Black nitrile gloves, green nitrile gloves, blue or purple nitrile gloves: is there really a difference? Get the facts about choosing colored nitrile gloves.
While nitrile gloves now completely dominate the disposable glove market in the workplace, color coding has become very prevalent in both the industrial and construction setting. Workers are being taught to use specific colors of nitrile gloves for certain work applications, making chemical exposure and product protection more of a visual aspect of the safety program (it’s easier for co-workers and managers to see if employees are using the wrong disposable glove for a given application).
The healthcare industry commonly has different colors to ensure both user and patient safety for the most common disposable glove styles (nitrile, vinyl, and latex gloves). In health care, color coding can also be used to identify gloves that are medical/exam grade versus those simply listed as industrial grade.
What is Up with Colored Nitrile Gloves?
In general, nitrile glove color has nothing to do with the type of protection, so you need to carefully look at the packaging to consider the thickness and specific application (medical or industrial usage). Nitrile is excellent for many types of inks, solvents, chemicals, and grease; however, checking a safety data sheet or consulting with your glove supplier can help confirm you have the correct glove for the application.
There really is no limit as to the color selection of disposable nitrile gloves, so some employers are even letting employees select their own “fun” colors to help encourage usage – which can be a positive safety motivator in the workplace.
Another interesting concept is when workers are double gloving (added protection), making it easier to identify when an outer glove is torn or ripped during use (using a darker glove underneath a light-colored glove) to prevent the spread of chemical contaminants to the hands or bloodborne pathogens in a first aid scenario (or healthcare setting).
The attributes that really matter pertain more to the reason the gloves are used (industrial or medical gloves), not so much the aesthetic purposes of the gloves. Some workers or patients might have a latex allergy. In these instances, a 100% latex-free glove is ideal. The varieties of nitrile gloves can also be powdered or powder-free nitrile, and have a specific thickness (i.e. 4 mil gloves).
Blue Nitrile Gloves
Blue nitrile gloves are far and away the most common color of nitrile gloves (specifically light blue). Blue nitrile gloves might be approved with an exam rating or medical grade (for blood exposure) or could be just an industrial-rated variety. There are indeed several shade variations of blue to consider. When disposable nitrile gloves first hit the market in the 1980s, the light “powdered” blue color was exclusively used to indicate their difference from a disposable latex or vinyl glove.
In the healthcare world, blue nitrile exam gloves are among the most common. Examination gloves aren’t always blue and can be combined in a double glove combo to determine if their glove has been compromised.
White Nitrile Gloves
White is the common industry standard for a “cleanroom glove.” In a cleanroom environment, workers need to see contaminants readily and white does help promote the “clean” message to workers. As you can imagine, color is an additive, and white contains less dye than other colors, reducing the risk of unwanted reactions (to the product or process).
Skin reactions to the dye in nitrile gloves are actually quite rare. While white nitrile gloves are the most common choice in cleanroom applications, blue nitrile gloves are sometimes used to provide more contrast, making it easier for workers to perform their jobs well.
Black Nitrile Gloves
Black nitrile gloves have become quite popular in recent years and are used in a wide range of industrial environments. The color black is very popular with tattoo artists, hairdressers or any job requiring a polished-looking glove (something that stands out). Black gloves are commonly promoted as “tougher,” but that is only an attribute if the glove is actually thicker than other styles (which they generally are).
We see a lot of mechanics preferring black nitrile gloves, which don’t show the dirt or grease as readily (possibly encouraging an employee to wear them longer). Meat processors, veterinarians, and even certain medical applications consider black nitrile gloves as a way of concealing blood and/or bodily fluids. Law enforcement also prefers black nitrile gloves to stand out when responding to medical emergencies in contrast to other medical-oriented first responders.
Green Nitrile Gloves and Showa Biodegradable Nitrile Gloves
Not all, but some versions of green nitrile gloves might be used to indicate it is a biodegradable product (such as Showa biodegradable nitrile gloves). However, you need to be careful when shopping for green nitrile gloves, as most “reusable” (thicker) nitrile gloves are green in color, but would not be considered biodegradable.
The Showa GreeN-Dex was the world’s first disposable nitrile glove that is biodegradable when discarded in biologically active landfills and the packaging of this glove is made from either recycled paper or 100% post-consumer waste. It is a win-win for everyone when having a disposable safety product that is good for the environment!
Kimberly-Clark Purple Nitrile Gloves and Other Glove Colors
Other more “exotic” colored nitrile glove options on the market include: Purple, pink, yellow, lime, orange, red, gray, and dark blue. Kimberly-Clark Purple Nitrile Gloves are particularly popular with healthcare and medical/dental office workers. Of course, there can be subtle (or significant) shade differences based on the brand and style. My suggestion is to call us if you have a need for a specific color and we can investigate.
Final Thoughts on Colored Nitrile Gloves
While color really does not affect the type of protection you get from a disposable nitrile glove, it does serve a variety of purposes in the workplace:
· Color-coding based on work department, application or process decided by the employer
· Easier visibility of contaminants (or to hide contaminants based on darker color)
· Quicker verification of a glove tear when double-gloving (2 different shades)
· Better employee acceptance of wearing PPE and to make the job more enjoyable (employees are happier when they have a say in their PPE selection!)
The biggest takeaway is to make sure you have the correct type of disposable colored glove (and thickness) for the task at hand. If employees are complaining about sweating or rashes under the glove, consider trying a thin liner glove (which makes using disposable gloves more comfortable). Our Safety Support Team can help discuss your application and ensure your workers are protected no matter which disposable colored nitrile gloves you select.