Latex gloves are commonly used across a variety of industries, including healthcare, food service, forensics, auto mechanics, and cosmetics. They are popular because of the high level of comfort, tactile sensitivity, and stretchiness that they provide. Plus, they are proven to be cost-effective, which is why many businesses opt for them.
However, latex gloves are far from perfect. You’ll soon learn all about why more and more people are steering clear of latex material in their disposable gloves. In this article, we’ll talk about the problems with latex gloves, and provide some of the best alternatives to latex gloves currently on the market - including vinyl and nitrile. At the very end, we’ll make a recommendation as to which gloves you should use. Let’s get started!
What Are Latex Gloves Commonly Used For?
First things first, let’s talk about what latex gloves are used for. As we’ve mentioned earlier, latex gloves are commonly used in industries such as healthcare, food service, and cosmetics, just to name a few. Just like any other type of glove, they provide a protective barrier against certain chemicals, biological agents (e.g. viruses, bacteria, bodily fluids), abrasive materials, and other occupational hazards.
To illustrate, latex gloves are primarily used in the field of medicine to protect professionals from bodily fluids and chemicals (e.g. needles, scalpels, etc.). In the foodservice industry, the purpose of latex gloves is to prevent contamination (including cross-contamination) and protect consumers from food poisoning.
What Is The Problem With Latex Gloves?
Latex gloves have all the qualities you would want in a disposable glove–durability, comfort, and functionality–but they pose one major problem: latex sensitivity.
Latex sensitivity or a latex allergy occurs when a person’s immune system attacks natural rubber latex, which is what latex gloves are made of. When a person with a latex allergy comes in contact with latex, they could experience symptoms that range from mild to severe.
Common symptoms of latex sensitivity include skin irritation (redness, itching, swelling), rashes, hives, runny nose, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. In worst cases, a latex allergy can even be fatal; this happens when the latex causes anaphylaxis, a severe and sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction to an allergen.
There is no cure to latex allergies, only prevention. Thus, people with latex allergies should avoid everything that contains latex, especially latex gloves.
Another crucial thing to note is that latex gloves can not only affect the wearer; they can also affect a customer that comes in contact with food prepared with latex gloves or the latex glove itself.
For instance, if a dentist uses latex gloves to work on a person with a latex allergy, the direct glove-to-mouth-and-skin contact can cause an allergic reaction. The same goes if a foodservice worker prepares food with latex gloves and then serves it to a customer with a latex allergy.
So, as you can see, it is vital that business owners find an alternative to latex gloves in order to mitigate these risks. This brings us to our next question:
Is There An Alternative To Latex Gloves?
Yes! In fact, there is more than one alternative to latex gloves. These are disposable nitrile gloves, polyethylene gloves, and vinyl gloves.
But wait, which one is the best alternative to latex gloves? Let’s break down all the differences to help you make the right choice.
The Best Latex Glove Alternatives Reviewed:
In order to avoid the allergy risks that latex gloves pose, you must find the next best thing based on your business’ needs. Here are the three different alternatives to latex gloves, including their uses, pros, and cons:
Disposable Nitrile Gloves (#1 Choice)
Starting off our list is nitrile, which is the best alternative to latex gloves. Nitrile gloves are made from a synthetic rubber called nitrile butadiene rubber, also known as NBR latex. However, nitrile does not contain latex, meaning that nitrile gloves are latex-free.
Nitrile is the best alternative to latex gloves because it is just as durable, comfortable, and functional as latex but without the risk of allergies. Nitrile gloves provide a high level of protection against certain chemicals, biological agents, and physical damage like tears and punctures.
In fact, nitrile gloves are chemical resistant against common substances that you’ll find in most workplaces, such as fuels, weak acids, weak caustics, greases, and petroleum products, just to name a few.
Another thing we love about nitrile gloves is that most of them are powder-free. The powder on powdered gloves is typically made of cornstarch. And just like latex, cornstarch is a potential allergen. Hence, most nitrile gloves are food safe because of their lack of cornstarch powder.
