Many product and process properties in the scientific and technical field depend on the materials used. This fact also applies to glove materials and thus also to disposable gloves. For disposable gloves, the choice of material is limited due to the requirements (e.g. low thickness) and the special manufacturing processes. Besides rather exotic materials for disposable gloves (e.g. neoprene or multilayer laminates), mainly four materials are used: Polyethylene, latex, nitrile and vinyl. The glove material determines, to a large extent, the areas of application of the glove in practice. The four materials mentioned above for use in disposable gloves are discussed in more detail below.
POLYETHYLENE (PE) – A VERSATILE MATERIAL IN THE FIELD OF DISPOSABLE GLOVES
This material is usually used as a cheap version of a disposable glove. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is usually used. It is an inelastic, crystal-clear material. Polyethene is largely resistant to acids, alkalis, oils and fats and can therefore also be used in the food industry with the appropriate approval. The wearing comfort is extremely limited. Such gloves are mostly used as product protection (food industry), e.g. to prevent the transmission of germs to food.
LATEX – A VERY ELASTIC MATERIAL IN THE FIELD OF DISPOSABLE GLOVES
Latex is the oldest and most classic material for disposable gloves, made from a natural product (natural rubber). Latex gloves have conquered their place in the working world due to their elasticity and the wearing comfort they provide. They are used in both the medical and industrial sectors. In the industrial sector, their chemical resistance to many acids, bases and alcohols is an advantage. In the food sector, however, their use of oils and fats is not possible. A major disadvantage of disposable gloves made of natural latex is their allergic potential due to the latex proteins they contain as allergenic triggers. This allergenic potential is multiplied many times over by powder (corn starch has been used for powdered gloves for some time). The share of powdered gloves in the market is strongly declining, with the exception of some countries. Manufacturers try to suppress the transfer of latex proteins to the skin by coating the inside of the glove with a non-allergenic material.
NITRILE – A HIGH-QUALITY MATERIAL IN THE FIELD OF DISPOSABLE GLOVES
Nitrile rubber (composed of acrylonitrile and butadiene) as a material for disposable gloves is a high-quality material with rapidly increasing market significance. Although the material is less elastic than latex (and therefore less comfortable), its resistance to chemicals is higher than that of latex and its mechanical properties are very good. Latex proteins are not included, so there is no risk of latex allergy. Recently, however, some users of gloves have experienced another form of allergy, namely sensitization by vulcanization accelerators (e.g. by thiurams). This is not a problem of nitrile alone but also applies to latex. Vulcanization accelerators are used to increase the technical polymerization process to the level required by industry.
Although vulcanization accelerators are only used in small amounts as auxiliary material in the polymerization process, often a small amount in the microgram range is sufficient to trigger an allergy. Gloves are therefore washed after production to remove the vulcanization accelerators as far as possible. There are also already vulcanization accelerator-free further developments.
VINYL – THE MOST COST-EFFECTIVE MATERIAL IN THE DISPOSABLE GLOVE SECTOR
Vinyl stands out for its price advantage. Its mechanical properties and comfort are below average, as is its resistance to chemicals. Vinyl is PVC and is processed together with suitable plasticizers. The plasticizers are usually phthalates and must be REACH-compliant. Although the phthalates used are REACH-compliant, there are restrictions. Vinyl gloves cannot be used with fat or fatty foods. However, they do have skin-friendliness benefits for users who suffer from latex or chemical allergies.
POLYISOPRENE – A SYNTHETIC MATERIAL IN THE FIELD OF DISPOSABLE GLOVES
Polyisoprene is a synthetic rubber. A latex allergy is impossible with polyisoprene. Gloves made of this extremely elastic material are mainly used in the medical field as surgical gloves. They have a particularly cuddly fit and sensitivity.