tactile sensitivity.

Workers who use nitrile gloves for fine motor tasks requiring sensitivity need thinner gloves, as these provide the same durability of nitrile with a thinner barrier. Dentists and healthcare workers are a good example, and in those cases, gloves can be as thin as 2mm at the fingertips.

At the far end of the spectrum are industrial workers and mechanics. They need durability above all, which means a thicker glove (think 6 to 8 mm and up).

When to Use Disposable Nitrile Gloves vs. Reusable Nitrile Rubber Gloves

There is a choice to be made between disposable nitrile gloves and reusable nitrile gloves. These days, disposable and reusable nitrile gloves offer the same level of durability, but they’re used for different applications.

Disposable nitrile gloves are a good choice for workers who need a durable single-use sanitary barrier that latex and vinyl cannot offer. Dentists and dental hygienists are the best examples.

Reusable nitrile gloves are a good choice for workers who need a durable glove to last a long time and aren’t as concerned with cross-contamination. They’re often more popular in industrial settings.

What is the Difference Between Nitrile Gloves and Latex Gloves?

Nitrile gloves are synthetic, while latex is derived from natural rubber. Nitrile medical gloves are more puncture resistant than natural rubber (and a bit thicker). They are also latex-free with far fewer allergic reactions that are caused by the proteins in latex products.

Can I Handle Food With Nitrile?

Yes, they are great for use in food grade required applications and safe for food processing and food packaging.

person holding a burger while wearing black gloves

Are Nitrile Gloves Food Safe?

Nitrile gloves are food safe and approved for use in the food and beverage industry because they do not contain protein. This means they can be used safely by people who are allergic to latex.

What About My Allergies?

Nitrile gloves do not contain the protein found in latex gloves. Therefore, they can be used by people who suffer from latex allergies. While nitrile gloves are latex-free, they do contain accelerator chemicals that cause a very low allergic reaction in less that 1% of people.

Are Nitrile Gloves Latex Free?

Nitrile is chemically different from latex. It contains no protein, so it is latex-free. Even if you are not allergic to latex, it may still be a good idea to switch to nitrile. This will protect others who might suffer from latex allergies.

Can You Be Allergic to Nitrile Powdered Gloves?

The powder inside nitrile powdered gloves is cornstarch. If you notice your hands getting dry, this is likely caused by the corn starch. Many people mistake dry hands for a developed allergy.

Can You Reuse Disposable Nitrile Gloves?

Nitrile medical gloves cannot be reused according to the FDA. All gloves will develop pinholes over time with use. It is highly recommended to discard gloves after every use. Change your gloves immediately if you notice a rip or tear. It is not advisable to wash or sanitize medical gloves either.

Protect Yourself With Nitrile Gloves

a scientist in a laboratory extracting samples from petri dish

So, what are nitrile gloves used for?

Anywhere and everywhere, people might use latex or vinyl gloves. Thanks to their lack of allergens, comfortable fit, resistance to friction, longer shelf life, and 3x better puncture resistance compared to latex gloves, nitrile gloves are often a superior choice. If you work in high-risk situations involving hazardous materials or transmissible illnesses, these gloves are right for you.

Whether you're looking for black, orange, or even blue nitrile gloves, we've got you covered. Check out our selection, or get in contact with us if you have any questions! Need to make a large order? We also offer nitrile gloves in bulk

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