What are the best alternatives to latex gloves?

Q:

What are the best alternatives to latex gloves?

A:

Gloves are a critical piece of personal protective equipment for workers who handle hazardous materials. While latex gloves are a popular option, latex is a common allergen, so it isn't the right solution for everyone.

Luckily, there are a couple of great alternatives that provide the same level of safety without the potential for causing an allergic reaction (learn more in 12 Types of Hand Protection Gloves – And How to Choose the Right One).

Nitrile Gloves

The first, and most commonly used, alternative is nitrile. These gloves are composed of a synthetic rubber, so they don’t cause the same type of allergic reaction as latex often does. They’re often deemed "medical grade" and used in hospital and other medical contexts.

Features of nitrile gloves include:

  • Latex-free
  • Highly resistant to punctures
  • High level of sensitivity
  • Molds to the hand for a good fit
  • Resistant to many chemicals
  • Good durability and long shelf life

Of course, nitrile gloves also have some drawbacks: they aren’t biodegradable, they offer less elasticity than latex, and they can be pricey (read about some alternative materials in Chemical Resistant Glove Materials: Everything You Need to Know to Choose the Right Glove and Stay Safe). But where latex isn’t an option, nitrile disposable gloves will fill the void easily and provide an equal degree of protection.

Vinyl Gloves

If durability and a snug fit aren’t top priorities – for example, in food industry applications – you might also consider using vinyl gloves.

While they are inexpensive, free of rubber and latex, and generally comfortable, vinyl disposable gloves come with some significant drawbacks that must be considered before use. These include:

  • Poor elasticity and chemical resistance
  • Non-biodegradable
  • Manufacturing process releases toxic chemicals
  • Bisphenol and benzisothiazolinone used in production can cause allergic reactions and dermatitis after exposure

All things considered, if you’re looking for an excellent alternative to latex gloves that provides the same degree of protection, nitrile is your best bet.

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Written by Ronda Johnson
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Ronda Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Montclair State University and an MBA from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey with specializations in business strategy and supply chain management. Ronda has held several positions in research and manufacturing laboratories, including leadership positions for support roles of laboratory functions. Upon completion of her MBA, Ronda decided to merge her life science and business background into a career in sales.

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