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There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to nitrile vs latex gloves. If you forget everything else, realize that nitrile gloves eliminate the single biggest problem with latex: skin allergies. Regardless of whether you’re an automotive professional (i.e. auto mechanic or detailer) or you work in health care, disposable gloves are a natural part of the job.
Both nitrile and latex gloves can protect your hands from anything from solvents and chemicals to dangerous germs. SO why the debate between nitrile vs latex gloves? Why didn’t one win out over the other?
As it turns out, not all disposable gloves have the same design intent and they certainly have different strengths. We’ll cover the two key types of gloves in this article and then touch upon a third—vinyl—for good measure.
Latex gloves ruled the day…er, back in the day. The core material, latex, actually comes from plants and trees. Natural latex is actually a chief component of rubber. Latex finds its way into the production of gloves, swim caps, prophylactics, catheters, and balloons.
However, in a “familiarity breeds contempt” sort of way, the widespread use of latex also brought with it skin irritation and allergies. No joke—latex allergies (some quite severe) popped up all over, and it took some time before the industry figure out a workaround…in nitrile gloves.
But back to latex. Latex gloves remain very comfortable—and they are extremely inexpensive.
For those who aren’t allergic, latex gloves are comfortable and still very cost-effective. Like other things made from latex, they also offer a high degree of touch sensitivity. That makes them especially great for surgeons, auto mechanics, and anyone else who needs tactile feedback while working.
If, however, you want an equally-good glove that doesn’t have the allergic properties of latex, look no further than nitrile gloves.
Latex vs nitrile gloves for those subject to skin allergies: Nitrile wins hands-down (pun intended)
When latex gloves became a problem for those bearing skin allergies, nitrile gloves quickly gained in popularity. The reason people prefer latex to nitrile is that nitrile isn’t quite as elastic or flexible as latex. That means they break more easily. While that’s merely inconvenient for the auto mechanics—it can be disastrous for a surgeon.
Nitrile gloves do, however, resist chemicals quite well. When manufacturers to an appropriate thickness, they can also hold up better than latex for pure durability. If you deal with corrosive chemicals, the nitrile vs latex gloves question falls decidedly in the nitrile camp.
Where they do excel in the medical field is for scientists and other technicians concerned primarily with puncture resistance. The tactile response won’t be as good as latex per the same thickness, but nitrile gloves can be manufactured with better resistance to edges and needles. And, again, anyone dealing with latex allergies typically falls back to nitrile gloves over any other solution.
Typically when we talk about PVC (polyvinyl chloride), we’re referring to plumbing pipes. Petroleum-based PVC also finds its way into the production of vinyl gloves. Vinyl gloves generally cost less to manufacture than either latex or nitrile gloves—but they also don’t provide the same protection.
The problem is that when you stretch vinly, it opens up gaps that allow permeation of the membrane. This doesn’t work well for the medical field or when you want to keep out caustic chemicals.
Where vinyl gloves work great is food-prep. They cost about half as much as nitrile or latex gloves when purchased in bulk, so you can use them and toss them quickly without wasting a lot of money. You might be wasting a lot of PVC—but that’s a different topic altogether. Overall, vinyl rules the day for uses where you don’t really have to worry about hazardous infection or serious contamination.
We prefer latex gloves—but only because we don’t have skin allergies. The thing is, until you wear them for an extended period of time, you may not even realize you have an allergy until it manifests itself.
At that point, nitrile gloves start looking like a great alternative. If you want reasonable tactile feedback, durability, and reasonable protection against chemicals, it’s hard to go wrong with nitrile.
When it comes to latex vs nitrile, which you use and prefer? Let us know in the comments below and thanks for reading!
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