Vinyl, Latex and Nitrile Gloves: What are the differences?

Disposable gloves (compare prices) are one of the most widely used safety products around. Used by the medical, food service, chemical, automotive and photochemistry industries across the board. There are many things to consider when choosing a glove including quality, protection, and allergies. Here is a brief summary of the three types of gloves and their differences.

Latex Gloves

3831The most popular glove material, latex is a biodegradable material made of material originating from the latex ducts of rubber trees and despite the development of synthetic materials, is still the most elastic, resilient and form fitting material for gloves.  This gives the wearer a great deal of dexterity, tactility, and comfort making these gloves perfect for medical, auto repair and food service applications.

Latex offers protection from a variety of chemicals and body fluids. Latex gloves can come in a variety of thicknesses for durability from punctures and tears. They come in powered, lightly powdered and powder-free. The powder inside latex gloves is cornstarch based and used for easily slipping the gloves on your hands.

The drawback to latex is that is an allergen, creating reactions ranging from dry itchy irritated areas on the skin to a severe allergic reaction similar to what some people have to bee stings.  Latex allergies can also develop with the use of latex gloves. (See: Are Latex Powdered Gloves Safe?)

Vinyl Gloves

3830Vinyl is a synthetic, non-bio-degradable, protein-free material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers. Since vinyl gloves are synthetic and non-biodegradable, they have a longer shelf life than latex gloves, which often start to break down over time. It is very cheap to make, making the gloves very inexpensive to purchase. Like latex, vinyl gloves come in several thicknesses with the options of powdered or non-powdered.

The drawbacks of vinyl are it offers little protection from chemicals and micro-organisms, but makes these gloves perfect for handling non-hazardous materials and chemicals. Vinyl is also not very form fitting compared to latex or nitrile, giving the wearer limited dexterity and a higher chance that the glove with catch and tear.  These are best used for food service and other applications where product protection is necessary that but doesn’t require much dexterity or tactile precision.

Nitrile Gloves

3829Nitrile gloves are made from nitrile butadiene rubber, another synthetic material, making them an alternative for people with latex allergies and has a longer shelf life than latex gloves.  Nitrile is three times more resistant to punctures than latex, however, once the glove is punctured it will tear completely. However, creating a noticeable tear ensures that the wearer replaces the gloves and their hands remain protected.

Nitrile (compare prices) is close to latex in fit, feel, dexterity, and durability, but is more resistant to oils, fats, solvents, and chemicals, making them ideal for the chemical industry, laboratories, photochemical industry, agricultural or pesticides applications, meat processing, and medical applications. Another benefit of nitrile gloves is that they are the most effective in breaking up electrostatic charges and contribute fewer particles to contaminate the work environment for use in cleanrooms. They can also tolerate higher temperatures than latex which is a benefit for automotive applications.

Nitrile gloves come in a variety of thicknesses, powdered, lightly powdered and powder- free like latex and vinyl. The only drawback to these gloves is the cost. Nitrile is the most expensive of the three types of gloves.


Choosing the right glove for you is very important and should be done based on the applications you will be using the glove for, allergies and cost. Remember to choose a glove that is the correct size for your hand, which will not only provide the most comfortable fit but will keep the gloves from falling off your hands, reducing the chance of accidentally damaging the glove itself.

People have also reported having allergic reactions to the cornstarch based powder in the powdered and lightly powdered gloves. This could be a factor in choosing powdered, lightly powdered or powder-free.

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Mel Meadows

Mel Meadows

Mel Meadows is a product specialist with over 13 years of experience. She’s a central source of expertise for thousands of industrial and critical-class products featured on the Production Automation web store. By working directly with manufacturers, Mel deciphers technical documentation and outlines product use in real-world environments. View her profile to learn more about proper techniques, protocol, and product usage in both industrial and cleanroom facilities.

3 thoughts on “Vinyl, Latex and Nitrile Gloves: What are the differences?”

  1. Hey Sip, great question. The likeliness of minor punctures with Nitrile gloves is not uncommon. Because they are used so differently, it’s hard to pin down what the source of localized failure is. “According to one study, after only 12 minutes of simulated clinical use, natural latex and vinyl glove defect rates increased to 9 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Without proper curing and cross-linking, nitrile can swell and develop holes or defects over time. Failure is commonly observed in the crotch between the thumb and forefinger.” If you’re finding that your current gloves are not meeting your needs, give us a call and we can chat about finding a better solution Toll-Free: (888) 903-0333. Otherwise, you can read more here:

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