Natural Rubber (Latex) vs. Nitrile vs. Neoprene gloves

Date: 27.08.2020 | Shing Yee

Natural rubber gloves (a.k.a. latex gloves), nitrile gloves and neoprene gloves, how well do you know about them?

In our previous post we have explained about the difference between disposable gloves and reusable gloves, and we think that it is equally important for our readers to learn more about different types of gloves materials. 

In this blog post we are going to cover the main difference of natural rubber, nitrile and neoprene gloves in terms of their materials, characteristics, protection level as well as usage purpose. 

No worries, we are not going to dive too deep into the technical part in this post ;)

Why is it important for you?

If you are in a gloves business:

It is important for you to understand the difference of these gloves before proceeding to bring in the relevant gloves products to your targeting market.

Imagine this:

You came across with a gloves supplier website and immediately you are being presented with a list of gloves choices with limited information.

You have got no clue about each of them, how should you make your decision which gloves to inquire for?

If you are the end user who are looking for gloves:

Imagine this:

You are standing in front of a sea of gloves, how would you know which type of gloves are suitable for your usage purpose?

If you are a little bit confused with the choices, then you may want to spend a couple of minutes to read this article until the end to find out the difference.

Or you can just scroll to the summary part of the post for an overview with infographic ;)

To be frank, If I were not working in the gloves industry, it might not be possible for me to tell the difference as well.

And maybe I will just end up choosing the gloves based on the packaging design or the gloves color rather than considering the material of the gloves itself.

(i) Natural rubber gloves (a.k.a. Latex gloves)

Let us start with natural rubber gloves, which is made from latex.

Before we start, we would like to share an interesting point with you regarding the terms "latex gloves". And you will understand why in the following writings we are using the term "natural rubber gloves" instead of "latex gloves".

To be precise, "latex" is actually liquid form. And the term "natural rubber" includes all materials that are made from or containing natural latex (eg. natural rubber latex, synthetic latex or synthetic rubber that contains natural rubber in its formulation).

So, latex and natural rubber are materials that exist in two different forms. Latex exist in liquid form, while natural rubber exist in solid form.

And rubber gloves products are formed from natural rubber latex by dipping process.

Hence, even though the industry norm is naming natural rubber gloves as "latex gloves", we still think that it makes more sense to named them as "natural rubber gloves".

wiping mirror with rubber gloves

Materials:

The term “latex” refers to the milky fluid of agricultural origin obtained from the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). It is used to made natural rubber products, and it coagulates (or dry up) when expose to air. 

Our natural rubber gloves are made with premium grade natural latex compound, you might want to take a look here.

Show Me Natural Rubber Gloves

Characteristics:

+ Very soft and flexible resulting in a comfortable glove with good tactile sensitivity for the glove user.

+ High tensile strength (Tensile strength is the ability of a material to withstand a pulling force, gloves with higher tensile strength are more rigid and tough) 

- The proteins that remain in natural latex gloves can result in Type I allergic reactions in those persons who have become sensitized to the natural latex proteins.

Protection level:

+ Very good barrier performance to bacteria and viruses.

- Poor oil, fat and hydrocarbon resistance compared to some synthetic alternatives.

Usage area:

General house chores, eg. dish washing, janitorial cleaning, gardening etc.

(ii) Nitrile gloves 

_DSC5985 edited

Nitrile gloves are available in disposable form as well as reusable form. Some of those examination gloves, surgical gloves,medical gloves etc. are also known as nitrile gloves.

Kindly take note that our nitrile gloves are chemical resistant nitrile gloves, which is totally different from the disposable nitrile gloves.

We have previously written a blog post to clarify about this and you might want to spend a couple minutes to take a read.

For a quick explanation, we have illustrate the difference in the image below:

nitrile gloves

Materials:

Nitrile is a synthetic rubber co-polymer of Acrylonitrile and Butadiene.

Our chemical resistant nitrile gloves are made from specially formulated Acrylonitrile Butadiene compound, you might want to take a look here.

Show Me Chemical Resistant Nitrile Gloves

Characteristics:

+ Higher durability and last longer than natural rubber gloves.

+ Does not contain latex protein, eliminate the chance of developing Type I latex allergy.

(Take note: There are still chances that one will develop Type IV latex allergy even switching to nitrile gloves. We have written a detail article about Type I and Type IV latex allergy, you can take a look here.)

- Lower flexibility compared to natural rubber gloves.

Protection level:

+ Exhibit superior resistance to abrasion, cut and puncture compared with natural rubber gloves.

