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Medical Gloves Buying Guide | How to Buy Medical Gloves | Staples | Business Hub |®

How to Choose the Right Medical Gloves

provided by Medline

Like any healthcare professional, those working in small medical offices know that protection against blood and other bodily fluids is essential for preventing disease and the transmission of illnesses. Medical gloves are one of the first lines of defense.

In general, medical gloves are made of polymers like latex, nitrile rubber, vinyl, neoprene and polyisoprene. Each material has its own strengths and benefits and is best suited for specific types of work. Before you place an order, it’s important to know which type of glove will best meet your needs.


For jobs that require extended wear times, latex exam gloves are a good choice. Latex offers great performance and the best comfort and fit of any glove type. However, some people have allergic reactions to latex, which is a major downside to choosing this material. And latex is weak against some chemicals used in medical and industrial settings. Also worth noting: Latex rubber is a natural product, so fluctuating raw material costs can cause pricing to change rapidly.

Nitrile Rubber

Advances in technology have allowed manufacturers to use nitrile rubber to re-create the feel of a latex glove while eliminating allergy concerns. Nitrile exam gloves have become a go-to alternative partly because they are more puncture- and abrasion-resistant than latex. And because nitrile gloves are also more resistant to chemicals, they are a good choice for tough medical and industrial jobs, or jobs where chemicals are involved.


Vinyl exam gloves are the most cost-effective choice for small medical offices. These gloves excel at short-term jobs where comfort is not a concern, frequent glove changes are required and a basic barrier will suffice. Vinyl gloves have the lowest puncture and chemical resistances.

Vinyl gloves are less elastic than latex and nitrile, so when you choose this type, you sacrifice comfort and fit. That said, manufacturers have made advancements to improve the fit and feel of vinyl gloves, which has allowed multiple generations of them to exist in the market. For example, 3G vinyl (a patented third-generation stretch vinyl) is the most advanced to date.


In the surgical field, you will often find neoprene gloves. This latex-free alternative provides protection from harsh chemicals, acids, solvents, oil, grease and much more, and is another economical choice.


Polyisoprene is a synthetic rubber formulation also found in some surgical gloves. These gloves have the benefit of being nearly identical to latex gloves in terms of fit and feel. When comfort, protection and tactile sensitivity are important, polyisoprene gloves offer an edge over neoprene surgical gloves.

Other Things to Consider When Purchasing Medical Gloves

Beyond the glove’s material, it’s important to consider whether you want the gloves to be powdered or nonpowdered. Powdered gloves have a powder-like substance, such as cornstarch, inserted into the glove to act as a lubricant, making it easier to put them on and take them off. Nonpowdered gloves typically use a polymer coating. The disposable glove industry has been trending away from powdered gloves due to concerns about residue contamination.

You can also find gloves that have a coating of organic aloe to moisturize hands during use. Hand washing and constant glove wearing can cause skin irritation, which sometimes leads healthcare professionals to stop following proper hand-washing procedures. Natural body heat activates the aloe so hands stay soft and smooth throughout the gloves’ use.

An Essential Part of the Uniform

Medical gloves are an essential part of the uniform for many workers in small healthcare offices. Getting the right gloves for the job is critical and can make all the difference in day-to-day work.

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