Lab gloves are one of the most vital elements of personal protective equipment in a laboratory.
With the pandemic hitting every door in the past few years, why not the laboratory doors?
Lab gloves have been more popular than ever, especially with COVID-19, vaccines, and testing.
And to be honest, that’s on everyone’s side because they are tremendously significant in hand protection against many risks.
The word “laboratory” doesn’t indicate one standard place for experiments.
To illustrate, there are diagnostic labs, microbiology labs, research labs, pharmaceutical labs, quality control and analytical labs, and chemical labs.
Therefore, deciding on the best lab gloves is a pretty challenging job.
If you wonder about lab gloves, why they are essential, and their types, this article is for you.
We will happily take you on a journey to learn more about lab gloves and how to choose the best ones for your needs.
Why lab gloves are necessary?
Nevertheless, injuries are usually avoidable, and lab gloves can reduce hand injuries greatly. (3)
Whether you’re working in a diagnostic, chemical, or biotechnological laboratory, lab gloves are an imperative part of the process; they shield you against many hazards and keep your work safe and effective.
Let’s find out why you need to wear lab gloves.
Lab gloves protect against chemicals
You’ll be surrounded by chemicals, solvents, and solutions in chemical laboratories.
Moreover, some chemicals can be easily absorbed through the skin and cause harmful effects, such as dimethyl sulfoxide nitrobenzene and methyl ethyl ketone.
Whether you are performing an experiment or handling solutions, there’s always a risk of splashes and spills that can harm your skin.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “Lab Standard,” lab gloves are required when handling chemicals.
When wearing lab gloves, you create a barrier between your hands and the harmful chemicals, thereby protecting your hands against the absorption of chemicals and chemical burns.
And if one thing leads to another and there is an accidental spill, gloves give you the time to deal with it immediately without worrying about your hands.
Lab gloves protect against extreme temperatures
Chemical and thermal burns are common in laboratory settings.
That’s because in labs, sometimes you work with flames and remove hot objects from autoclaves and drying ovens.
Moreover, you can handle extremely cold materials like liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and other cryogens.
Wearing suitable lab gloves keeps your hands safe against any extreme temperature.
Lab gloves protect against infections
Medical and diagnostic laboratories are designed to test human samples to learn more about their health, medical conditions, etc.
You’ll be working with blood, blood-borne pathogens, and bodily fluids such as urine, stools, saliva, and different secretions, in addition to microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
So, if you don’t take the proper precautions, your chances of getting infected are high.
Laboratory-acquired infections are common, and lab gloves are an indispensable part of the infection control strategy to reduce infections and cross-contamination.
According to OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standards, gloves must be worn when there’s a blood exposure risk.
This occurs whenever patient specimens are handled, tested, or moved.
Gloves create a barrier to protect against blood-borne pathogens and other microorganisms, thereby preventing infections and diseases.
Furthermore, laboratory technicians who do not use gloves are at a significantly greater risk of infection.
Lab gloves protect against cuts and punctures
Cuts and punctures are the most common type of injury in laboratories, accounting for approximately 30% of all laboratory injuries. (6)
Laboratories have sharp tools, glassware, and needles.
Accidental breaking of glassware or mishandling of any sharp tool may cause your hands to be severely injured.
What’s more, when your hands are injured, cracked, or cut, this increases your hands’ susceptibility to being hurt even further by chemicals and microorganisms.
Therefore, lab gloves are used to protect against cuts, lacerations, and punctures.
Lab gloves protect the scientific process
As a researcher in a microbiology lab, your samples are your babies, and you want to ensure they have everything they need to grow and get you the desired result.
Whether you’re working to get results for patients or a researcher working on gram-stained slides or agar plates with bacteria or fungi, you should treat and handle them with gloves until they’re correctly discarded.
To explain, according to OSHA, lab gloves should be used in microbiology labs when handling plates, placing and removing them from an incubator, and even when reading this culture to prevent contamination.
This protects the scientific process and protects the samples from contamination and the researchers, as there is a high risk of exposure when working with bacteria or fungus colonies.
Lab gloves are essential in all sorts of laboratories.
Not only do they protect against infections, chemicals, and chemical burns, but they also protect against physical risks such as extreme temperatures, punctures, cuts, and tears.
Moreover, they protect the scientific process by ensuring your results are accurate, reliable, and void of contamination.
Now that you understand how essential lab gloves are let’s see what types of lab gloves are out there.
Types of lab gloves:
Lab gloves are classified according to their purpose and the protection they provide as follows:
- Heat-resistant lab gloves
- Cryogenic lab gloves
- Chemical-resistant labs glove
- Antimicrobial lab gloves.
