Welcomeback to top
Get ready to embark on an educational journey filled with essential information about disposable gloves. This page quickly overviews the history of disposable gloves and the key differentiators so you can make the best glove decision for your application or industry. Throughout the Glove Academy, you will see opportunities to take your learning to the next level. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Take advantage of the additional resources linked within this page. Finally, our blog has specific articles on every aspect of disposable gloves.
History of Disposable Glovesback to top
The first surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Dr. William Stewart Halsted developed the first surgical glove in 1889. His inspiration was his nurse Caroline Hampton, who later became his wife. She suffered severe skin irritation from the chemicals that surgeons and nurses were expected to tolerate barehanded.
Surgery did not become sterile, however, until the 1890s, when Joseph Lister began using carbolic acid to sterilize wounds and surgical instruments. Later that decade, Werner Zoege von Manteuffel of Estonia started the practice of boiling rubber gloves to sterilize them between surgeries. Surgical gloves as we know them were not developed until 1965, when Australian company Ansell created the first disposable medical gloves.
In 1991, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) published its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requiring employers to provide personal protective equipment to workers who come into contact with bodily fluids. This standard is what propelled the disposable glove industry into a multibillion-dollar market.
Although disposable gloves were born in the medical industry, recent attention has shifted to the use of gloves in industrial applications. Workers in automotive, food service and processing, and janitorial-sanitation wear disposable gloves to protect themselves and their customers from a variety of hazards. In the next section, we will cover the six key characteristics that define disposable gloves today.
Glove Characteristicsback to top
There are four materials most commonly used in the manufacturing of disposable gloves: latex, vinyl, nitrile, and polyethylene.
- Latex – Known for its excellent dexterity, comfort, and fit, this material is still the top choice for many users. Latex gloves provide the best barrier protection against blood-borne pathogens but are ineffective against petroleum-based chemicals.
- Vinyl– Due to the rise of latex allergies, end-users demanded an alternative to latex disposable gloves. Vinyl gloves are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and are a loose loose-fitting, cost-effective alternative to latex.
- Nitrile – Because vinyl gloves fit loosely and cause users to experience hand fatigue, a better latex alternative was developed. As body heat warms nitrile gloves, they conform to hands for a comfortable fit. Nitrile is more durable than other disposable glove materials and offers superior resistance to petroleum-based chemicals.
- Poly– Made from polyethylene, poly gloves are used primarily in food service. They are thinner than a sandwich bag and are best suited for light-duty tasks.
There are two grades of disposable gloves: industrial grade and medical, or exam, grade. The difference lies in the rigorous safety tests a batch of disposable gloves undergoes after manufacturing. If more than three gloves in a batch fail the acceptable quality limits (AQL) set by the FDA, then the entire batch cannot be sold as medical grade. Industrial-grade gloves do not require the same AQL as medical-grade gloves, but they may be used only for industrial applications. It is important to note that exam-grade gloves are not "sterile." Only surgical gloves, which have been irradiated, are considered sterile.
Glove thickness is usually expressed in mils. Thickness needs will vary among different industries and applications. For light-duty tasks that require tactile sensitivity, a 3-mil glove is appropriate. For most industrial applications, especially if users work with tools or machinery, gloves in the 5- to 6-mil range are preferred. For tough jobs such as replacing a transmission or working in a food processing plant, we recommend disposable gloves that are at least 8 mils thick and rated for heavy-duty use.
Texture is a key consideration when selecting the right glove. We offer four distinct textures:
- Smooth – Gloves with no texture are frequently made from vinyl.
- Embossed – A light texturing imprinted on poly gloves.
- Micro-roughened – Used on most nitrile and latex gloves, this light texture provides a better grip on tools and small objects.
- Raised Diamond – Available in our heavy-duty suite of nitrile industrial gloves, this texture has channels that allow liquids to pass through, which enhances the user’s grip on slippery tools.
Color is a personal preference that varies between applications and industries. Automotive technicians and tattoo artists, for example, prefer black gloves due to the professional look.
Different colored gloves can be helpful for color coding workers or processes. Some workplaces use color to differentiate sizes.
No matter the color, remember that the durability of a glove relies on thickness and texture. Even if black gloves look tougher, color does not affect durability.
There are four finishes that can be applied during the manufacturing process:
- Powder – Powdered disposable gloves are coated on the inside with food-grade cornstarch to make it easier to change them, especially in moisture-rich environments. In January 2017, the Food & Drug Administration banned powdered latex exam gloves from sale in the United States.
- Polymer coating – This inside-the-glove finish reduces surface friction so gloves slip on and off more easily.
- Chlorination – Disposable gloves washed in a chlorine solution have a softer texture, comfortable feel, and go on and off more easily. Double chlorination is used in some gloves, especially thicker latex gloves, to make donning and doffing easier, because latex is a naturally tacky material.
- Polyurethane – Vinyl gloves also tend to be tacky. This finish is used on vinyl gloves to reduce that tackiness and make them easier to put on and remove.
