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Difference Between Nitrile, Vinyl & Latex Gloves | Know Their Properties & Use

Gloves are a necessity in almost every industrial aspect. Gloves are the mandatory necessities that protect one’s hands from a wide range of harmful effects. From protection against chemical burns and germs to preventing injuries caused due to thermal changes or the use of sharp instruments, their range of application is very vast.

The Healthcare industry primarily uses disposable gloves made of latex, nitrile material, or vinyl. Though all the gloves may look similar on the first inspection, there are differences between nitrile and vinyl gloves. Each of these types of gloves has their own set of unique attributes that makes them very versatile necessities while handling any healthcare environment.

Difference between nitrile, vinyl, and latex gloves

What are Nitrile Gloves? 

Since the early 1990s Nitrile gloves have been one of the most commonly used disposable gloves in the Healthcare industry. Extremely durable and resistant to corrosive substances of hazardous nature, they are perfect for users with latex allergies.

One of the primary drawbacks of Nitrile gloves is its cost and availability. Regarded as the most expensive gloves in use in the Healthcare industry, they are slightly difficult to purchase from city outskirts and rural areas.


nitrile rubber formula
Image source: applerubber.com

Created out of synthetic copolymers of acrylonitrile butadiene, Nitrile gloves are completely free of any latex component thus decreasing the chances of latex allergy drastically.

Protective ability

Nitrile Gloves have a longer shelf life and are completely waterproof. Additionally, they are resistant to puncture and have a very snug and comfortable fit.

As they have a very low frictional resistance, they can be worn and removed very easily without worrying about tear or wear.

Nitrile gloves also have add-on features like resistance to corrosives and oils like grease and petroleum by-product. 

What are Nitrile Gloves used for?

Nitrile gloves are perfect for use in laboratories while handling infectious agents and radioactive materials and chemicals. If you are involved in oil, gas, hydrocarbon related industries, have a high threat of cuts and punctures such as metal fabrication, automotive industry, rigging etc. 

What are Vinyl Gloves?

Yet another effort of creating latex-free gloves introduced us to Vinyl Gloves in the mid-1990s. As the cheapest alternative to nitrile and latex gloves, Vinyl was the perfect solution for the healthcare industry where inexpensive and latex allergy-free gloves were needed in bulk.

However, the use of Vinyl gloves has always been a doubtful decision as they are easily prone to wear and tear.


Image source: Wikipedia.org

Vinyl disposable gloves are made from PVC ( Polyvinyl chloride ) which is a product created from Petroleum. This alone has caused numerous environmental conflicts in regards to its usability. Additionally, Vinyl gloves are known to leach out Phthalates which have a detrimental health effect. 

A recent report showed that the 1 in 7 PVC gloves restaurants are using for preparing foods, leaching out the chemicals mostly vulnerable for child and pregnant women.

If you are in need of safe food preparation gloves, we have compiled the best gloves for food preparation here.

Protective ability of Vinyl gloves

One of the main differences between latex and vinyl gloves is the chemical structure distortion vinyl gloves showcase under stress. When stretched, the internal molecular displacement causes vinyl gloves to lose their protective ability which makes them vulnerable to leakage and seepage.

What are Vinyl Gloves used for?

Though these gloves provide very limited protection against chemicals, radioactive elements, and germs, they are still used during minor investigative and diagnostic procedures in the Healthcare industry where the chances of hazardous effects or infectious contagions are absent or minimal.

What are Latex Gloves?

Latex Gloves have been a key component of the healthcare system for patient handling as well as other aspects of the industry. With the advent of HIV in the mid-1980s, latex gloves became the most important protective gear to ensure complete protection against virulent agent transfer.

A far better alternative to Vinyl and a cheaper option than Nitrile gloves, latex gloves are biodegradable and environment friendly. However, latex allergy is one of the major drawbacks of these gloves thus restricting their usability to a great extent.

Composition of Latex gloves

Latex is an environment-friendly byproduct of the Rubber tree. Rubber sap released from the latex ducts of the tree is used to make Latex Gloves. It contains proteins and other compounds like resins, tannins, alkaloids, gums, starches, sugar etc. 

It is 100 per cent natural, Latex gloves have a very long shelf life compared to their synthetic alternatives.

Rubber tree and bowl filled with latex.
Rubber tree and bowl filled with latex.

Protective ability of latex gloves

In a comparison of the three types of gloves used, Latex is the most resilient and elastic. These properties make Latex Gloves much more dexterous and tactile than Nitrile or Vinyl gloves.

Types of Latex Gloves

Latex gloves are available in three variants. They are

A) Powdered

B) Lightly powdered

C) Powder Free.

