Differences Between Vinyl and Nitrile Gloves: Materials, Uses, Safety

Doctor putting on gloves

Are you in the cleaning, food, or medical industry and considering vinyl or nitrile gloves for your staff? These two types of gloves are not interchangeable, and one is not necessarily better than the other. Instead, each offers different advantages and disadvantages that might make them better suited for your task. Discover the difference between vinyl and nitrile gloves and get a sense of which is better for you below.

What Are Vinyl Gloves Made of?

Vinyl gloves are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This is a tough, but flexible kind of vinyl. Manufacturers can get the vinyl thin enough for gloves, allowing a vinyl glove to be easy to use and allowing the wearer greater ability to move their hands. However, there is less protection from punctures, chemicals, and abrasions.

What Are Nitrile Gloves Made Of?

Nitrile gloves are made of nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR). This is a synthetic rubber product that remains tough and inert to chemicals, even when made thin enough for gloves. Because this is a synthetic rubber that requires a lot of processing, nitrile gloves are more expensive than vinyl gloves. However, it is hypoallergenic and does not contain allergens like latex gloves.

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Vinyl vs Nitrile Gloves

Each kind of glove has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Vinyl gloves are cheap and will protect the wearer from water, oils and fats. It is very rare for someone to have an allergic reaction to vinyl. Vinyl gloves tend to fit looser than nitrile or latex gloves and therefore make them great for short-term use, plus, some vinyl gloves come with a powder (usually cornstarch) on the interior of the glove making them very easy to put on and take off.  In addition, vinyl gloves offer a higher degree of stiffness adding to the ease at which you can put them on. However, vinyl is not durable or chemically resistant and does not offer the protection needed in some environments.

Nitrile gloves are a more expensive option, but they have many advantages for this expense. They can be worn longer, have a more touch-sensitive feel, better resistance to punctures better resists chemicals and are flexible. Plus, they are just as allergy-free as vinyl. For cleaning, food handling, medical and other long-term or high-risk uses, nitrile gloves are generally preferred.

Are Vinyl Gloves Safe for Medical Use?

Not really. While there might be very limited medical uses for vinyl gloves, almost all health professionals will be safer with nitrile gloves. These are much harder to puncture, keeping medical professionals safer around sharp objects and other equipment. In addition, it is easier to grip and maneuver in nitrile gloves. They may give wearers the tactile feedback necessary for their jobs. They may also allow medical professionals to wear the gloves longer without switching, which can be necessary to reduce infection when working with a single patient.

Vinyl vs Nitrile Gloves for Food

Nitrile gloves are more commonly chosen for food handling. They can be worn for a longer period of time and have the touch sensitivity necessary for many food handling tasks. Plus, they are allergy-free and available in the non-powdered form, so nothing potentially harmful will get on the food.

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