Your Guide To Nitrile Gloves
Best known for their application in the medical industry, these gloves have quickly become the standard, offering protection from cuts, punctures and chemicals, while simultaneously alleviating worries about allergic reactions common with the latex alternatives. Let's take an in-depth look at nitrile gloves, why they are increasingly in high demand, and what they have to offer you.
What Are Nitrile Gloves?
Nitrile is a synthetic rubber (copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene), whose psychical properties make it resistant to oils and petroleum fuels. The term "nitrile” is the shortened version of Nitrile Butadiene Rubber, or NBR. The acrylonitrile component improves chemical resistance while butadiene creates flexibility and tear resistance. This has made nitrile gloves to be used in multiple industries, gaining prominence in medical and food service applications. In addition -perhaps the attribute which is most famous for- it doesn't contain latex proteins.
The production process is quite intensive, from the assembly line where ceramic glove formers get dipped in a calcium nitrate solution which coagulates on them to provide the desired form. After the calcium nitrate solution dries on the glove former, it is dipped into a nitrile solution, which forms the glove itself. The nitrile solution may include other colour and additives. It's allowed to cure before a burst of air blows the new glove off the glove former. To make the material more slick and increase its strength, the gloves are taken through chlorination, then the glove surface is lubricated by coating with a polymer. The gloves are then checked for quality control, with particular attention going into ensuring that there aren`t any holes or snags in the material. For the cases where the end product desired is a powdered nitrile glove to make it easier to wear, about an eighth of a teaspoon of corn-starch is added inside the glove to act as a lubricant.
Where did it all begin? Nitrile gloves were invented back in the 1980s by Luc DeBecker and Neil Tillitson, and the original patent for the nitrile glove formula was won by the Tillitson Corporation towards the late 1990s. To show their rapid surge in popularity, take the events that unfolded in Malaysia, for instance, where latex gloves had a high portion of the market. During the AIDS epidemic that coursed through Malaysia from the 1980s through to the turn of the 20th century, there was a huge demand for the nitrile gloves. This prompted manufacturing companies to begin producing them in large quantities. Adding fuel to this growth was the increased concerns of latex allergies affecting medical practitioners and their patients. The demand for the nitrile alternative skyrocketed.
The Pinhole Leak Test
This is a common quality control test that the nitrile gloves are taken through during the production process. Basically, a select number of gloves from a batch is filled with water and hung upside down for around two minutes. This is to see if they can hold water. Acceptable quality limits (AQLs), are used to judge the batch. Basically, the AQLs are percentages that indicate how many gloves in a specific batch can pass or fail the test to determine if the entire batch passes/fails. If the batches pass these tests, they are then packed and shipped off to their intended destination.
Nitrile vs Latex Gloves
Just as is with latex gloves, they are also used for medical and industrial applications. Aspects like fitting onto the skin and having a high level of touch sensitivity feature. However, there have been increased complaints over latex allergies, hence the growing preference for nitrile gloves which are made out of synthetic rubber. The nitrile gloves also have a higher puncture resistance compared to the latex alternative. While latex gloves fit onto the hand like a second skin, the improved manufacturing techniques have closed the gap between nitrile and latex in terms of tactile sensation. Then there is the price. With latex, the price is volatile since its core raw material is natural rubber, which is affected by the whims of Mother Nature. Nitrile, on the other hand, is a man-made product hence the production costs are much less volatile, resulting in the stable market price. In fact, this stability has seen NBR being used across the scope, from footwear, sealants, sponges, adhesives, to aeronautical applications, and, of course, the gloves themselves.
Nitrile vs Vinyl Gloves
While both are latex-free, vinyl gloves are mainly used in the food industry where one needs high levels of durability, but protection from infection is not much of a priority. As such, they are suitable for applications involving non-hazardous materials. On the other hand, nitrile gloves can be medical grade, whose main application is in hospital and medical industries. In fact, before they are marketed they have to have undergone a series of tests by the government health regulatory agencies to ascertain their efficacy and durability during use. As such, they work well in high-risk situations when handling infectious material. Vinyl gloves also have a looser fit, unlike nitrile gloves that snugly fit onto your hands. The availability in blue and black colour alternatives also enables one to identify if the glove has been punctured.
The Colour Factor
The gloves come in different colours for you to choose from. Aside from the aesthetic appeal where they livens up bland office spaces, it's also for practical purposes, and to enhance efficiency. Using different colours for the gloves prevents cross-contamination in your facility. For example, those in the food processing industry can have red gloves assigned to areas where raw meat is being handled and green for the lines dealing with already cooked or processed meats. Blue is widely used in poultry processing facilities. By assigning different colours for the different steps, it becomes easy to locate misplaced gloves, and also point out personnel working in the incorrect areas.