Latex material is adhesive in nature. So, for a regular user donning the gloves becomes harder. To eliminate this issue, the inside of the gloves is powdered with corn starch. It keeps the user’s hand dry and comfortable. 

But, FDA banned the powdered gloves in medical uses because of some complexities it was causing for patients and other users.

Now powder free latex gloves are being used widely in the medical as well as food preparation industries. In this type of latex gloves are either chlorinated or polymer coated to make it easier for putting on or off the gloves.  

What are Latex Gloves used for?

Completely immune to infectious agents, they are perfect for use in bio-hazardous conditions.

Latex GlovesNitrile GlovesVinyl Gloves
Composed of Rubber which is a biodegradable and completely natural productComposed of acrylonitrile-butadiene, a synthetic derivative of Rubber.Composed of a Petroleum byproduct known as PVC
Resistant to puncture wounds and infectious agents like viruses and bacterias. Resistant to infectious agents, corrosive chemicals, and radioactive elements.Prone to easy tearing and wearing thus restricting its usability to low infectious and non-bio-hazardous scenarios only.
Contains Latex allergens which can cause dry skin and itching. Has a very long shelf life and can be used under a wider spectrum. Made of Nonbiodegradable material, thus it is not environmentally friendly.

Different Properties of Nitrile, Vinyl, Latex Gloves

Oil Resistance

One of the primary differences between latex gloves and  Nitrile gloves is the resistance to oil and other petroleum derivatives. While Vinyl is seldom used for handling oil-based products, nitrile gloves are preferred in most cases. Nitrile material is much more resistant to oil than latex or vinyl when compared.

UV radiation protection

Neither of the glove types has any additional protective feature in relation to UV protection. The nitrile glove compatibility in regards to protection against UltraViolet rays is being researched upon by glove makers.

Heat Resistance

Vinyl gloves have a very low resistance to heat due to the petroleum components. However in terms of choice for nitrile vs latex gloves, Nitrile products have a higher tolerance to the rising temperature which makes them suitable for automotive industrial handling in addition to healthcare.

Abrasion Resistance

Latex and Nitrile gloves have better abrasion and tear resistance than vinyl gloves.

Chemical Resistance

The chemical resistance of vinyl gloves is almost negligible which makes them a very poor choice for a majority of industrial needs. Latex gloves and nitrile gloves are completely resistant to the majority of the chemicals thus making them the most preferred choice for use.

Tear Resistance

Vinyl gloves are very thin thickness-wise and are prone to rapid distortion on stretching. They have very poor tear resistance. Nitrile gloves and latex gloves come in a variety of thicknesses and are very resistant to tear and punctures which make them perfect for surgical aspects as well as works that involve rough handling.

Germ Resistance

Vinyl gloves have a very thin protective coating that distorts on stretching or over manipulation. This prevents any kind of unwanted or infectious particles from seeping onto the skin of the hands. Both nitrile gloves and latex gloves are very protective barriers against germs. However, due to the better durability of nitrile gloves and allergen-free make, they are a better choice for long hours of laboratory work and healthcare examinations.

When to use nitrile, vinyl, and latex gloves?

Nitrile Gloves uses – This is best used while working with oil, chemicals, and radioactive materials. Works best in humid and hot conditions where one is in contact with abrasion and slippery situations.

Latex Gloves uses – Perfect for use in combination with PPE kit as they are cost-efficient. Resistance to microbial substances friction makes them suitable for use in investigative procedures and handling glasses and metals.

Vinyl Gloves uses – The chemical structure is altered on stretching the material thus making them lose their protective upper coating. This makes them unsuitable for handling chemicals, corrosives, and bio-hazardous agents. Vinyl gloves are mostly used in low infection workspaces without the presence of any oil, chemicals, or other such substances.

Important FAQs:

Nitrile vs latex gloves, which one is good for the mechanic?

Nitrile Gloves has the most versatile usability quotient among the three glove types. Widely used in other industries like automobile and Food and beverage Services, Nitrile Gloves are highly resistant to tearing and punctures. 

Unlike Latex gloves, Nitrile gloves are completely immune to corrosive agents and chemicals. As they are made of very strong and durable material which is also completely waterproof, Nitrile gloves make a far better and safer choice than Latex Gloves.

Are vinyl gloves safe?

Vinyl gloves may contain Phthalates, which is a carcinogenic agent. This is the reason why the usability of Vinyl gloves is far more restricted to specific areas only. The food and beverage service industry is one particular industrial section that has strict restrictions on the usage of Vinyl gloves.

Do nitrile gloves cause cancer?

No, Nitrile Gloves do not cause cancer.

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