Disposable Nitrile Gloves Guide: How to Select Your Pair

Disposable nitrile gloves are critical for safety and selecting the right pair can be a daunting task. Learn how in this nitrile gloves selection guide!

 Disposable Nitrile Gloves Guide: How to Select Your Pair


nitrile gloves


Sometimes, supply issues or necessity force us to change which disposable gloves we use. While rubber gloves and vinyl gloves are available, the benefits of nitrile gloves make them the most common and popular option.


As you know, there are literally hundreds of nitrile glove options to choose from. This nitrile gloves guide will help make that process easier. Ultimately, the selection is simply based on the type of work and your preferences in that glove. This article was written to discuss the main factors to consider.


Nitrile Gloves: Examination vs. Industrial

If you intend to use the disposable nitrile gloves for medical purposes, you need to only consider the medical rated version. Examination gloves and industrial nitrile gloves are usually made the same way. The main difference is the exam/medical rated gloves have gone through more testing to meet specific guidelines from the FDA. This ensures no pinholes are present and that each glove provides appropriate strength and durability for your application. 


An industrial grade disposable nitrile glove simply hasn’t gone through the same stringent testing. These gloves are commonly used in a variety of work applications, many involving protection from specific chemicals.


Glove Size

We all know that a properly sized glove makes performing work tasks easier and safer. If the glove is too tight, your hands can get tired quicker and make you sweat more. If the glove is too loose, you do not have good grip or tactile sensitivity.


One of the challenges with all gloves is that the human hand comes in many shapes and sizes. Some have very thick hands and fingers, but their finger length is short!  Others can have skinny hands with long fingers. Finding the right fit can be challenging, but the key is to think about what size you have had success with.


Most gloves carry both a numerical and a written size description. Generally speaking, the written size description is more likely to carry over better than the numerical size. If you wear a size Medium, focus more on that than the size number posted for that glove. Disposable nitrile gloves are available in a wide range of sizes, so there are many options for many hands.


Thickness and Nitrile Glove Formula

As a general rule-of-thumb, a thicker glove provides better chemical and abrasion protection at the expense of dexterity. We have seen disposable nitrile gloves vary from 3 -15 mil in thickness. A “mil” is 1/1,000 of an inch in thickness (0.001”).


The most common thickness of disposable nitrile gloves over the years has been 5 mil. Ultimately, you have to decide on the trade-off between thickness and longevity of the glove. A thicker glove may work better if your 5 mil nitrile gloves fall apart too quickly.


The glove formula can determine the strength, stretchiness, and chemical protection that is provided by a specific glove. There are “fillers” that can be added to the mixture at a factory to make the gloves less expensive to produce. These fillers could make the glove weaker. Unfortunately, it is very challenging to identify which gloves are poorly produced without simple trial-and-error.



Disposable nitrile gloves are generally less “grippy” than latex gloves, so some manufacturers add texture to the glove for added grip. Some even add a tread or raised diamond pattern to the disposable glove, depending on the needs of the situation. The problem is adding too much texture can affect the dexterity and tactile sensitivity of that glove.


Powder vs. Power-Free

Typically, powdered gloves use a food-grade corn starch to help absorb moisture and make the gloves easier to put on. In production, powder is normally used to help release the finished gloves from the former it was made on. In order to make a “powder-free” glove, the factory rinses off the powder and lets it dry before packaging. 


Most powder-free gloves are treated with a chlorinated or polymer finish, keeping the material from sticking to itself. This eliminates the need for powdered gloves. The majority of disposable nitrile gloves produced and sold are powder-free.


Chemical Resistance

Disposable nitrile gloves do provide some chemical resistance, but any lack of thickness will limit the time they can be used. Eventually, the gloves will either fall apart or chemicals will soak through. It is important to understand if the nitrile gloves on hand are appropriate for the chemicals you are using them for. Sometimes, no formal testing for the gloves have been documented. 


A great place to start is to review the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for that chemical. Some products have multiple ingredients that may affect and deteriorate the nitrile. If you are working with a chemical that is known to be toxic, it is critical you select the proper glove. While nitrile gloves are an acceptable form of protection, 22 mil reusable nitrile gloves are safer than 5 mil disposable gloves!


Nitrile Gloves Summary

There are many factors to consider when selecting nitrile gloves, but chemical resistance is the most important. While every company strives to save money, considering the chemicals and applications are crucial for safety. Any chemical can eventually soak through a glove, potentially leading to health issues down the road. This is referred to as chronic skin exposure, which can result in systemic effects to the body. 


While selecting your disposable nitrile gloves from the criteria above, be sure to review the chemical protection required. Chemical degradation and permeation data are not always available for every chemical you might handle. Following these guidelines and reviewing your SDS will help aid in your selection process. Protecting your hands is the priority!


If you’re looking for nitrile gloves, we recently added Direct Safety Lightweight Nitrile Exam Gloves to our complete product line. They’re a high-quality item at an economical price.


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