Nitrile, Vinyl, or Latex Gloves: Which Kind Should You Use?

Disposable gloves offer protection against infectious or chemical contaminants. But do you know the difference between nitrile, vinyl and latex gloves? We'll tell you all about it here.
Nitrile, Vinyl, or Latex Gloves: Which Kind Should You Use?
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 04 July, 2024

The use of gloves – whether they be nitrile, vinyl, or latex gloves – has become a standard practice to ensure a hygienic and safe environment. Gloves play an important role in protecting our hands, as well as in preventing the transmission of microorganisms to humans.

There are a wide variety of protective gloves on the market. The materials used in their manufacture can change, so they each offer their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the context in which they’re used.

In this article, we’re going to talk all about the three types of gloves: nitrile, vinyl, and latex. In addition, we’ll take a closer look at their characteristics, their differences, and which one you should opt for depending on the circumstances.

Nitrile gloves

Nitrile gloves are the most robust and safe. They’re made from a synthetic compound, free of latex and powder, which is ideal for people with allergies or with delicate and sensitive skin. They’re characterized by their resistance to puncture, in addition to withstanding oils, solvents, and acids.

They easily mold to the contour of the hand, have good tactile sensitivity and have a solid grip. They’re recommended for work where there is contact with potentially hazardous substances, such as in the sanitary, industrial, or cleaning sectors of large establishments. They’re also suitable for food handling, without affecting its taste or odor.

The main feature of nitrile gloves is their multifunctionality, which positions them as a choice for a wide range of applications. However, their price and environmental impact are factors that should be taken into consideration.

Vinyl gloves

These types of gloves are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a type of plastic material. They’re known to be a cheaper option, although they’re less elastic compared to latex or nitrile gloves. They also have a transparent shade that makes it easier to see the condition of the hands beneath them.

Useful for short, less rigorous tasks, they are used in domestic, aesthetic, or food-related environments. They offer acceptable resistance to moisture, detergents, or different types of alcohol.

Their disadvantages include lower strength and flexibility, resulting in frequent tears. Despite their limitations, they are ideal for less demanding activities, providing protection while maintaining a more budget-friendly cost.

Latex gloves
Latex gloves are made from natural rubber and are used for protection against infections and certain chemicals.

Latex gloves

Latex gloves are made from natural rubber and are used for protection against infections and certain chemicals. They are often seen in the medical field, in laboratories, and in the food industry.

However, they can cause allergies in some people, as there is a fairly common condition of sensitivity to latex. To overcome this, the industry offers the options we’ve already talked about: nitrile or vinyl gloves.

Although reactions to latex are almost always mild (irritation and itching of the hands), there may be more serious cases. Hives, asthma, and even anaphylaxis have been reported.

Nevertheless, latex gloves remain an option for situations requiring protection against contamination. However, they are not ideal for handling potent chemicals.

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Which type of glove to choose in which situation?

Each glove has its pros and cons. The choice will depend on the intended use, the characteristics of the user, and the environment.

For domestic use, any of the glove types may be suitable for the home. However, some aspects to take into account are the following:

  • Duration and frequency: For short-term use, vinyl is sufficient.
  • A Latex allergy: In this case, with a known sensitivity, it would be best to opt for vinyl or nitrile.
  • The cost: Vinyl is the most affordable material in economic terms, although it offers less protection and safety.
  • Tactile sensitivity: If high tactile sensitivity is required for handling, latex gloves are the right choice.
  • Chemical and puncture resistance: Nitrile gloves are recommended for handling chemicals, especially in cleaning tasks involving strong substances.

Gloves in the healthcare sector

The medical field requires very precise protective measures and a firm grip to carry out surgical procedures effectively. For this purpose, skin-friendly, powder-free nitrile gloves minimize the chances of irritation or adverse reactions.

Gloves made of latex are not advisable for the medical sector, due to their low resistance and flexibility, resulting in tears. However, they’re the most commonly used type of glove in routine actions, such as basic check-ups, due to their tactility.

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Gloves in the industrial sector

This area is also one of the most demanding and risky in terms of handling. High protection is required against chemical or physical agents, such as oils, solvents, acids, cuts, or abrasions.

Nitrile gloves are used in this sector to avoid perforation. They are very strong and can resist chemical substances. They provide an adequate fit and give a firm grip, facilitating the handling of objects.

There are other options, such as latex, which can be used in the industrial environment, as long as there are no specific allergies. They offer elasticity and adapt well to the shape of the hand, although they cannot be present in hazardous tasks, as they show less resistance compared to nitriles and can deteriorate quickly.

A person wearing gloves to cook food.
All three types of disposable gloves can be used in the food sector, as long as they comply with sanitary standards.

Gloves in the food sector

The food industry is regulated and supervised regarding the use of disposable hand protection. It requires a high level of hygiene and safety to prevent contamination. All three types of disposable gloves can be used in this sector, as long as they comply with sanitary standards.

Nitrile is appropriate for its allergy-free and dust-free nature. It’s ideal for moisture and certain chemicals, such as detergents or alcohols, making it suitable for handling fatty foods without compromising their integrity.

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Protect your hands by wearing the right gloves

Disposable gloves are useful and necessary to protect your hands and prevent infections or food poisoning. They’re not all the same and you must know how to choose the right type for each case. Remember that the most important thing is to take care of your health and that of others by always keeping precaution and protection as your main allies.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Hernández Orellana, A. J. R. (2016). Comparación de la tasa de biodegradación en campo entre guantes de látex, nitrilo y nitrilo biodegradable [Tesis Doctoral]. Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.
  • Jiménez Vallejo, I.T. (2022). Prevención de transmisión de patógenos por uso de guantes de látex y nitrilo nuevos no estériles [Bachelor’s thesis]. Universidad Nocional de Chimborazo.
  • Leonard Alas, R.E. (2015). Análisis de los factores que influyen en el ciclo del proceso de clorinación en la fabricación de guantes de látex nitrilo [Tesis Doctoral], Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.
  • Leyva León, J. S. (2021). Análisis de la microdureza superficial de una resina compuesta nanoparticulada manipulada con guantes de latex y nitrilo. [Tesis de Grado]. Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal.
  • Martínez Ortiz, P., & Vélez Vilorio, M. (2016). Análisis comparativo de la permeabilidad entre guantes de látex y guantes de nitrilo en la clínica de odontología Dr. René Puig Bentz de la Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña. [Tesis de Grado]. Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.