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    Comfort vs. disposable glove protection: should one choose?

    Disposable gloves are primarily work to protect the wearer, products being manufactured or the assays. However, for users who wear disposable gloves all day long, comfort is also paramount. Finally, in a selection process, the price of disposable gloves, which varies according to the properties and quality of the gloves, is an unavoidable criterion that can tip the balance one way or the other.

    So, do you have to choose between comfort and protection with disposable gloves, or can you find a certain balance?

    Find the disposable gloves suitable for your needs with the help of our glove selection guide.

    What are the main comfort criteria for disposable gloves?

    Ease of donning gloves

    One of the first qualities sought by the user is the ease of donning gloves. To this end, gloves can be powdered (with cornstarch powder) or coated (polymer gel). In both cases, the technique reduces glove manufacturing time since there is no glove washing step after production: gloves are packaged directly after they are removed from their moulds; only the inner surface of the glove, i.e., the outer surface when on the mould, could have been washed during manufacturing.

    By reducing manufacturing time, manufacturing costs are also reduced.

    However, these processes have drawbacks. Indeed, not washing the outer surface of gloves after removing them from their moulds can be a source of process contamination by residues. The possible compromise of the sterile barrier formed by the coating can also be a source of allergen release. Gloves manufactured using these two processes are therefore incompatible with activities requiring high glove cleanliness or when reducing allergy risks is targeted.

    It is therefore preferable to favour non-powdered gloves that have undergone one or more treatments with chlorinated water. Indeed, non-powdered "chlorinated" gloves will:

    • Have superior cleanliness qualities (elimination of chemical residues)
    • Be easier to don (hardening of the internal surface to reduce friction)
    • Have better resistance against chemical and biological risks (chlorine action strengthens glove resistance)

    Elasticity and dexterity of gloves

    Two other criteria are important in terms of comfort:

    • Elasticity: This property both provides comfort over the duration of use and prevents tearing while donning, thus reducing glove wastage.
    • Dexterity: Better touch sensitivity and greater flexibility limit fatigue and secure the performance of repetitive tasks.

    The elasticity and dexterity qualities of a glove differ partly due to the inherent properties of the material used:

    • Nitrile: Excellent elongation qualities and low risk of tearing for increased durability. Slightly less flexibility may reduce sensitivity.
    • Natural latex: Fits perfectly to the hand, offering great comfort. High elasticity for better sensitivity and dexterity, reducing hand fatigue.
    • Neoprene: Comfortable, intermediate flexibility between natural latex and nitrile, less suitable for tasks requiring high dexterity.
    • Vinyl: Limited tensile strength and flexibility. Low tear resistance. Less comfortable to wear than nitrile, natural latex, or neoprene gloves. 

    What are the main criteria for disposable glove protection?

    When talking about the protection provided by disposable gloves, one is generally referring to:

    Protection against chemical risks

    According to the terminology of the ISO 374-1:2016+A1:2018 standard, disposable gloves must provide a certain level of hand and forearm protection barrier against chemicals.

    Again, the material used for glove manufacturing is of great importance:

    • Nitrile: Low risk of tearing for optimal and durable protection. High puncture resistance. Good protection against many chemicals but less effective against ketones, aromatic products, and chlorinated solvents.
    • Natural latex: Acceptable protection against water-based chemicals, alkalis, and alcohols. Less effective against organic chemicals, oils, or fats.
    • Neoprene: Excellent tensile strength. High puncture resistance. Protects against oils, acids, but less effective against organic solvents.
    • Vinyl: Limited tensile strength. Low tear resistance. Minimal protection against most chemicals except those based on petroleum or animal fat.

    Material is not the only important factor. Length of cuff and thickness should also be considered:

    Indeed, wearing gloves with a longer cuff ensures better protection of wrists and forearms against splashes.

    Similarly, the thicker the glove, the better it will resist chemical aggression and last over time. This is the case of the SHIELDskin CHEM™ NEO NITRILE™ 300 glove with a thickness of 0.31 mm/12.2 mil.

    So, there is no secret: the thicker and longer the gloves, the better the protection.

    Consult our SHIELD Scientific chemical resistance glove guide to know their breakthrough time for a multitude of chemicals in accordance with the EN 16523-1:2015+A1:2018 standard.

    Protection against biological risks (ISO 374-5:2016 standard)

    This aims to protect glove users from biological agents or microorganisms entering their body. These can be bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It is important to know the level of protection of gloves according to the ISO 374-2:2019 standard, which determines glove resistance to penetration.

