What are the best disposable gloves?

5th Apr 2017

Disposable gloves come in all shapes and sizes as well as different materials, which often makes deciding on the best gloves to use a bit confusing! Hopefully this article will provide you with a bit more information on the topic of disposable gloves and help you to make a more informed decision.

So Which Gloves Should I Buy?

The ultimate answer to this question depends entirely on what you will be doing in your gloves. You wouldn't want to be wearing a pair of sterile surgical gloves to change engine oil, in the same way that you wouldn't want to be wearing a cheap vinyl glove to work with chemicals in a laboratory.

Having a glove that is fit for purpose is by far the most important factor to consider, the second factor to consider being the "cost in use" of your gloves. Disposable gloves are predominantly made from 1 of 3 materials; vinyl, latex or nitrile. These three materials have different benefits and your requirements will generally dictate which material should be used.

Purpe Nitrile Gloves In Use





Latex Gloves

Latex gloves are manufactured from natural rubber latex, which as suggested is a natural product derived mainly from the Hevea Brasiliensis or "Rubber Tree". Latex is naturally stretchy and provides high levels of tensile strength. When latex gloves are manufactured a rubber compound is used containing varying levels of natural latex, providing the characteristics of the desired glove. Latex generally has a good tolerance to oils and chemicals, as well as being supple and tactile but this does vary depending on the composition of the glove. Geka Sandstone Heavy Duty Latex Gloves


Different thicknesses and treatments, such as chlorination, can be used in the production of latex gloves altering the characteristics. Chlorination treats the outer surface of the latex to remove the "tackiness" and leave a smoother finish, allowing easier donning. This can be seen in our Geka Sandstone latex gloves. Thick latex gloves such as our Blue Granite heavy duty gloves have a high latex content and are thick enough to avoid ripping when snagged, making them ideal for mechanics coming into contact with exposed sharp edges.

Latex Allergies and Powder

Exposure to latex, particularly powdered latex, can over time result in Latex Sensitisation in a small number of people. This is where the natural rubber proteins irritate the skin and can cause dermatitis. In extreme cases, Latex Sensitisation can lead to the development of a Latex Allergy. It is for this reason that latex-free gloves are now the preferred glove for patient contact in healthcare. If you are worried at all about the potential risks of latex products or you suspect that you have Latex Sensitisation, you should consult your GP for advice.

Some latex gloves are supplied with a powder coating on the inside of the glove. This powder allows unchlorinated latex gloves to be donned more easily by preventing the latex from sticking to the surface of the hands. Chlorinated latex gloves have a much smoother surface and as a result, very rarely require powder. The powder used in gloves has been known to facilitate skin irritation as it may carry the absorbable latex proteins into the skin. With new materials and requirements, the use of powdered latex gloves has fallen out of favour over the years.

A good quality latex glove will provide good barrier protection against the most common oils and greases, as well as provide protection against bacteria and a range of chemicals. Always check however, that the glove you choose protects against the specific hazards that you are facing and contains low residual proteins.


Vinyl Gloves

Vinyl is a synthetic material and vinyl gloves are much cheaper to produce than latex or nitrile gloves. This cost saving makes vinyl gloves extremely popular for a variety of tasks including food preparation. The cheap cost of vinyl gloves make them suited to short tasks where a latex or nitrile glove would prove to be too costly to use. Blue vinyl gloves are commonly used in food handling as they are easy to spot in the event of contamination.

While vinyl gloves offer an economical alternative to latex gloves, they have a limited range of applications when compared with latex and nitrile. Due to the molecular construction of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, the chains that make up PVC are less able to stretch. This relative inability to stretch means that vinyl gloves are often "baggy" to wear and can pose a risk when working with moving machinery. As well as being less comfortable to wear, vinyl gloves are more permeable than latex and nitrile, making them unsuitable for patient contact in healthcare or for use with chemicals.

Nitrile Gloves

Nitrile is a synthetic rubber with a high resistance to oils, fuels and other chemicals. Its physical properties are similar to that of latex, with the added benefit of being free from natural latex proteins. Nitrile gloves are normally the preffered replacement for anyone suffering with Latex Sensitisation. Nitrile gloves are manufactured in a wide variety of colours and styles, with a number of features being useful for specific industries.

White nitrile gloves or light coloured gloves like the Halyard Sterling offer a good contrast against pen for paramedics taking down quick medical notes.
Blue nitrile gloves like the Geka Ultra Blue  and Halyard Basics Blue are suitable for food preparation and processing.
Black nitrile gloves such as Halyard BlackFire are used by tattoo artists or for identifying mastitis in the dairy industry.

Geka Ultra Blue Nitrile Examination Gloves

Disposable nitrile gloves are available in a variety of thicknesses to provide different strengths and protection from different chemicals. They generally have a higher resistance to chemicals and acids than a latex glove but it is important to check whether the chemicals you are using are specifically covered by the glove you choose.


Accelerators are used in the vulcanisation of nitrile rubber and form part of the manufacturing process for nitrile gloves. Sensitivity to the accelerators within nitrile gloves has been documented. Different glove compounds will contain varying levels and quantities of nitrile accelerators that leach out of the glove with heat and moisture from the hand. In a small minority of people, accelerator sensitsation can result in sore or itchy skin. Accelerator-free nitrile gloves have a significant reduction in the accelerators used and provide a solution to people who suffer both from latex and accelerator sensitisation. Accelerator sensitivity is relatively uncommon but if you are concerned that you may have sensitivity to nitrile gloves, it is best to seek advice from your GP.

Cost In Use

When it comes to choosing a glove, after establishing the most appropriate material, we always advise our customers on the value of "cost in use". Putting less emphasis on the initial cost of a glove and highlighting whether or not it is a cost effective glove to use is by far the best way to decide the price point of the gloves you purchase. Using a premium glove and throwing the pair away after a 5 minute job doesn't represent a cost effective choice, the same can be said for using a cheap glove that splits before a job is completed. For frequent users of disposable gloves, purchasing sub-standard gloves is the largest contributor to over-spending.


AQL is an acronym found on the boxes of disposable gloves that stands for "acceptable quality level". This refers to the number of gloves in a selection of 1000 gloves, that are likely to have pinholes or critical defects. An AQL number is a method of identifying manufacturing reliability. For example, in a case of 1000 gloves with an AQL4.0 rating, up to 4 of those gloves will have pinholes, rips or other defects that will effect the glove's performance. A glove such as the Halyard Purple Nitrile with an AQL1.0 rating, will only have up to 1 glove in a case of 1000 gloves that suffers from defects. The lower an AQL number is, the more reliable the glove is.

Gloves are tested for pinholes on test rigs that inflate the gloves with a set volume of water. The pressure of the water is sustained for a number of minutes and each glove is checked for leaks. From this test an AQL rating can be calculated, based on the number of gloves that are found to have pinholes across a sample batch.


You will sometimes hear gloves referred to in this way and this is normally the best way to determine the strength of a glove. Essentially this is the amount of force, in Newtons, required to break a cross section of the glove. This figure demonstrates the strength of the glove irrespective of the thickness and gives the best indication of how strong a glove is. A higher figure represents a physically stronger glove, less prone to breaking and does not necessarily equate to the thickness of a glove. Well manufactured gloves such as those by Halyard can often have the benefit of being finer and therefore easier to work in for prolonged periods without sacrificing quality strength or permeability.


For more information on the range of gloves that we supply or to speak to us about your requirements, please get in touch via email at mail@abbeydale-direct.co.uk