Due to these multiple benefits, nitrile gloves are great options for all industries. They are especially advisable for industries that have direct contact with customers, such as food service, medicine, dentistry, and cosmetics.
Polyethylene gloves are made from either high-density or low-density polyethylene plastic. Multipurpose polyethylene gloves are made from thick HDPE (high-density polyethylene plastic). They protect the skin from dirt, chemicals, and bacteria, and provide a high level of tactile sensitivity, making them ideal for general cleaning.
Low-density polyethylene plastic or LDPE gloves, on the other hand, are best used for food preparation. They are thin layers of plastic that provide a barrier between the hands and food, thus helping prevent cross-contamination. Plus, they are inexpensive, making them an economical solution for preventing food-borne illnesses.
When it comes to an eco-friendly alternative to latex gloves, we give the crown to polyethylene gloves. None of the options on this list are biodegradable, but polyethylene gloves use the least amount of synthetic material to produce.
However, both HDPE and LDPE gloves cannot be used for tasks that involve hazardous substances like chemicals and biological agents. That said, their application is often limited to general cleaning and food preparation.
Vinyl gloves are 100% synthetic, made from PVC, which is a petroleum-based film. They are inexpensive to produce, making them not as durable as latex or nitrile. Therefore, their use is only ideal for low-risk tasks like preparing food (except fatty substances) and hairdressing.
Another downside of vinyl gloves is that they don’t offer any protection against many chemicals, so it is not recommended to use them for anything other than low-risk applications.
On the upside, vinyl gloves are latex-free and are not known to cause allergies, making them safe for most hygienic purposes.
What to Keep In Mind When Shopping For Alternatives To Latex Gloves
By now, you probably have an inkling of the best alternative to latex gloves. But since not all disposable gloves are made equal, here are some useful tips to help you find the best glove for your business:
Consider The Intended Use
The first step is to determine what you are going to use the gloves for. In this way, you can list down all the requirements you need in a disposable glove. For instance, if you need gloves for your dental practice, you need a glove that is hypoallergenic, durable, and chemical-resistant. In this case, nitrile gloves are your best option.
Compare Glove Brands
The characteristics of disposable gloves vary by brand. For example, some nitrile gloves are powdered, while others are powder-free. Some brands produce higher-quality gloves than others, and some brands have a wider range of glove sizes. The list goes on.
So, in order to find the perfect glove, you need to compare each brand and see which one ticks all the right boxes. It helps to consider as many options as possible so that you can compare and contrast before making a final decision.
Look For The FDA Approval
Unfortunately, there are fraudulent manufacturers that produce counterfeit disposable gloves. These gloves are uncertified by the Food and Drug Administration, making them potentially unsafe as you cannot be sure of the level of protection that they provide. Even more unfortunate is the fact that some of these manufacturers fake their FDA certifications to seem legitimate.
Luckily, there are many ways you can tell if a box of disposable gloves is legitimate or not. First, check if there is contact information and a lot number on the packaging. If there is, it’s probably legitimate. Second, look for a barcode; a box without a barcode is likely fake.
Lastly, consider the price. If the price is too cheap in comparison with the market price, the gloves are likely substandard. Hence, if the price is too good to be true, you’re better off finding another option.
Final Thoughts On The Top Latex Glove Alternatives
Latex gloves are slowly losing their spot as the #1 disposable glove in favor of nitrile. However, you can also consider using vinyl or polyethylene. Aside from being latex-free, nitrile gloves provide superior resistance to chemicals, abrasions, biological agents, and many other hazards in the workplace. And if you want to stay safe on a budget, consider shopping for the best nitrile gloves from our year-end review.
All that said, it’s clear which type of glove your business deserves. For the #1 alternative to latex gloves, look no further. Buy nitrile gloves online at Primo Dental Products. We are the leading PPE shop online for not just dentists, but mechanics, doctors, and more.