Glove Materials

Most medical and surgical gloves are made from latex, vinyl and nitrile. Some newer gloves are made from chloroprene. The table below summarizes the characteristics and benefits of each glove material:

MATERIAL

  • Latex Gloves
  • Nitrile Gloves
  • Vinyl Gloves
  • Chloroprene Gloves

COMPOSITION

  • Made of natural rubber
  • Made of synthetic material
  • Made of synthetic material
  • Made of synthetic material

BENEFIT

  • Highest level of comfort, flexibility, fit and tactile sensitivity
  • Stretchy, durable, comfortable fit and feel, safe for those with latex allergies
  • Cost-efficient synthetic option, comfortable
  • Fit and feel similar to latex; durability and strength similar to nitrile

MATERIAL

COMPOSITION

BENEFIT

Latex Gloves
Made of natural rubber
Highest level of comfort, flexibility, fit and tactile sensitivity
Nitrile Gloves
Made of synthetic material
Stretchy, durable, comfortable fit and feel, safe for those with latex allergies
Vinyl Gloves
Made of synthetic material
Cost-efficient synthetic option, comfortable
Chloroprene Gloves
Made of synthetic material
Fit and feel similar to latex; durability and strength similar to nitrile

Latex Gloves vs. Latex-free Gloves

Latex gloves are often preferred by healthcare providers since they provide the highest level of elasticity, comfort and fit. Surgeons often prefer latex gloves because they offer greater precision with high tactile sensitivity.

Despite latex’s advantages, latex allergies have become more common, so many healthcare providers are opting for latex-free glove options such as vinyl, nitrile or chloroprene.

Vinyl gloves, which are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), are usually the cheapest latex-free gloves. However, many prefer to use higher-end gloves such as nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves are often preferred since these non-latex gloves best resemble the stretchy feel of latex gloves and are also highly durable and puncture resistant.

Another difference to consider when deciding between latex and latex-free gloves is the protection offered by each type of material. In general, latex gloves offer the best protection against bacteria and viruses, while synthetic gloves provide better chemical protection. Another difference to consider when deciding between latex and latex-free gloves is the protection offered by each type of material. In general, latex gloves offer the best protection against bacteria and viruses, while synthetic gloves provide better chemical protection. Of the different types of latex-free gloves, nitrile gloves offer a higher degree of protection against viruses as well as protection against chemicals.

Choosing the right glove

GLOVE OPTION

  • Powdered
  • Powder-free
  • Chlorinated
  • Non-chlorinated
  • Examination
  • Surgical
  • Chemo
  • Gloves with Aloe

EXPLANATION

  • Gloves that are powdered, often with cornstarch
  • Gloves that have had powder coating removed
  • Powder-free gloves treated with chlorine
  • Powder-free gloves with a coating of gel/silicone particles
  • Sterile or non-sterile medical grade gloves
  • Usually sterile, high-quality medical grade gloves
  • Gloves that are tested and approved for use with chemotherapy drugs
  • Gloves with a coating of organic aloe

ADVANTAGE

  • Easier donning
  • Reduced risk of allergic reactions, cleaner to use
  • Easy donning, particle-free to prevent allergic reactions
  • Neutral colour, odour-free, longer shelf life
  • Provide protection against blood or bodily fluid exposure
  • Provide high-level protection against blood or bodily fluid exposure
  • Protect against chemotherapy drug exposure
  • Moisturize hands during use

GLOVE OPTION

EXPLANATION

ADVANTAGE

Powdered
Gloves that are powdered, often with cornstarch
Easier donning
Powder-free
Gloves that have had powder coating removed
Reduced risk of allergic reactions, cleaner to use
Chlorinated
Powder-free gloves treated with chlorine
Easy donning, particle-free to prevent allergic reactions
Non-chlorinated
Powder-free gloves with a coating of gel/silicone particles
Neutral colour, odour-free, longer shelf life
Examination
Sterile or non-sterile medical grade gloves
Provide protection against blood or bodily fluid exposure
Surgical
Usually sterile, high-quality medical grade gloves
Provide high-level protection against blood or bodily fluid exposure
Chemo
Gloves that are tested and approved for use with chemotherapy drugs
Protect against chemotherapy drug exposure
Gloves with Aloe
Gloves with a coating of organic aloe
Moisturize hands during use

Powdered Gloves vs. Powder-free Gloves

Powder-free gloves can be more expensive due to the process required to remove powder coating from the glove. However, powder-free gloves cause fewer allergic reactions because they have a lower protein and chemical content. Powder-free gloves are also cleaner to use because they do not leave residue on clothing or surfaces.

Powdered gloves are usually lubricated with cornstarch because other powdering options (lycopodium powder, talc, etc.) have been found to irritate tissue. However, even cornstarch can impede tissue healing, so powder-free gloves are often preferred for surgeries and other sensitive procedures.

Chlorinated Gloves vs. Non-chlorinated Gloves

Powder-free gloves are available in chlorinated and non-chlorinated options.

Pros Cons
Chlorinated gloves Gloves treated with chlorine are easier to put on and particle free to prevent allergic reactions. Chlorine odor and shorter shelf life: chlorinated gloves become brittle after about a year and may last even less than a year if exposed to heat.
Non-chlorinated gloves Chlorine odor and shorter shelf life: chlorinated gloves become brittle after about a year and may last even less than a year if exposed to heat. Hard to put on and are not particle free, since a coating of tiny gel/silicone particles is applied to make them slightly easier to put on.
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Examination Gloves vs. Surgical Gloves

Both surgical and examination gloves are medical-grade gloves for use during medical procedures.

Medical examination gloves: Used for patient examinations, blood tests and patient care.

Surgical gloves: Used by surgeons and operating room nurses. They must meet higher quality standards and are usually sterile because they are used for surgical procedures. Surgical gloves offer better fit with more precise sizing, as well as higher tactile sensitivity.

Specialty Gloves

Chemo Gloves: Chemo gloves are medical gloves that have been tested for use with chemotherapy drugs. When selecting chemo tested gloves, it is important to ensure that the gloves have been tested for the specific drugs being used.

Hand Care: Gloves infused with aloe or other moisturizers soothe and moisturize hands during use, which helps maintain the skin’s moisture barrier.

Additional Considerations

Finish: Some gloves have a smooth finish, while others are partially or fully textured to provide better grip.
Cuff Length: Some gloves have an extended cuff for better coverage and protection.

All Medicom medical and surgical gloves comply with Health Canada Class II Medical Device requirements.

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