The Difference between Nitrile and Vinyl Gloves - Pros and Cons

What type of gloves is best for your job? What type of glove is the healthiest and safest? Why do nitrile and vinyl gloves have different uses? Many assume gloves are only for medical and construction workers, but this isn't true.

Nitrile or vinyl gloves are essential for anyone who needs to touch things that might get them dirty, bruised, blistered, or exposed to chemicals, germs, body fluids, bloodborne pathogens, and other contaminants. They serve as a protective barrier against injury or infection. This article discusses what types of gloves to use, why you should wear them, and the benefits of doing so, focusing on the main differences between nitrile and vinyl gloves.

What Are Nitrile Gloves?

Nitrile gloves belong to the category of protective gloves used in most medical environments. Nitrile is a chemical and puncture-resistant synthetic rubber used to make gloves. In 2021, nitrile gloves dominated the market, accounting for 72.5% of total glove market.

What Are Nitrile Gloves Made Of?

To make these gloves, chemists use nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR), a copolymer from combining acrylonitrile and butadiene rubber in a process known as copolymerization. These molecules have specific benefits for gloves. For example, acrylonitrile improves chemical resistance, while butadiene increases flexibility and tear resistance.

The Manufacturing Process of Nitrile Gloves

Different manufacturers have their ways of producing disposable nitrile gloves. One way they make it is by using a machine attached with multiple formers, which are hand-shaped ceramic molds. The machine dips these formers into water and bleach to sanitize them. After the formers dry, they are then dipped into a calcium carbonate and nitrate mixture to help the synthetic materials coagulate around the formers. Then they're immersed in NBR and heated at a high temperature to shape the gloves while they dry.

Chlorine (acid mixture or gas) hardens and greases nitrile gloves. In chlorination, the gloves are exposed to chlorine to set the material and make it slicker. Then a polymer coating is applied to the glove surface to lubricate it.

Blasts of air remove the gloves from the formers during the stripping phase. As a result, these gloves offer natural rubber latex fit, feel, and comfort. Nitrile also provides the most comprehensive color selection, thickness levels, and textures.

What Are Nitrile Gloves Used For?

Nitrile gloves offer excellent protection from external elements. These gloves are made from synthetic material and have a unique formulation that protects against oils, chemicals, and other contaminants on work sites.

There are two types of nitrile gloves: industrial and medical grade.

  • Industrial grade-suitable for many applications, such as automotive, food service, and tattoo shops. However, they are not for healthcare environments.
  • Medical grade-used for healthcare environments since they meet FDA specifications. Nitrile medical grade gloves must pass bloodborne pathogen penetration resistance tests and not contain additives unsuitable for surgery or medical exams, such as glove powder.

What are Vinyl Gloves?

Vinyl gloves are disposable PVC gloves (polyvinyl chloride). These gloves are widely available, typically less expensive, and offer protection against various household and industrial risks.

What Are Vinyl Gloves Made Of?

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers are the synthetic materials used in producing disposable vinyl gloves. The PVC is added with plasticizers to make it soft and pliable. Vinyl gloves undergo the same manufacturing process as nitrile gloves.

Manufacturers use hand formers, which are cleaned, disinfected, and dried before being dipped into a plasticized PCV tank and heated at a very high temperature. Then they undergo chlorination and polymer coating. Finally, the gloves are removed from the formers using air blowers.

What Are Vinyl Gloves Used For?

Vinyl gloves are used in a diverse range of industries for various applications. They are designed to be worn for shorter periods and where a loose fit and easy usage are more important than durability and protection. They are typically worn for the following purposes:

  • Cleaning
  • Food preparation
  • Assistance and care
  • Manufacturing and processing
  • Painting and dyeingHAT IS NITRILE

These gloves are certified to EN1186 and are deemed safe for contact with food but are not recommended for fatty or oily foods. Vinyl gloves are widely used in the food industry since they're a cost-effective option for roles that require frequent glove removal and disposal. However, since they're not good for fatty foods, some food processing and serving companies prefer nitrile gloves.

Vinyl gloves are a great way to safeguard your hands from paint and dye damage. They are easy to put on, take off, and protect both hands and materials.

Medical vs. Standard Vinyl

Medical-grade vinyl gloves vary from standard vinyl gloves in terms of minimum acceptable quality limitations. They are commonly used in biologically hazardous environments. Some fields that use these gloves include the following:

  • Healthcare and care labor
  • Hygiene and dental
  • Beauty services
  • Tattooing services

Nitrile vs. Vinyl Gloves

Which gloves should you use? Here are the pros and cons of each to help you decide which one best fits your needs.

Vinyl Gloves

Nitrile Gloves

Pros

Pros

  • Less expensive compared to nitrile gloves
  • Better for low-risk tasks and non-hazardous chemicals
  • Anti-static, thus good for working with wires and cords
  • Light coating of powder such as cornstarch for easy wear and removal
  • Synthetic and latex free thus safe for people prone to allergies.
  • Lower risk of causing hypersensitivity reactions or contact allergies because they lack "accelerators" (present in nitrile production compounds)
  • Secure fit, mold to the hands
  • Best for prolonged use
  • Ideal for high-risk situations
  • Excellent chemical, puncture, and tear resistance
  • Great resistance against fats, oils, and petroleum-based products
  • Longer shelf life compared to vinyl gloves
  • Latex free and safe for people prone to allergic reactions
  • Available in powder and powder-free form
  • Perfect for various applications, including medical use
  • Ideal for environments with chemical or biomedical exposure

Cons

Cons

  • Loose fit
  • Less flexible and elastic
  • Susceptible to punctures and cuts
  • Subpar chemical resistance and protection
  • Compromised protection if stretched
  • Mainly for short-term applications and offer limited protection
  • Bad for the environment if disposed improperly
  • More expensive than vinyl or latex gloves
  • Not biodegradable
  • Can contain accelerators that can cause allergies to some people


There are multiple kinds of gloves, all with their benefits and drawbacks. Nitrile gloves, for example, are highly resistant to chemicals and oils, whereas vinyl gloves offer a similar level of protection but with less friction between the skin and the glove. Your specific task will dictate your recommended protection.

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