Which is Better 4 vs. 6 Mil Nitrile Gloves? You Know Now

4 vs. 6 Mil Nitrile Gloves

The most common material used to make non-latex gloves is nitrile, synthetic rubber.

It is an excellent material for developing disposable gloves.

Besides, Many customers prefer nitrile gloves due to their extreme durability and puncture resistance. [1]

Furthermore, nitrile gloves have a longer shelf life than latex and vinyl alternatives.

As they are suitable for a wide range of applications, it is crucial to figure out how to choose the right one.

In particular, there are plenty of suppliers and brands on the market.

Which one of these gloves is perfect for my task? Well, there are a lot of factors to consider before purchasing a pair of gloves. 

We should always first determine the kind of job before choosing. Then, focus on the glove’s material, size, thickness, etc.

Don’t worry… We will explain each point in detail.

However, the glove thickness element will be the main topic of this article.

Besides, you will find plenty of other important information considering disposable Nitrile gloves.

So, take a deep breath.

Go make yourself a cup of tea, or maybe coffee.

All you have to do now is relax and try to read slowly.

Hopefully, you will find it enjoyable.

Let’s start with the first question.

Is a glove’s thickness important?

Of course, it is.

Any glove’s thickness has a profound effect on the kinds of jobs it can handle. [2]

It is particularly crucial when using nitrile gloves, which are best known for their durability. And after that, you have to find the ideal balance between protection and dexterity.

A thin glove is cheaper to produce since it requires less material.

It also improves tactile sensitivity, essential for tasks requiring extreme precision. But, a thick glove consumes more material, making it much stronger. 

In the case of nitrile, a glove is even more puncture and chemical-resistant.

Finally, the thickness of any disposable glove is measured in mil. 

What is Mil?

It is sometimes confused with a millimeter (mm), or even a milliliter (ml), which is a volume measurement.

However, It is a unit of thickness equal to one-thousandth (.001) of an inch.

In other words, 1 mil = 0.001” gauge.

To clarify this point, a glove of 2 mils and below is considered thin, while gloves above 2 mils are generally considered thicker.

Which nitrile glove thickness should I use for my job?

When it comes to glove thickness, it’s not as simple as picking the highest number. 

Because the thickest nitrile gloves are not always the best choice for every application.

As we mentioned before, different industries depend on different glove thicknesses.

What applications are there for every nitrile glove thickness?

Here are some examples of how each glove thickness can be properly used: 

  •  3 Mil

Gloves with a thickness of 3 mils or less are appropriate for jobs that do not require extensive chemical or hazardous material protection.

They are preferred for applications requiring frequent glove changes, such as food service, painters, tattoo artists, and beauty salons.

Besides, healthcare workers usually wear 3 to 5 mils gloves.

Dentists and doctors must use a glove that is thick enough to withstand punctures but still thin enough to retain tactile sensitivity. [3]

  •  4 Mil

Gloves in the 4 mils to 5 mil range are reliable for a wide range of applications.

For example, they can be used for a medical or dental examination, food preparation, and some light industrial work, or after-work cleanup.

  • 6 Mil

They are for situations where you need more protection against tears or will be handling chemicals for longer periods.

For instance, personnel can wear them in cleanrooms, the sanitation sector, and other high-risk environments.

  • 8 Mil

Gloves in 8 mils and above are rated for heavy-duty and general-purpose tasks.

For example, they can be used for automotive and general maintenance.

Let’s focus on the differences between 4 and 6-mil nitrile gloves.

Which is thicker, a 4 or 6 mil glove?

As we mentioned before, mil is equal to one-thousandth of an inch. 

An inch is about the width of an average human hair.

And we said that 1 mil equals 0.001” gauge.

So simply, 6 mils thick would be 0.006”, which is thicker than 0.004” in 4 mils. This leads us to the point that 6 mil gloves are thicker than 4 mils.

What are the other features of each 4 mils and 6 mil glove?

  • 4 mil nitrile gloves

These gloves have excellent strength and puncture resistance, as well as a high level of tactile sensitivity.

  • 6 mil nitrile gloves

These gloves have higher puncture resistance and provide better protection.

Moreover, they are usually textured, increasing the gloves’ gripping capability.

These textures differ in their manifested style, such as grain, diamond shape, or fish scale.

Can I use a 4 or 6 mil disposable nitrile glove for the same job?

