Latex vs Nitrile vs Vinyl Gloves: The Differences and When to Use Them

24 Jan.,2024


Vinyl Gloves

Vinyl is the most lightweight of the three disposable glove types. As such, vinyl gloves are the most widely available and cost-effective option but aren’t suitable for high-risk tasks involving a more significant infection or injury risk. 

Vinyl gloves won’t stand up to long periods of wear. They are usually more loose-fitting than nitrile or latex gloves that need to offer a close fit. Made from polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC, vinyl gloves are best suited to cleaning operations and other tasks that don’t involve any corrosive chemicals but where the extra degree of barrier protection helps to keep hygiene levels high and protect the skin on the hands from repeated exposure to substances and actions that dry it out. 

The difference between nitrile, latex, and vinyl gloves is usually in the degree of protection needed. Nitrile gloves are required when handling sodium hydroxide in a lab to protect against the risk of spillage. However, using nitrile gloves when preparing sandwiches in a commercial kitchen could be considered overkill. Staff could get through several pairs of gloves in a day in the kitchen, which could become an expensive investment for the business owner. Using vinyl gloves would be far more cost-effective and fulfil the purpose of protecting the food from skin contact. 

Blue vinyl gloves should be used in food prep environments under HSE guidance to minimise the risk of food contamination. While vinyl gloves are an excellent solution for various food prep tasks, they are not approved for handling fatty foods. This is because phthalate plasticisers are not chemically bound to the PVC from which vinyl gloves are made and can evaporate into the fatty foods and become soluble. In this case, nitrile gloves are recommended.

Vinyl is anti-static and protects against shocks and chafing when stripping back sheaths on cords and wires, so vinyl gloves are well suited to some electricians’ work.

Where are vinyl gloves used?

  • Cleaning (without highly corrosive chemicals)

  • Food preparation (apart from fatty foods)

  • Hairdressing to protect hands from chemicals and repeated exposure to water

  • Painting and DIY

  • Working with wires and cords

When comparing vinyl vs latex vs nitrile gloves, vinyl gloves are the best short-term solution in a wide range of cases. Generally, vinyl gloves are a cheap and easy option when you need temporary protection for a low-risk job. Vinyl gloves can protect from low-level hazards, maintain good levels of hygiene, minimise cross-contamination, and make certain jobs more tolerable by protecting the skin on the hands from contact.

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