    Several elements must be considered in choosing gloves that protect against microbiological risks:

    • AQL (Acceptable Quality Level): The AQL of gloves indicates the level of quality achieved by the gloves in terms of the lack of perforations on a specific quantity of gloves tested per batch of production according to the desired AQL level. The table below shows the number of defective gloves accepted per AQL level for a production batch of 150,000 to 500,000 gloves (which is a typical production quantity):
    SamplesAQL 4.0 or Level 1AQL 1.5 or Level 2AQL 1.0 or Level 2AQL 0.65 or Level 3AQL 0.25 or Level 3
    Number of
    gloves tested
    (Gloves - %)
    (Gloves - %)

    It is noticeable that AQL 4.0 accepts many more defective gloves than AQL 0.25. It is therefore easy to understand that the lower the AQL, the better the protection.

    SHIELD Scientific offers gloves with an AQL of 0.25 thanks to its innovative twinSHIELD™ technology. Based on double dipping during manufacturing, this technology allows for double-layer gloves:

    • White inner layer for softer interior and easier donning for greater comfort for glove users.
    • Coloured outer layer for better recognition of glove protection level according to risk level (green, orange, red for lower risk to higher risk).

    By offering gloves with an AQL of 0.25, SHIELD Scientific achieves one of the strictest levels of requirement.

    • Virus protection: To ensure that a glove protects against viruses, it must successfully pass the test, according to the ISO 16604:2004 standard (Procedure B). This is mandatory for the term "virus" to be featured on its packaging.

    Protection against allergy risks

    Protecting against external aggressions is important, but the protection of users against allergy risks related to the use of disposable gloves must not be neglected.

    Natural rubber latex is often the material known for its allergenic effects. Indeed, natural rubber Latex is known to be the cause of Type I allergies related to proteins, which, although rare in the laboratory and cleanroom markets, can have very serious consequences up to anaphylactic shock.

    It is less known that synthetic rubber gloves like nitrile gloves can also frequently be responsible for allergies, especially Type IV allergies, the most common, related to gloves. Indeed, their manufacturing includes chemical agents such as vulcanization accelerators that can be the cause of these allergies. It is better to choose gloves made without vulcanisation accelerators or with legally controlled chemical content and to consult the manufacturer of the disposable gloves to obtain all the technical data on the accelerators used.

    Find all our articles on allergies related to the use of disposable gloves.

    Protection against contamination

    When talking about protection, the protection of people comes first. In some industries, the product must also be protected (process or work).

    In this case, the main concern is glove cleanliness. The level of requirement and cleanliness criteria differ depending on the type of production environment in which the gloves are worn.

    • In the laboratory:

      The priority is to protect work against contamination risks from impurities or residues of chemical products.

      To achieve this, it is preferable to favour non-powdered/non-coated nitrile or latex gloves. Indeed, these gloves have been washed, once or several times, to make them cleaner. SHIELDskin™ and ecoSHIELD™ Eco Nitrile PF 250 gloves are washed during and after the manufacturing process to achieve a high level of cleanliness.

    • In non-aseptic cleanrooms:

      Cleanliness in cleanrooms consists of controlling the level of particles present in a controlled-atmosphere environment.

      To achieve a high level of cleanliness, cleanroom gloves must undergo successive decontamination steps. SHIELDskin XTREME™ range gloves undergo one or more washing cycles with deionised water (DI water) depending on the required cleanliness level. They are then dried in machines equipped with HEPA filters. Lastly, final inspection and glove packaging are carried out in cleanrooms (ISO Class 5).

    • In aseptic cleanrooms:

      During sensitive pharmaceutical manufacturing, especially injectable products, it is crucial to maintain a clean and aseptic environment (Grade A and B). For this, wearing sterile gloves is recommended, even double gloving. Gloves must undergo sterilisation to eliminate microorganisms that could enter and proliferate within the production area. The commonly used process is sterilisation by Gamma irradiation according to precise radiation dosage and mapping.

    Having the right keys to choose disposable gloves

    Wearing disposable gloves when handling foodstuffs in the agri-food industry or when manufacturing vaccines in the pharmaceutical industry is as essential as when handling chemicals or biological substances in the laboratory.

    There are countless models and types of gloves. But not all gloves are the same: cuff length, thickness, colour, material, manufacturing process, finish, standards, etc. may all vary. And above all, not all disposable gloves offer the same comfort or protection properties.

    Comfort, which is often the number one criterion for users, should not outweigh the essential: PROTECTION. Therefore, one must begin by properly assessing one's needs regarding their use to define specific priority levels in terms of comfort and protection. Then, ensure the quality of the gloves from the manufacturer by requesting the mandatory documentation (CE or UK Declaration of Conformity, Module B Certificates, Certificates of Irradiation, etc.) and any technical documents that guarantee the desired properties (ESD, ISO certificates, Carbon footprint, test results against certain chemicals, etc.). 

    When choosing a glove, it is important to find the right balance, without compromising the safety of the user, product, or process.

    Contact a distributor or request to be contacted by a SHIELD Scientific expert to assist you in selecting disposable gloves for laboratory or cleanroom use tailored to your needs.

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