Chemical Resistance Chartback to top
|1,4-Dioxane, 99.9%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Limited Use|
|2-Butoxyethanol||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|2-Ethoxyethanol||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Acetaldehyde, 99.5%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Acetic Acid||Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Acetone, 99.5%||Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Acetonitrile, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Acrylic Acid, 99%||Recommended||Limited Use||Not Rated|
|Ammonium Fluoride, 40%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Ammonium Hydroxide, 85%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Amyl Acetate, 100%||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Limited Use|
|Amyl Alcohol, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Aniline, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Limited Use|
|Animal Fats||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Aqua Regia||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Benzaldehyde, 99.5%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Benzene||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Benzyl Chloride||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Bromopropionic Acid, Sat.||Recommended||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Butane||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Butyl Acetate, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Recommended|
|Butyl Alcohol, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Butyl Cellosolve, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Butyrolactone, 99%||Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Calcium Hypochlorite||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Carbolic Acid||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Recommended|
|Carbon Dichloride||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Carbon Disulfide, 99.9%||Limited Use||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Carbon Tetrachloride, 99%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Castor Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Cellosolve Acetate, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Cellosolve Solvent||Recommended||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Chloroacetone||Limited Use||Not Rated||Not Recommended|
|Chloroform||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Chloronaphalenes||Not Rated||Limited Use||Not Rated|
|Chlorothene VG||Not Rated||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Chromic Acid, 50%||Not Recommended||Limited Use||Recommended|
|Citric Acid, 10%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Cottonseed Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Creosol||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Cunene||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Cutting Oil||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Cyclohexane||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Cyclohexanol, 98%||Limited Use||Recommended||Recommended|
|Di-Isobutyl Ketone, 80%||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Diacetone Alcohol, 99%||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Diamine||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Dibutyl Phthalate, 99%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Diethyl Ether||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Diethylamine, 99%||Not Recommended||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Dimethyl Acetamide, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Dimethyl Sulfoxide, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Dioctyl Phthalate, 99%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Epichlorohydrin, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Ethanol||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Ethyl Acetate, 99%||Limited Use||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Ethyl Alcohol, 90%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Ethyl Ether, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Ethyl Glycol Ether, 99%||Limited Use||Limited Use||Not Rated|
|Ethylene Dichloride||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Ethylene Glycol, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Ethylene Trichloride||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Formalin Solution||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Formic Acid, 95%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Freon TF, 99%||Not Recommended||Limited Use||Limited Use|
|Furfural, 99%||Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Gasoline, 100%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Heptane||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Hexamethyldisilazine, 97%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Hexane, 99%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Hydraulic Fluid- Ester Based||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Hydraulic Fluid-Petrol Based||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Hydrochloric Acid, 38%||Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Hydrofluoric Acid, 48%||Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Hydrogen Peroxide, 30%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Iso-Octane, 99%||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Isobutyl Alcohol, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Isopropanol||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Isopropyl Alcohol, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Isopropyl Benzene||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Kerosene, 100%||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Lactic Acid, 85%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Lauric Acid, 36%||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Linoleic Acid||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Linseed Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Maleic Acid, 100%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Methanol||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Methyl Acetate||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Methyl Alcohol, 99.9%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Methyl Cellosolve, 99%||Limited Use||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Methyl Chloride||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Methyl Ethyl Ketone, 99%||Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Methyl Isobutyl Ketone||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Methyl Methacrylate||Recommended||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Methyl-Butyl Ether, 99.8%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Methyl-T-Butyl Ether||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Methylene Chloride||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Mineral Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Mineral Spirits, 100%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Morpholine, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Muriatic Acid, 100%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|N,N-Dimethyl Formamide, 99%||Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|N-Methyl-2 Pyrrolidone, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Naphtha VM&P, 100%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Naphthalene||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Nitric Acid, 10%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Nitric Acid, 70%||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Limited Use|
|Nitrobenzene, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Nitromethane, 95.5%||Not Recommended||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Nitropropane, 95.5%||Recommended||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Octyl Alcohol, 99%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Oleic Acid, 99%||Limited Use||Recommended||Recommended|
|Oxalic Acid, 12.5%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Paint Remover||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Palmitic Acid, Sat.||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Pentachlorophenol, 35%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Pentane, 98%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Perchloric Acid, 60%||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Perchloroethylene||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Perholffeum Ether||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Phenol, 90%||Limited Use||Limited Use||Limited Use|
|Phosphoric Acid, 85%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Potassium Hydroxide, 50%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Printing Ink||Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Propyl Acetate, 99%||Limited Use||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Propyl Alcohol, 96%||Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Propylene Oxide||Not Recommended||Not Rated||Not Rated|
|Pyridine, 99%||Limited Use||Not Recommended||Not Rated|
|Rubber Solvent, 100%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Rule Solvent||Not Rated||Recommended||Not Rated|
|Sodium Hydroxide, 50%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Sodium Hypochlorite||Recommended||Limited Use||Recommended|
|Stoddard Solvent, 99%||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Recommended|
|Sulfuric Acid, 95%||Recommended||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Tannic Acid, 37.5%||Recommended||Recommended||Recommended|
|Tetrachloroethylene, 100%||Not Recommended||Not Recommended||Recommended|
|Toluene Di-Isocyanate||Not Recommended||Not Rated||Not Recommended|
|Toluene, 99%||Not Recommended||Limited Use||Not Recommended|
|Trichloroethylene||Limited Use||Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Tricresyl Phosphate, 90%||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Tung Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Turbine Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Turpentine, 100%||Limited Use||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Vegetable Oil||Not Recommended||Recommended||Limited Use|
|Xylene||Not Recommended||Limited Use||Not Recommended|