Disposable Gloves – What Type Is Best?

Many different industries require the use of disposable gloves – and they are even widely used in domestic situations. With numerous options for various types of disposable glove products, however, it can be confusing to know which is best suited for you.

Using the right glove product for the task at hand is important – so you need to understand the options available and their benefits and drawbacks before making your choice.

What are Disposable Gloves?

Disposable gloves are intended for single use only – they are worn once and then discarded. They are primarily used to prevent cross-contamination between people, protecting the wearer and others. They are most notably used in the medical/healthcare and food safety sectors, as well as by everyone from automotive technicians to janitors to hair stylists.

Types of Disposable Gloves

The three main types of disposable gloves are made from latex, nitrile, and vinyl.


These are crafted from natural rubber. They are traditionally favoured over other types in the medical and healthcare sector and for janitorial workers as they feel like a second skin to wear and are thin enough to maintain tactility and an unimpeded sense of touch.

There are distinct benefits offered by latex disposable gloves. A generally affordable option, latex offers a high level of comfort and dexterity, and while thin, remains strong. While it provides very high protection against bacteria and other microorganisms and is impervious to some chemicals, it is also a biodegradable option (so, when not exposed to biohazards or chemicals, it can be a sustainable alternative).

Latex does have some drawbacks as a glove material. As a material dependent on the availability of natural resources (rubber trees), the cost of latex can fluctuate. Latex gloves, while quite strong, are very easily punctured and their use is not ideal where needles, scalpels, and knives are used. Moreover, many people are sensitive or even allergic to latex.

Traditionally, most latex gloves are lightly powdered to make it easier to put them on and take them off. This does not suit certain applications, specifically medical, surgical, dental, and food preparation, where powder residue can transfer and contaminate. Furthermore, some people are allergic to these powders. Powder-free latex gloves are a viable alternative.


Nitrile is a synthetic rubber that looks and feels similar to latex. It is, however, non-allergenic and represents a safer alternative for use by or on people with a latex allergy or sensitivity.

The benefits offered by nitrile gloves are myriad – they are highly puncture-resistant, durable, and long-lasting. They can be worn for longer periods than latex gloves and are very highly protective against bacteria, other microorganisms, and many chemicals. As a synthetic product, they also have a long shelf life.

Despite these pros, there are some cons to nitrile gloves. They are more expensive than latex, do not fit as well as latex, and they are not biodegradable.


Vinyl gloves are made from a synthetic resin. They are an economical, less expensive option compared with nitrile and latex, and one that offers adequate protection for use in the food industry and where exposure to hazardous substances is unlikely. Vinyl gloves are suitable for use by people who are allergic to latex.

There are some significant drawbacks to using vinyl gloves – they are not tactile, limiting the wearer’s sense of touch, fit loosely, and are susceptible to tears and punctures. They provide very little protection against microorganisms, chemicals, and other hazardous substances, and they are not biodegradable.


Choosing the right gloves for your application is very important.

So, too, is using them correctly.

ü Always wash and thoroughly dry your hands before and after using disposable gloves.

ü Check there are no punctures or tears in gloves before you use them.

ü Double glove for extra protection against hazardous substances where puncturing is a risk.

ü Never wash or reuse disposable gloves.

ü Check expiry dates on gloves before use.

Select your gloves based on your industry, scope of use, and budget – and protect yourself and others.

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