As a tradition, blue nitrile gloves are standard in the medical industry, although other colours such as grey, purple and pink gloves are being used as well. The black gloves are used in environments where oil and grime is prevalent- such as automotive applications since they hide dirt, which helps in maintaining that professional look. Tattoo artists also go for black since it doesn`t show the ink stains- keeping their clients from getting worried whenever they look down. The black gloves are also preferred by postal workers and law enforcement agencies. In fact that's one of the pointers used to distinguish them from the medical professionals when responding to emergencies. For the postal workers, the black gloves come in handy when tracing any white powders or residue that turns up as they go about their duties. Orange gloves, on the other hand, are common in mechanical industries where workers may be operating in dark confined spaces. Orange is a high visual colour that aids the workers in knowing where their hands are at all times. This is as a safety measure when you`re dealing with machines where any mishap can result in a serious injury- like a finger getting chopped off. There are no set rules. The colours selected really come down to one's personal preference, and the industry regulations they are operating in.
Benefits Of Nitrile Gloves
Numerous people suffer from latex allergies, and you want to protect the personnel wearing the gloves from getting reactions. Even if the person wearing the glove is not allergic to latex, a patient they are attending to may be, thus the value of switching to nitrile. While on this point, there is a common misconception about powdered nitrile gloves, with some persons thinking they will get latex allergies from using them. First, nitrile is made using synthetic rubber, so that isn't remotely possible. Secondly, what actually occurs is that the cornstarch used with the powder tends to dry in the hands, and the dry hands are then mistaken for a latex allergy.
2. Moulds to your hand
Polymers like acrylics, silicones and hydrogels that are used to coat the gloves have less friction compared to the material of the glove itself, enabling it to slip onto the hand easier. This is the case with non-powdered gloves. The chlorination process that the gloves have been taken through reduces the tackiness of the material, making it softer. The elastic nature of the nitrile gloves themselves give them a great fit, and also provides superb tactile sensitivity. The textured features of the glove further enhances the grip. There are also powdered versions of the nitrile gloves available, where the powder makes it easy to put on and remove the gloves since it absorbs moisture.
3. High puncture resistance
When you`re dealing with sharp needles, you don`t want to take any chances. The high strength attributes of nitrile make it up to 3 to 5 times more puncture resistant compared to latex. The heavy duty nitrile gloves take things a notch higher, and are ideal for automotive, manufacturing, janitorial and plumbing jobs, paint shops, and other heavy duty and industrial applications. This gives you more versatility from the set. The durability also means that the gloves have a long shelf life, thus you can buy in huge packages at a time and lower your costs.
4. Textured for enhanced grip
The design of the nitrile gloves enables them to be used in wet and dry working conditions. There are products available with added palm and finger textures, which improves on grip. This also comes in handy when you`re handling equipment. After all, you don`t want syringes and test tubes slipping out of your hands in the middle of your operations in the hospitals and labs. For the heavy duty gloves, the raised diamond texture aggressively channels away the liquids, providing a superior grip as you deal with the lubricants, solvents, and other chemicals.
5. Can be worn for extended periods
Nitrile alone (NBR) is a fairly rigid material. Processes such as the polymerisation are further carried out to make the low modulus nitrile glove which is softer and more elastic. Some gloves come with Vitamin E or Lanolin, which moisturises your hands while you`re wearing them. There are gloves of varying thicknesses available, depending on the desired need. For someone working in the food processing industry for hours in a day, you want thinner gloves which will mean less sweating or getting tired. On the other hand, for painters and tattoo artists, who operate around more puncture threats, thicker gloves are advised.
6. Protects from infection
This is for the medical grade nitrile gloves, used in hospitals, laboratories, cleanrooms and similar environments where the risk of coming into contact with bodily fluids is high. Numerous professionals across different industries rely on nitrile glove especially when environmental contaminants, plus exposure to bloodborne pathogens are a concern. From nurses, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, laboratory technicians and emergency medical personnel, all through to tattoo artists and even in spas and salons- the gloves protect the wearer from getting infected in these working conditions.
The gloves are also single-use. After all, that's the whole point of disposable nitrile gloves. They can be used, removed and then thrown away without you worrying about contamination. When removing the glove you want to ensure that your skin doesn`t come into contact with the chemicals or contaminants that you`re handling. For this, pinch the outside of the glove (around an inch or two from its top edge inside the wrist), then peel downwards, basically turning the glove inside out, and pull it away until it is off the hand. At this point, you will be holding the inside-out glove with the other gloved hand. Slide the fingers of your gloveless hand under the wrist of the remaining glove, avoiding touching the outside surface, then again peel it downwards from the wrist as you turn it inside-out, and pull it from your hand. Those gloves with a beaded cuff make this process easier. Dispose the two gloves into the proper bin depending on your establishment garbage disposable regulations.
7. High chemical resistance
Did you know that 46% of automotive technicians experience eczema as a result of chemical exposure? As such, chemical resistance is a top priority when it comes to personal protective equipment in the automotive industry. A similar case applies across the scope, as is with janitorial and painting jobs, finishing, and other industrial applications. The heavy duty nitrile gloves come in to protect the wearer from getting affected by the chemicals that are handled on an everyday basis. They act as a thicker barrier of protection from the harsh environments.