What Are Nitrile Gloves?

Many industries require personal protective equipment (PPE) to safely and efficiently perform tasks. Products like disposable gloves are valuable for numerous applications, protecting both the wearer and the patients or products they handle. There are various glove materials available on the market, so it’s crucial to understand the benefits and limitations of each product before supplying them to workers.

With its high durability, greater chemical resistance, no risk of latex allergies and other advantages, nitrile has become a suitable material for medical and industrial gloves across the country. Professionals use nitrile gloves in various sectors as a go-to disposable glove. Here’s a look at everything to know about nitrile.

What Is Nitrile?

What Is Nitrile?

Nitrile rubber, also called Buna-N or NBR, is a synthetic rubber copolymer derived from acrylonitrile (ACN) and butadiene molecules. Depending on its composition, nitrile rubber can vary in its chemical resistance and physical properties. More acrylonitrile will increase the rubber’s resistance to swelling from oil and produce a stronger material. Nitrile rubber with less acrylonitrile will be more flexible. Typically, people who choose nitrile rubber opt for variations with inferior flexibility to boost its other qualities.

Nitrile is a versatile elastomer, widely used for its general properties like high tensile strength, high puncture resistance, chemical and oil resistance, hypoallergenic qualities and more. Gloves constructed from nitrile can protect against numerous hazards in medical and industrial applications. Nitrile’s versatility allows for the construction of both heavy-duty and tactile-focused synthetic rubber gloves. 

Nitrile gloves are available in multiple styles, including general-purpose, examination, sterile, non-sterile and chemo-related options.

Nitrile Glove Specifications

Nitrile gloves intended for protective purposes must comply with various specifications for safety and effectiveness. Workplaces need to supply properly tested and certified products to their staff members. Evaluate the usability of each glove type to determine which material will best suit your working requirements. 

Base the benefits and limitations of different protective gloves on their performance in the following categories:

  • Puncture resistance and durability
  • Chemical resistance
  • Comfort and flexibility
  • Tactile sensitivity
  • Level of risk for a Type 1 allergic reaction
  • Cost-effectiveness

Experts use the following standards to test nitrile gloves for their performance in different environments and applications:

  • ASTM D3577: Testing standards for rubber surgical gloves made of nitrile, latex and vinyl
  • ASTM D3578: Testing standards for rubber medical gloves made of nitrile, latex and vinyl
  • ASTM D6319-10: Tests various nitrile exam glove characteristics, including physical dimensions, physical requirements, sterility, powder residue and powder limit
  • ASTM D3767: Tests glove thickness based on level of risk
  • ASTM D412: Tests tensile strength and ultimate elongation to determine the rubber’s durability and stretch
  • ASTM D5151: Tests water leakage by filling gloves with water to detect compromises in their protection
  • ASTM F1342: Tests puncture resistance of various protective materials, including nitrile rubber and other popular glove materials
  • ASTM F1671-97b: Tests penetration resistance of different protective materials to viral and bloodborne pathogens

Nitrile gloves intended for medical purposes must also be powder-free and accurately sized. Gloves should cover the wearer’s wrist and fit snugly on their hands to effectively prevent exposure. Medical-grade nitrile gloves in a chemo-related sense will have to pass chemotherapy drug testing before workers can use them for this application — the standard ASTM D6978-05 can test chemotherapy agents on nitrile gloves.

You can compare all glove types — including nitrile, latex, vinyl and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) — using the appropriate specifications and standards. Some gloves may have superior performance in one category but fail to meet standards in other essential areas. Nitrile gloves offer an ideal solution with balanced properties, no risk of latex allergies and an affordable cost. While they may provide less dexterity, nitrile gloves are generally more protective due to this limitation.

Applications for Nitrile Gloves

Applications for Nitrile Gloves

Many experts prefer nitrile gloves for applications that involve hazardous contaminants, infection risks, chemicals, hot oils or extreme temperatures. Nitrile rubber is currently the most popular material in the healthcare industry for examination gloves, though nitrile gloves also work in other sectors. 

Industries that use nitrile gloves for PPE include healthcare, automotive, food services, aesthetic services and more.

1. Healthcare and Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

Nitrile gloves are the top choice for medical examination gloves in most facilities. Doctors, dentists and other healthcare workers appreciate the durable protection and puncture resistance of nitrile rubber. Medical staff can encounter numerous viruses and chemicals every day, and nitrile gloves minimize the risk of infection spread between the wearer and the various patients in their care. 

