people wearing white latex gloves in a laboratory

What are Gloves Made of?

Gloves are an important piece of personal protective equipment, but what exactly are the materials that are protecting your hands? This article explores the various materials used to make disposable gloves, from natural fabrics to synthetic fibers. Gloves are a necessary item for a variety of activities, from providing protection for medical personnel and home cooks to construction workers and athletes.

Okay, so the answer seems more than a little obvious, right? After all, disposable gloves are categorized and sold by what they are made of: Latex, Nitrile, hybrid, poly or Vinyl. But I want to address specific information about exactly where these 5 materials come from.

What are Latex gloves made of?

Latex gloves are often referred to as rubber gloves because they're made partly from natural rubber. The minor differences between pure natural rubber and latex have to do with chemical compounds added to the liquid rubber tree sap as it's processed. These chemicals enhance the ability of natural rubber to maintain solid surface tension while being stretched. This basically means that chemicals are added so that the gloves can stretch without causing holes. It also enhances the natural rubber's resistance to ultraviolet radiation (sunlight). In addition, of course, the latex is almost always given a tint with special dyes while it is still in liquid state.

These chemical additives are generally non-allergenic. The common allergy that some people develop to latex products is an allergy to the natural rubber proteins. Those who develop an allergy to latex will typically see their hands get dry, red and in some cases get sores when they use latex gloves. Because of this the majority of those with allergies completely switch to nitrile or vinyl gloves.

What are Nitrile gloves made of?

Our Nitrile gloves are our most popular gloves because of their versatility and comfort. Nitrile is short for nitrile butadiene rubber. Sometimes nitrile is referred to as "NBR latex" because of its stretchy similarities to rubber latex. Don't let the nickname fool you though, nitrile gloves is 100% latex-free - so those with latex allergies can safely use nitrile gloves. Nitrile is a synthetic material that is a co-polymer of butadiene and acrylonitrile. The nitrile that is used in gloves has a relatively high acrylo content, which makes it a material that is extremely resistant to petroleum-based oils and hydrocarbon fuels. Acrylonitrile is produced in volume by a process called ammoxidation that uses the oxidation of propylene in the presence of ammonia and a catalyst - the catalyst can vary the properties of the final product.

Nitrile compounds used to be referred to as "synthetic rubber", but this terminology is now avoided by those inside the industry because the term "Synthetic" is now widely used to refer to Vinyl or PVC.

What are vinyl gloves made of?

Vinyl and PVC gloves are both made of the same substances, polyvinyl chloride and plasticizers. Polyvinyl Chloride is a petroleum-based product. There are many hundreds of different PVC formulations that are designated with "pf" prefixes. Chemical engineers spend enormous amounts of research time developing new PVC formulas in order to create materials with differing properties.

When creating the various vinyl and PVC formulas, chemists track different properties that have complex names like "Planar tensile strength" and "Compressive Redactability". Each different formula tracks these properties among others for different effects. With vinyl and PVC gloves the focus is properties that provide resistance to various external chemicals.

Because of the diverse formulas chemists have created Vinyl and PVC are used for many everyday things like cables, flooring, medical devices and car parts.

What are Poly gloves made of?

Poly gloves are made from a light transparent plastic called polyethylene, often shorted to PE. PE was first discovered back in 1898 and it's first practical use was in 1933. PE is one of the most common and cheapest plastics to produce and can be found all around us in packaging across most industries in the form of film, bags and bottles.

Poly gloves are widely considered the most cost-effective food service gloves, and are used for tasks that require frequent glove changes like prepping salads or sandwiches in cafes and drive-thrus.

Polyethylene is recyclable, so Poly gloves are often considered an eco-friendly alternative to materials like vinyl and PVC. Used gloves can be sent with the plastic bag recycling (but double check your local regulations first).

What are Hybrid gloves made of?

Our hybrid gloves are made from LDPE, low density polyethylene. It's a type of thermoplastic that's made from monomer ethylene. LDPE is often used for containers, pallet wrapping, frozen food bags and packaging across several industries.

Hybrid gloves are considered to be some of the most eco-friendly disposable gloves available. Like poly gloves they're 100% recyclable and can be disposed of with plastic bag recycling. As well when comparing our hybrid gloves with vinyl gloves 90% less harmful emissions are created during manufacturing, and because of their thin compact design they take up 54% less space.

With so many materials to choose from it can be hard to know which is best for your business. If you need help choosing check out our article Choosing Gloves 101, or if you prefer a 1 on 1 approach our customer service team is ready to help!