What are nitrile gloves used for? Should you wear them in replacement of latex or vinyl gloves? To answer briefly, disposable nitrile gloves can prevent cross-contamination in healthcare and food service settings while promoting a latex-free working environment.
In addition, they protect against mild chemicals (e.g., pesticides, gasoline, kerosene, petroleum, petroleum-based products), light cuts, and punctures. Thus, nitrile gloves also assist in chemical laboratories and agricultural settings.
In this article, besides explaining nitrile gloves’ uses, I will provide information on their advantages and why you should employ them instead of other rubber gloves.
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Applications of Disposable Nitrile Gloves
Nitrile rubber is synthetic and latex-free, making it a viable option for those with sensitive skin or allergic reactions to latex. Modern technology also helps lower the production cost, popularizing the application of nitrile gloves. They can provide reliable protection against a wide range of hazards, including harmful substances, abrasive materials, cuts, and punctures.
You can use the help of disposable nitrile gloves within these settings:
- Medical facilities: Disposable rubber gloves are compulsory in healthcare facilities. They protect caregivers and patients from cross-contamination of bloodborne pathogens. Nitrile is preferable due to its latex-free nature and its resistance to oil and fats in the body. The gloves allow surgeons to fully control when they perform meticulous surgical tasks.
- Chemical labs: Nitrile gloves protect against many chemical compounds (e.g., acrylamide, butoxyethanol, cyclohexanol, diethanolamine). These chemicals can affect the central nervous system and internal organs when lab workers are exposed to them regularly. Unlike nitrile, latex, vinyl, PVA, or PVC gloves cannot prevent the permeation of these chemicals.
- Agriculture: Nitrile is resistant to most chemicals in cleaning products and pesticides. Hence, farmers often wear them for around-the-plant work. Single-used gloves are helpful when they do grimy and muddy tasks.
- Foodservice: The FDA instructs that cooks must wear disposable gloves when preparing ready-to-eat food. Nitrile gloves are cooks’ favorites because they can resist oil. The gloves don’t get slippery when they handle butter or oily food.
Additionally, they can use a glove color-coded system to prevent foodborne illness transmission. For example, they use blue nitrile gloves for raw meat, seafood, and poultry, and white gloves for ready-to-eat food.
However, you should identify the exact chemicals and hazards you will handle to wear the appropriate protective gloves. Sometimes, you might not need nitrile gloves. Vinyl, also known as PVC, is more cost-effective for everyday, low-risk tasks like light clean-up, quick external examination, or food serving. Here is a list of chemicals that nitrile protects against:
- Gasoline and kerosene
- Petroleum and petroleum-based products (petroleum jelly, paraffin wax, nylon, crayons, ammonia, cold cream, anesthetics, and ink)
- 2-Butoxyethanol (EGBE)
You can find a more specific list in the PPE Selection Guide developed by Environmental Health and Safety.
Advantages of Disposable Nitrile Gloves
In many cases, different types of safety rubber gloves are applicable. For instance, butyl, nitrile, and PVA can all resist isophorone diisocyanate (a chemical liquid used in making textile coatings, paints, varnish, PU leather, and foams). But below are the top four advantages of using nitrile rubber gloves:
- Comfortable fit: Nitrile rubber conforms to the shape of the wearer’s hand when exposed to body heat. This natural fit offers greater precision, efficiency, and comfort. Workers should wear nitrile gloves when carrying out a task for an extended period.
- Easy to don and take off: Nitrile rubber has low friction, which allows wearers to put on and take off the gloves quickly and easily. They are super obliging in fast-paced kitchens and food companies.
- High puncture resistance: Nitrile is three to fives times more puncture-resistant than natural rubber. These gloves are superior for jobs that require operating with sharp and small tools, such as tattoo artists or dentists. They create a durable barrier against light punctures and cuts.
- However, you will need heavy-duty leather gloves for protection against punctures in high-risk jobs like operating chainsaws or heavy machines.
- Excellent chemical resistance: As mentioned above, nitrile protects against a wide variety of chemicals. The rubber is more chemical-resistant than latex and vinyl. It is less expensive yet able to provide the same protection as butyl and PVA (only against certain chemicals).
Nonetheless, each rubber has its benefits and drawbacks. You should check out this video for more details of when to use what glove type: Explaining The Differences Between Nitrile, Latex, and Vinyl Disposable Gloves
In addition, never wear disposable nitrile gloves to handle these substances:
- Strong acids
- Corrosive caustics
- Aromatic solvents
When you put regular disposable nitrile gloves under the effect of such severe chemicals, they offer little to no protection with less than a minute of breakthrough time. Instead, employ heavy-duty nitrile gloves.
What Are Heavy-duty Nitrile Gloves?
In many circumstances, regular disposable nitrile gloves won’t provide enough protection. In automotive, industrial, or mining sectors, heavy-duty (also known as an industrial grade) nitrile gloves offer robust barriers for workers’ hands. They are thicker, stronger, and more durable.
Sometimes, heavy-duty nitrile gloves can be made to protect against ethers, caustic acids and bases, aqueous halogens, and some chlorinated organics. You should read the product description for specific information.
To sum up this article on what are nitrile gloves used for, we wish to emphasize the importance of safety gloves. When workers interact with toxic chemicals without proper PPE, they face serious or even life-threatening injuries. Besides external wounds like punctures and cuts, workers are at risk of dermatitis, asthma, persistent headache, inability to concentrate, and many other symptoms related to the central nervous system.
So, keep in mind the chemicals that nitrile gloves protect against and their common application to wear safety gloves appropriately. If you like this article and think it can benefit someone else, help us share it. Also, we welcome all thoughts and verdicts via the contact page, don’t hesitate to reach out. Thank you for reading!
Veronica is our content editor. She is a talent in delivery. Her main work is editing and writing articles that are both informative and simple to follow. She is in charge of synthesizing our understanding of what personal protection equipment (PPE) is needed in each job, how to best apply it, and how to visualize that equipment.