Nitrile gloves fit snug to the skin, forming a protective barrier between the wearer’s hands and the patients or products they touch. The healthcare worker remains protected from skin exposure to harmful contaminants, while the patient is protected from any germs that may have remained after hand-washing or sanitizing procedures. Latex-free nitrile gloves can be vital in emergencies when there’s limited time to inquire about a patients’ latex allergies.

Any task that involves needles, incisions or open wound care requires PPE. Nitrile gloves protect the worker’s hands with a durable barrier against bloodborne pathogens. Its additional protection against harsh cleaning products and disinfectants make nitrile a versatile choice for medical glove material.

2. Automotive

Nitrile gloves offer many valuable properties for automotive and mechanic work. Mechanics frequently work with hot oil and grease. Nitrile’s oil-resistant properties make it a safe choice when handling gaskets, oil seals, engine hoses, O-rings and other engine components. Nitrile gloves can protect hands in temperatures up to 226 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When left unprotected, a mechanic’s hands are at greater risk of injury and exposure. Nitrile gloves can have a thickness of up to 6 millimeters for industrial use, and their high puncture resistance prevents abrasions caused by rusty or sharp engine parts. Nitrile gloves also protect against chemical irritants and keep hands clean of engine grease.

3. Food Services

Nitrile gloves are a safe and effective option for preparing, cooking and serving food. Many sectors of food service now require latex-free gloves to minimize the risk of allergic reaction. Nitrile gloves offer a food-safe solution. 

Disposable nitrile gloves are easy to don and doff, allowing workers to quickly and frequently change gloves in the kitchen. Workers must switch tasks often, so quick disposal is necessary to prevent cross-contamination from raw meats and vegetables. Nitrile gloves have a snug fit and strong protective barrier to stop bacteria from contacting the food service worker’s skin. Germs may also get missed during hand-washing, and nitrile gloves prevent these germs from spreading to the food.

4. Tattoo Parlors

Nitrile gloves offer decent tactile sensitivity so tattoo artists can stay protected while performing detailed work. Tattoos and piercings can increase exposure risks for workers and customers. Nitrile gloves protect workers from bodily fluids and skin infections that can quickly spread through touch. Nitrile’s protective barrier will prevent tears in the glove and keep the area clean while working with adhesives, ink and needles.

5. Hair and Beauty Salons

Nitrile gloves can be helpful in hair and beauty salons for a range of applications. When working with hair bleach or dyes, chemical-resistant gloves will prevent chemical irritation and keep your hands clean during application. Nitrile provides that necessary chemical resistance. Nitrile gloves are also highly puncture-resistant and will not break or tear from routine movements. Salons that perform manicures, pedicures and waxing will benefit from nitrile’s barrier protection against skin infections and bloodborne pathogens.

How Do Nitrile Gloves Differ From Latex Gloves?

Nitrile gloves and latex gloves are the most comparable options for medical and industrial applications. Unlike nitrile, a synthetic rubber polymer, latex is a natural rubber — meaning that latex gloves are a biodegradable, renewable resource. Common uses for nitrile and latex include personal protection for general industry and healthcare applications. While latex remains a popular choice for surgical gloves, nitrile rubber is a favorite for medical examination gloves. 

This distinction between applications is primarily due to the associated risk levels for a Type 1 allergic reaction from both wearers and patients. Nitrile rubber offers no chance of latex allergies — an aversion many people have. More states are taking legal precautions against latex use in specific industries. Due to its comparable sensitivity, durability and barrier protection to latex, nitrile has become the go-to alternative for general purpose and exam gloves.

When allergy isn’t a concern, latex gloves offer higher dexterity and comfort during operations requiring precision. Surgeons, dentists and other healthcare workers generally prefer latex gloves, though it’s essential to stock gloves of both materials and ask about patients’ latex allergies before use. Despite their inferior flexibility, nitrile gloves offer higher puncture resistance and may be advantageous for resistance to hazardous or corrosive chemicals.

How Do Nitrile Gloves Differ From Vinyl Gloves?

How Do Nitrile Gloves Differ From Vinyl Gloves?

Vinyl gloves feature synthetic polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which uses plasticizers to soften the material into a wearable product. Despite the material-softening process, vinyl gloves can sometimes fit loose on the skin — a factor that can be desirable or dangerous depending on the application. Vinyl materials allow for easy application and removal in low-risk environments. Still, a loose fit will increase the potential for contaminants to get underneath the glove and onto the skin. 

Vinyl gloves are a latex-free, disposable option widely used in food service and hospitality. However, these industries have also started to incorporate nitrile gloves into routine use as a more durable alternative. Due to the molecular structure of PVC, vinyl gloves have limited performance and barrier protection against germs and viruses. They have an increased risk of breakage and cross-contamination between the wearer and the products they touch. In comparison, nitrile has higher tensile strength and maintains its integrity against routine stretching and elongation.