To be honest, this depends on the task that requires using a glove.

But, we can list each thickness and some potential uses.

4 mil nitrile gloves applications 

  • Medical examination
  • Dental treatments
  • Tattooing 
  • Salon Services
  • Child care and senior care
  • Food processing
  • Food and Beverage Service
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Law enforcement
  • Light duty maintenance

6 mil nitrile gloves applications 

  • Laboratory analysis 
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Janitorial and sanitation
  • Electronics light applications
  • Manufacturing and technical work
  • Automotive maintenance
  • Automotive Repair

Is it true that 4 and 6-mil nitrile gloves are only available in blue? 

No, not.

Yes, they are typically manufactured in blue.

Because nitrile disposable gloves have become well-known for their blue color.

However, there are other favorable shades that clients demand.

Thus, they are also available in black, green, and orange.

Notably, all these colored gloves have the same physical properties and quality.

For example, there is no difference between black 4 mil and blue 4 mil thick gloves.

Also, the same can be said for 6 mil thick gloves.

Then, why are there different colored gloves?

It is essential to realize that nitrile gloves are not color-coded for the sake of fashion. [4]

They can be color-coded to help distinguish glove sizes. 

Furthermore, this helps reduce the risk of cross-contamination, in particular with double gloves.

In other words, If you need extra protection, you could wear a double layer of nitrile gloves with a bright color underneath. 

This way, if a cut or puncture occurs, the bright color becomes visible, alerting you to a problem.

Therefore, it may lead to increased productivity and aid safety in the workplace.

Yet, some colors seem more associated with specific jobs, such as white in hospitals, orange with mechanics, and black in kitchens.

But these are not the only uses for them.

Are there any other nitrile glove thickness levels?

The thickness of disposable nitrile gloves commonly ranges from 4 to 15 mils.

Gloves with a lower gauge allow for more excellent dexterity and flexibility. And those with a higher gauge offer more excellent durability but less flexibility.

In other words, thinner nitrile gloves as 4 mils provide greater tactile sensitivity.

Thicker gloves, such as 6 mil nitrile gloves, on the other hand, perform better in puncture or tear risk. 

How is glove thickness determined? 

Well, this is a little bit tricky.

When buying a glove, remember that the thickness measurements can vary greatly depending on which part of the glove is measured.

Since gloves are made by immersing them in a dipping tank that is filled with liquid material. [5]

This process is done with the fingers of all gloves pointing down.

Gravity then does its job.

As gloves dry, the solution is pulled downward. 

For this reason, fingertips are always the thickest part of the glove.

For example, a thickness measurement taken from the fingertips will always be much thicker than a measurement taken on the palm of the glove.

Because of this, it is better to measure the palm of the glove.  Unfortunately, not every factory or seller does this.

Some manufacturers admit that the advertised glove thickness on their site or pack is the fingertip thickness.

The most used area in our hands is the fingertips.

For example, a dentist enters his fingers inside the patient’s mouth, not all of his hands.

Therefore, those manufacturers are considering how gloves are used in the real world.

Again, they see that fingers are the most vulnerable part of the hand and need more protection than any other area.

But if we reevaluate this concept, we will discover that handling tools typically involves grabbing them with your fingers and then letting them rest in your palm.

For instance, a chef wants to use his knife, so he has to use his palm.

For this reason, they announce the fingertips rather than the whole glove thickness.

As they are more susceptible to punctures and tears.

The issue is not in this situation. 

In reality, we live in a world with a huge market and an invading internet.

Then, you may notice some brands with not much credibility advertising for X number of glove thickness.

How can you be sure if that thickness is only for fingertips?

Because of this, always purchase from a trusted, well-known seller or website.

Now, aren’t you a little curious about how gloves are made in various thicknesses?

Then, let’s dig into the next question.

At what stage would the glove’s thickness develop?

Unlike latex, rubber gloves are made of synthetic materials.

Nitrile Butadiene Rubber, or NBR, is the raw material used in nitrile gloves.

NBR contains butadiene and acrylonitrile.

Acrylonitrile improves glove chemical resistance, while Butadiene improves glove flexibility and tear resistance.

Despite this difference, the rest of the manufacturing process is nearly identical to latex gloves. 

