Synthetic gloves are used in a variety of different industries to provide protection both to the user and to the end consumer. However, not all gloves are created equally. There are currently two main types of latex-free synthetic gloves: nitrile and vinyl. Both gloves have their benefits and drawbacks but are both excellent choices when used in the proper situations.
Nitrile gloves are made of a designer polymer called acrylonitrile that is vulcanised to display a number of characteristics similar to rubber. In order to develop the proper features, nitrile is treated with sulphur, butadiene and a number of other chemical accelerators to give it strength, durability and elasticity. Using a synthetically derived polymer to create the glove also helps avoid any latex allergies. Lastly, nitrile gloves are most commonly blue or purple in colour.
Similar to nitrile gloves, vinyl gloves are also made with a synthetically derived polymer material. This polymer, polyvinyl chloride, is perhaps better known by its acronym, PVC. Also similar to nitrile gloves, the use of this synthetic polymer to create the glove allows manufacturers to avoid complications with latex allergies. The other benefit is that PVC polymer material is relatively inexpensive to produce. Most vinyl gloves are produced with cornstarch or another light powder inside to help the user put on the glove with ease.
Both nitrile and vinyl gloves provide an effective barrier when compared to their non-use. Nitrile gloves, however, provide the highest amount of durability and protection between the two choices because of the chemical properties of the material. In addition, nitrile gloves are more elastic and tend to be more formfitting than vinyl gloves. Although they provide less protection, vinyl gloves do have a significant benefit over nitrile gloves because they are far less expensive to produce and thus to purchase.
The biggest drawback to nitrile gloves is their price. Although they are more durable than vinyl gloves, the fact remains that they are still disposable gloves; it is up to the consumer to decide if their high price outweighs their durability. Vinyl on the other hand has the exact opposite problem to nitrile. Vinyl gloves are less durable, less elastic and overall less protective than nitrile gloves. In addition, vinyl gloves cannot be easily textured because the raw material used to produce them does not allow it. However they are extremely inexpensive.
The key to deciding between the two is to consider how much protection you need. Many disposable glove manufacturers have simplified this procedure by referring to nitrile gloves as "medical grade" and vinyl gloves as "utility grade." In fact, nitrile gloves that are marketed toward medical institutions such as hospitals must first undergo a series of tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure their durability. Vinyl gloves on the other hand are commonly used in the food industry where high levels of durability and protection are less necessary. Vinyl gloves are manufactured to lower standards, which are set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).