A Guide to Nitrile Gloves and When to Wear Them

Nitrile gloves are necessary for many workplaces across various industries. They can protect employees from harmful pathogens, punctures or ensure the safe handling of customer goods. While nitrile gloves are ideal in many situations, they’re not the correct choice for all workplaces. As you select the best gloves for your business, you’ll need to consider the importance of hygiene and the potential hazards your employees might face at work.

What to Consider When Choosing Gloves

Government entities typically regulate disposable surgical and exam-grade gloves to ensure employee and customer safety and dependability. Check to see if your personal protective equipment (PPE) supplier has these gloves in stock and if they are appropriate for your industry before purchasing.

Healthcare Industry

Medical gloves are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Class I medical devices, which require a 510(k) premarket notification to show the FDA that the product is safe and effective. The FDA guidelines define specific criteria relative to medical gloves, such as resistance against leaks and tears. Also, medical gloves need to be powder-free. FDA approval is required for disposable gloves intended for patient care.

Foodservice Industry

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) regulates gloves for food service. Since gloves not used for food preparation are medical devices, they are not subject to FDA’s 510(k) premarket notification. In no way should foodservice gloves be labeled for medical purposes. The National Sanitation Foundation also has a document called P155: Disposable Food Contact Gloves that outlines the regulation of food service gloves, including performance criteria such as barrier resistance and sanitation during food preparation and service.

Cleaning Industry

As per the FDA, gloves used for regular cleaning in medical facilities are not regulated. However, gloves for cleaning patients, cleaning surfaces, or handling items contaminated with blood and other fluids are considered medical gloves. These gloves must meet the standards for examination gloves. Choose durable, chemically resistant gloves designed for high-risk tasks if your employees are frequently exposed to harsh chemicals or waste.

OSHA Regulations

To protect employees from injuries and burns, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employees to wear gloves relative to the tasks performed, conditions, and potential hazards. Employees need gloves when coming into contact with blood, potentially infectious materials, contaminated objects, or surfaces. They also need gloves if exposed to risks such as severe cuts, punctures, and harmful substances.

Businesses must prioritize employees’ health and safety. The employer is responsible for providing gloves appropriate to the task and training employees on how to use them. In accordance with OSHA’s PPE guide, employees need to attend training classes to learn how to wear, remove, and maintain gloves, along with how to replace damaged or worn ones.

Nitrile Gloves and When to Wear Them

The chemical resistance and durability of nitrile gloves make them ideal for many workplaces. These latex-free gloves are a good alternative for people who need to work with chemicals or other hazardous materials but have a latex allergy. Disposable nitrile gloves have high puncture resistance, provide modest pathogen protection, and eliminate the risk of latex allergies.

While nitrile gloves lack the elasticity of latex, they are still comfortable for workers to wear and sometimes even come with a textured surface designed to improve the user’s grip. Good resistance to oil, chemicals, and other solvents makes nitrile gloves popular among healthcare and lab workers.

Those working in the mechanical industry will also find nitrile gloves a useful form of protection. The abrasion resistance of nitrile means that gloves made from this material are not easily punctured by sharp objects, protecting the wearer from cuts, bruises, and punctures.

Nitrile-Vinyl Gloves

Nitrile-vinyl gloves offer the best properties of both nitrile and vinyl in a unique blend. While nitrile is a resilient material that protects against chemicals, vinyl is soft, flexible, and lighter—combining vinyl with nitrile results in a hybrid glove that offers some protection against punctures while remaining lightweight and breathable. Nitrile-vinyl gloves are a great option for those looking to save some money without sacrificing quality.

Alternatives to Nitrile Gloves

If nitrile gloves don’t seem to align with the needs of your profession, you’ll want to educate yourself on some of the alternatives to nitrile gloves so you can select the proper PPE for your employees.

Latex Gloves

Latex gloves have been widely used in medical settings for many decades, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, to protect against bloodborne diseases such as HIV. The flexibility, protection, comfort, and durability of latex gloves make them ideal for most areas outside of a clinical setting as well, such as food preparation and salons. Also, they can withstand tearing and are much more puncture-resistant than other gloves, limiting the number of times you have to change gloves while on the job.

Latex gloves can be purchased in powdered and non-powdered varieties. The powder prevents skin irritation and stops the gloves from clinging to your hands. Powder-free gloves leave no residue on your hands and equipment, which makes them better suited to food handling or lab work.

The downside of latex gloves is that many people are allergic to them or develop a latex allergy after long-term exposure to the material. Approximately 8-17% of healthcare providers in the United States who use latex gloves have allergic reactions to them. Children undergoing regular medical treatments are considered high-risk groups for latex allergies due to frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures. Chemicals in latex gloves can cause itching and hives on your hands, along with respiratory problems such as itchiness and difficulty breathing. Nitrile gloves are a good alternative to latex because they’re not made from natural rubber, which means that people with latex allergies can wear them without problems and protect themselves and their patients.

Vinyl Gloves

Due to their entirely synthetic composition, vinyl gloves are suitable for tasks requiring some protection and a low risk of chemical exposure. These latex-free gloves are safe for handling non-hazardous materials like household cleaners or food.

Since vinyl gloves are less resilient than nitrile and latex gloves, they are more prone to punctures. They typically have low levels of protection because any amount of stretching to the glove compromises its protective barriers. The loose fit and thinness of these gloves make them inappropriate for tasks that require intricate work or contact with potential hazards.

Choose the Right Gloves for Your Industry

Whether you and your employees need to protect yourselves from sharp objects, bodily fluids, or chemicals, the right gloves are critical to your safety. Nitrile gloves are the best choice for chemical and puncture protection, but depending on your line of work, you may find alternatives like vinyl or latex are better suited to your needs.

ICU Production Inc. offers gloves to suit nearly every industry. Our CDC and FDA-approved gloves ensure convenience and protection for your employees. Request a PPE quote through our online form to get started.


What is the shelf life of nitrile gloves?

The shelf life of nitrile gloves ranges from roughly 3-5 years. To make your nitrile gloves last as long as possible, keep them away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

What are some signs of degradation with gloves?

Signs of degradation include gloves that lose their elasticity, become brittle, and fail to return to their original form after being stretched. A change in glove color is also a red flag. Do not use gloves that show signs of degradation.

Is it safe to reuse disposable gloves during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The FDA recommends that gloves not be reused, but there are ways to conserve your supply of disposable gloves. If your supply of gloves is running low or you’re in a crisis situation, then it is okay to extend the use of your gloves on non-infectious patients. If the glove becomes damaged, contaminated, or no longer has a liquid barrier, then you need to dispose of it.