The glove manufacturing process is divided into several levels. [6]

So, the main steps of the manufacturing process are as follows: 

  • Cleaning process
  • Dipping process
  • Per – Leaching process
  • Vulcanization process
  • Post – Leaching process
  • Slurry dipping
  • Stripping out
  • Quality Check

In the gloves-making process, the hand-shaped molds are driven throughout the entire process on a production line.

These molds are made of ceramic, aluminum, or plastic, capable of withstanding high temperatures.

The thickness of the glove developed at the very beginning of the process.

Specifically during the second step of the second level.

So, when the cleaning process is complete, the dipping process begins. 

It goes through two main steps:

  • Apply the first coat
  • Appling the synthetic latex coating

At this point, the mil thickness of the gloves depends on the duration of the dipping time.

So again, to fully explain the previous sentence,

The 6 mil nitrile gloves are thicker than the 4 mils because the former is dipped into the solution for a more extended period than the latter.

Remember when we talked about the method for calculating a glove measurement?

And how could the fingertips of a glove be thicker than the wrist?

The variation in thickness within a single glove is probably due to how they are dipped during manufacturing.

For this reason, when deciding between gloves, it’s essential to be cautious when analyzing specification sheets, as they are not always an accurate comparison.

What exactly is a glove gauge?

The measurement of glove thickness is either given in mils or gauge.

The term “gauge” simply refers to how many stitches are used in an inch of a specific glove. [7]

These stitches are the “lines” that run from the fingers of the glove to the cuff. 

Then, as the number of stitches increases, so does the gauge.

An inch is 25,4 millimeters (mm) in European measurements. One mil equals 0.0254 mm (millimeter).

For example, a glove that is 7 gauge would be a pretty thick, coarse glove constructed with thick yarn.

 An 18 gauge glove would be a thinner, more form-fitting glove constructed with relatively thin yarn. 

The bottom line, the glove will get thicker as the number goes down and thinner as the number goes up.

So, what is the point of understanding glove gauge?

Because it is used to measure the thickness of the threads used to make the gloves.

As we explained, this affects the glove’s thickness.

Thus, the finer the stitch, the higher the gauge of the glove.

This means that the glove’s dexterity is improved, it offers a firm grip, and tactile sensation is also present.

On the other hand, as the gauge decreases, the glove becomes thicker, resulting in decreased dexterity. 

For this reason, a glove with a high gauge is ideal for light work and precise handling, while a low gauge offers excellent resistance for heavy work.

This will assist you in selecting the appropriate glove for the task. 

How do you choose the right nitrile glove?

As we previously mentioned, there are a lot of factors to consider before buying your pair of gloves.

Since we talked about the thickness and its influence, you already know this is one of those factors.

But the first one is not the thickness of the gloves.

The following are the most important elements to consider: [8]

  • Industrial or Medical grade glove

First, you have to determine the kind of job you have and whether you work in a place where contamination is a risk or not.

Nitrile gloves are classified into two grades: industrial and medical.

Medical grade, also referred to as ‘Exam’ grade, is the best nitrile glove for those working in a medical setting.

They provide a higher degree of protection against blood-borne pathogens or contaminants in the environment.

These are also used in dental practices, hospitals, surgeries, and laboratories.

The second one is ideally suited to situations with frequent handling of chemicals and solvents.

Industrial-grade nitrile gloves are usually used by workers in the janitorial, food, and automotive industries.

They offer high levels of puncture and chemical resistance. 

Besides, some gloves are anti-static, making them perfect for those who work with machinery or electronics.

  • The Size of a glove

Disposable Nitrile gloves are available in various sizes, ranging from XS to 2XL. 

Furthermore, you should always be sure of your appropriate size to avoid glove ripping. 

Based on the size chart presented by each brand, you can get an idea of what kind of glove sizes you should buy.

But how can you be certain that your size will fit perfectly? 

Well, identifying the proper glove size is simple.

The width of your hand usually determines the size.

Then, excluding your thumb, measure around your hand at its widest point, which is the knuckle area, using a tape measure.

Remember to take measurements with your dominant hand.

To get a more accurate measurement, try measuring the distance between the tip of your middle finger and the base of your hand.

Another thing to remember is that the length and width may not be a perfect match for everyone.

However, the question is: Does the glove’s thickness affect its size?

Is there a difference between 4 and 6-mil nitrile glove sizes?

There is no evidence of any influence between the size and thickness of gloves.

In other words, it wouldn’t matter if an extra-large hand tried to force its way into a large glove if the gloves were 6 mils or 4 mils thick.