While vinyl gloves have less chemical resistance, they work exceptionally well for beauty salons that work with nail polish or hair dyes. Vinyl is an economical alternative for non-hazardous environments. When the risk of infection is low, vinyl gloves offer adequate protection for low-level safety concerns at an affordable price. If a higher protection level is required, consider nitrile gloves instead.

How Do Nitrile Gloves Differ From TPE Gloves?

Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) gloves are a lightweight construction of a plastic-based latex alternative. TPE material features a stamp-and-seal technique, ensuring suitable barrier integrity for low-risk and short-term applications. TPE gloves are perfect for use in food handling, beauty salons and some clinical applications. In contrast, nitrile is more appropriate for higher-risk environments where prolonged durability is a must.

Both nitrile and TPE have waterproof properties and resistance to certain liquids. The embossed texture and waterproof quality of TPE gloves allow for a more secure grip during food handling and other low-risk applications. Nitrile gloves have a greater resistance to hazardous and corrosive liquids, making them useful for low-risk and high-risk settings.

TPE gloves are the most economical choice for environments where workers frequently change and discard gloves. They offer a flexible range of motion and a comfortable fit for workplaces with minimal risk of infection.

Why Are Nitrile Gloves So Popular?

Many industries choose to supply nitrile gloves for their staff members due to their versatility. A wide range of advantages contribute to the growing popularity of nitrile gloves:

  • Strong barrier protection: Nitrile gloves have high tensile strength and greater barrier protection against bloodborne pathogens and hazardous contaminants. This strong barrier protection is a result of nitrile’s advanced puncture resistance properties. Nitrile gloves are the most durable option available for medical and industrial use.
  • High puncture resistance: Nitrile gloves offer high abrasion resistance and are three to five times more puncture resistant than latex alternatives. Because nitrile rubber is highly puncture-resistant, nitrile gloves are preferred when there’s a high exposure risk to bloodborne pathogens or infection.
  • Greater chemical resistance: Nitrile rubber provides reliable resistance to chemicals, acids and petroleum-based liquids. This resistance covers any oils, fuels, alcohols, hydraulic fluids and silicone greases workers may encounter in high-risk industrial environments.
  • Latex-free: Nitrile is a dependable, hypoallergenic alternative for people suffering from latex allergies. Staff members with latex allergies can work safely and comfortably in nitrile gloves. When workers wear nitrile gloves, contact between the wearer and the patients or products they handle will have no risk of causing latex reactions.
  • Comfortable fit: Nitrile gloves conform to the wearer’s hands for a snug and comfortable fit. Nitrile gloves limit exposure risks by ensuring the protective material covers the skin thoroughly. When handling hazardous or corrosive chemicals, nitrile gloves offer a strong barrier over the skin and prevent contaminants from getting underneath the glove, too.
  • Tactile sensitivity: Nitrile gloves offer decent tactile sensitivity so workers can handle tools and procedures with the necessary precision. Workers can withstand harsh applications while maintaining an appropriate level of dexterity. Their lower coefficient of friction also ensures an easy donning and doffing process.
  • Temperature resistance: Nitrile rubber remains functional in conditions ranging from minus 40 degrees to 226 degrees Fahrenheit. This property is beneficial for applications involving hot oils and chemical reactions where workers can expect extreme temperatures.
  • Nontoxic: Nitrile gloves are food safe with thicknesses up to 3 millimeters for food service regulations. Nitrile’s nontoxic and latex-free properties allow for safe use in food service industries across the United States.
  • Waterproof: Nitrile gloves provide a secure grip in wet and dry conditions. Waterproof gloves are ideal for many applications, including food services, medical and dental care, janitorial and sanitation services, child care and more.
  • Extended shelf life: Nitrile rubber has a low compression set. This feature means nitrile gloves will return to their original shape after being compressed into their packaging. Nitrile gloves offer simple storage in a compressed state and take on their desired shape and density when needed. This elasticity ensures a long lifespan and the ability to withstand elongation during routine procedures.
Shop Nitrile Gloves in Bulk From SUNLINE Supply

Shop Nitrile Gloves in Bulk From SUNLINE Supply

Disposable nitrile gloves are a staple in many industries for PPE use. Whether you require chemical-resistant gloves or a latex-free alternative for low-risk environments, nitrile gloves offer balanced properties that meet the standards of various applications. 

Shop for nitrile gloves from SUNLINE Supply, a company. We offer industrial use and medical-grade nitrile gloves at an affordable bulk price. Contact SUNLINE for more information about our nitrile gloves today.