+ Provides outstanding protection against a wide range of chemicals including strong detergents, greases, oils, most solvents and acids.

Usage area:

Chemical handling, oil refining, automotive industry, printing industry, agriculture etc.

(ii) Neoprene gloves 

NEB2812 Glove Application Photo

Chemical resistant neoprene gloves protect against a very broad range of oils, acids, caustics and solvents. Neoprene offers less resistance to snags, punctures, abrasions and cuts than nitrile or natural rubber. 

Currently we do produce neoprene gloves as well as neoprene blended with natural rubber gloves

Show Me Neoprene Gloves

Materials:

Neoprene also called polychloroprene or chloroprene rubber, it is synthetic rubber produced by the polymerization (or linking together of single molecules into giant, multiple-unit molecules) of chloroprene.

Characteristics:

Neoprene itself resists degradation better than natural rubber (which means these type of work gloves will last longer).

+ Neoprene glove is chemically inert and makes it ideal to withstand petroleum-based mixtures, such as solvents, oils, and greases.

Protection level:

+ Excellent abrasion resistance.

+ Good resistance to most solvents, mild acids, oil and fat.

- Poor resistance to strong oxidizing acids, esters, ketones, chlorinated, aromatic, and nitro hydrocarbons.

- Offers less resistance to snags, punctures, abrasions and cuts than nitrile or natural rubber.

Usage area:

Industrial chemical processing, printing industries, oil refineries, automotive paint shop, pesticides handling, agriculture, environmental waste clean up, general maintenance etc.

Summary

Understand that some of you might prefer an infographic to have a glance at the differences, here you go:

latex nitrile neoprene infographic

Both nitrile gloves and neoprene gloves are good for chemical handling, but it still comes back to the questions such as which kind of chemicals you are going to handle, how long you are going to expose to those chemicals and also what kind of activities you are going to carry out.

And you ask, so how am I going to determine which gloves is better suit for my usage? Any indicator that can guide me to make a decision? 

Yes. You have come to right question and here is the answer: the glove performance pictogram.

Sometimes you will notice that there are stamping at the gloves itself, it is actually an important indicator to tell you about the glove performance.

glove performance

In our previous post, we have talked about EN388, which is the European standard used to evaluate mechanical risks for hand protection.

In that blog post, we guide our readers on how to read the pictogram to determine the glove performance based on 4 main aspects, which are are abrasion resistance, blade cut resistance, tearing strength and puncture strength.

You may want to take a read here

To determine if a glove is a good fit for your needs, other than considering the gloves materials itself, you will also need to look into these 4 main aspects to determine which aspect will be your priority during your usage.

For example, if your usage has more priority on abrasion resistance, then you will need to compare the abrasion resistance readings from different gloves.

A glove with abrasion resistance level 4 certainly performed better in terms of abrasion in comparison to a glove with abrasion resistance level 2.

Generally speaking it is hard to tell which gloves is better than the other, as different gloves manufacturer have different formulation when making the gloves, so it is not a good judgement by purely judging from the type of materials.

It is always better to ask for recommendation from gloves suppliers or sellers if you have specific chemicals to handle, or you are handling specific situation, so that the gloves can provide the best protection to your hands.

Ask For Recommendation

Who are we?

We are a pioneer in the Malaysia rubber glove industry since 1987, specialized in the manufacture of unsupported rubber gloves (Natural Rubber, Nitrile and Neoprene).

With over 30 years of manufacturing experience, we export our gloves to over 50 countries worldwide. Our products are distributed as either personal protective equipment (PPE) for industrial safety or household items for consumer use. 

If you are interested in latex, nitrile or neoprene gloves, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Our gloves specialists will guide you through in selecting the right gloves to fit your market needs.

Reach Out To Us

Do you produce disposable gloves?

We have came across with many inquiries like this but the answer is "No".

We understand that many are looking for disposable gloves nowadays due to the pandemic, but please note that we only produce reusable nitrile gloves, and it is totally different from the single-use nitrile gloves.

We have previously written a piece of content about the difference between reusable gloves and disposable gloves.Take a read here to understand more about it.

If you are looking for single-use or disposable nitrile gloves, you can always check out Malaysia Rubber Gloves Manufacturer Association (MARGMA) website and take a look at the lists of members.

We hope you get to find the right business partner for your gloves product development.

Final thoughts

We hope that this article might help to clarify the difference between latex, nitrile and neoprene gloves.

If you have any question regarding this topic, feel free to reach out to us!

If you find this article useful and would like to see more of them in the future, feel free to subscribe to our newsletters in the link below! 

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