The manufacturing production line has standard molds for each size, regardless of thickness.

  • Thickness and Color

As we stated above in more detail, the influence of gloves’ thickness and their color on your job.

Now it is up to you to determine which nitrile glove is sufficient for you.

  • Powdered or Powder-free gloves 

Powdered gloves are helpful in some settings, as this powder absorbs moisture, making them easier to remove.

Powdered gloves have thus become a popular choice for those who work in industries where gloves must be worn and removed frequently. 

However, the powder can also come with its problems. 

As revealed, when powdered gloves are removed, they can leave a residue, which can be a little messy.

In this instance, they are less suitable in sterile, cleanroom, or food handling environments due to contamination from powder residues.

Besides, it can increase the risk of allergic reactions, also known as contact dermatitis.

On the other hand, powder-free gloves are coated with a chlorinated or polymer finish to make it easy to put on and take off gloves without leaving any traces behind.

  • Specific features for unique tasks

Some nitrile gloves have anti-static features to ensure that those wearing them do not build up static charge while dealing with low amounts of electrostatic discharge (ESD).

However, the thinner nitrile products do not meet the standards set out in the EN1149 series.

As a result, nitrile gloves should not be used when working with live electrics.

As they may get punctured, the wearer would be exposed to the shock, which could cause severe injury.

What is EN 1149?

The EN ISO 1149 standard is adapted for protective clothing but is also used to test the electrostatic properties of protective gloves. [9]

Nitrile gloves have better chemical resistance than latex or natural rubber, which is why they are the preferred choice.

They have good resistance to gasoline, kerosene, and many petroleum solvents, as well as ethanol, isobutyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and methanol.

However, it is always advisable to check their suitability before using them for any of these applications.

Because different thicknesses provide different levels of protection.

Finally, it is recommended that you use an industrial-grade glove rather than a medical glove for better protection.

Taking extreme precautions when selecting personal protective equipment (PPE) for work with chemicals such as acids is critical because improper protection could lead to harm.

In all cases, it would be better if you sought expert advice on the suitability of any particular application.

  • Align with your Budget 

For lightweight jobs that don’t require a lot of chemicals or hazardous material protection, gloves with a thickness of 3 mils or less are usually sufficient.

A thin glove is cheaper to produce since it requires less material and improves tactile sensitivity.

This implies such applications as janitorial, food service, beauty, and salon, or handling simple things.

Not every application calls for the use of the thickest nitrile gloves.

Gloves in the 4 to 6 mil range are more appropriate for medium-weight applications such as industrial use or working with tools and machinery.

However, for heavy-duty applications, such as automotive repair, you need gloves that are 8 mils or thicker.

They are more durable and offer more robust barrier protection.

This means fewer rips or tears because these gloves are made to withstand extended durations of use.

As a result, they are a better financial value because users will not have to change their gloves as frequently. 

Glove Standards & Regulations

Nitrile gloves are inspected and rated for either industrial or medical use, as we mentioned.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of regulating medical-grade nitrile disposable gloves.  

FDA guidelines ensure gloves have a minimum level of protection to be used in a medical setting.

Moreover, the tests involve checking for strength and durability without sacrificing tactile sensitivity.

There is also the Acceptable Quality Level or AQL.

AQL is a sampling technique the international industry uses to determine whether a product is free of pinholes when checked underwater.

Therefore, a lower AQL number represents a higher quality and more expensive glove.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for the client to be sure whether the manufacturer achieves the standard AQL levels for every glove in the pack.

All medical grade gloves meet the AQL 1.5 CE Class 1 Medical Grade standard and the BS EN 455 standard. 

The EN 455 series of standards refers to medical glove testing, including visual defects, force at break strength, and freedom from holes. 

While the EN420, EN374, and EN388 standards determine the PPE requirements for chemical and mechanical handling, 

Please be aware that exam gloves can be used for industrial applications, but not the other way around.

Final Notes

The fact is that rubber gloves have become the most popular type, resulting in increased demand for the product. 

The global nitrile gloves market was estimated at USD 8.76 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7% from 2022 to 2030. [10]

As a result, you can see how large the market is with multiple brand names. 

So, to obtain high-quality products, always purchase protective gloves from trusted and well-known sellers.

 Finally, if you’re only going to do one thing, it should be doing a lot of big, fat research.

Stay happy and protected.

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