- Cut-resistant lab gloves
Let’s go through each type.
Heat-Resistant lab Gloves
In laboratories, heat-resistant lab gloves protect you against burns and high temperatures from ovens, autoclaves, and flames.
What’s more, they come in a variety of materials that offer a wide range of heat protection, as follows:
- Low-heat resistant gloves (terry cloth and leather) 450°F (232°C)
- Medium-heat resistant gloves (silicone) 450°F (232°C)–540°F (282°C)
- High-heat resistant materials (aramid fibers) at 800°F (430°C) and aluminized gloves at 2,000°F.
Cryogenic lab gloves
Cryogenic lab gloves protect the hands when handling extremely cold materials down to -300 °F, such as when working in blood banks or in labs and handling things like liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and other cryogens.
They’re typically made of cryogenic-resistant materials like leather.
You must also know that you cannot use cryogenic gloves at high temperatures or vice versa because they can melt, putting your hand at risk.
Both cryogenic and heat-resistant gloves cannot handle hazardous chemicals, so make sure you don’t use them for this purpose so you don’t get harmed.
Antimicrobial lab gloves
Moreover, they fight infections and antimicrobial resistance.
Therefore, when used in the lab, they reduce the risk of cross-contamination between different samples, ensuring that your experiments and cultures’ results are accurate and reliable.
For all of these reasons, the use of anti-microbial gloves in microbiology labs and research has recently increased.
Cut-resistance lab gloves
Cut-resistance lab gloves protect against sharp objects, broken glassware, and abrasive surfaces.
They are made of various materials as follows:
- Coated fabric gloves are made of cotton with a latex, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC coating.
- Leather gloves
- Metal mesh gloves
Chemical-resistant lab gloves
Different chemicals affect human skin and, of course, gloves in different ways.
In other words, some chemicals may only cause minor irritations, while others can cause severe damage or even burns.
Similarly, some materials can handle certain chemicals while others will perform poorly against them.
As a result, it’s critical to read the Safety Data Sheets (SDS), computability charts, and manufacturer’s labels for specific chemicals or hazardous materials and the manufactured gloves.
Now let’s go through some of the most common materials used for lab gloves.
What are lab gloves made of?
Latex Lab gloves
They are the most comfortable gloves you can put your hand into; they fit like a second skin with excellent grip and high tactile and touch sensitivity, so you can easily control the equipment and tools.
What’s more, they offer incredible protection against viruses and pathogens.
For all these reasons, latex lab gloves are the traditional lab gloves widely used in various laboratories to perform standard procedures and for incidental contact.
If you’re looking for high-quality latex gloves, click here.
However, latex gloves have some limitations, such as poor performance against organic solvents and lower chemical resistance.
Moreover, they may cause an allergic reaction in certain people; therefore, they are not suitable for everyone.
Additionally, they offer less puncture and are heat resistant.
So, they are not the best option for using sharp tools, abrasive surfaces, and flames.
Nitrile lab gloves
Made from the acrylonitrile-butadiene polymer, nitrile gloves are probably the best choices you can get for your lab.
To explain, they provide almost the same dexterity and touch sensitivity as latex gloves. but minus the allergic reactions.
Moreover, textured nitrile gloves have even more enhanced grip and sensitivity.
Moreover, nitrile lab gloves have excellent resistance to cuts, snags, punctures, and abrasions, in addition to superior chemical and anti-microbial protection.
They can protect against infections and prevent cross-contamination.
Furthermore, they withstand fuels, petroleum products, oil, organic solvents, chlorinated solvents, acids, bases, and caustics, to name a few.
Additionally, they are more durable than other gloves and can be used for incidental and extended contact.
For all these reasons, nitrile gloves are the standard choice for lab gloves in most laboratories.
If you want the best nitrile gloves for your laboratory, Click here!
Vinyl lab gloves
Vinyl gloves are soft, comfortable, and easy to put on and take off.
To explain, they have higher leakage and permeability to viruses than other types of gloves. (7)
So, you may use them for routine tasks that don’t involve blood or fluid contact.
Vinyl gloves offer good chemical resistance against chemicals such as ammonium hydroxide, ethylene glycol, potassium hydroxide, and citric acid.
However, they do not offer excellent resistance to many chemicals; many scientists recommend using them in low-risk tasks and non-hazardous environments.
Furthermore, because they are frail, their effectiveness is also affected by hot temperatures and can be easily beaten by harsh chemicals.
Additionally, they can get loose quickly as they are less elastic than both latex and nitrile, which can compromise the tight fit of the gloves required for precise experiments, hence compromising the protection needed.
Neoprene gloves offer exceptional protection against environmental factors in addition to high temperatures.
They’re strong and durable, with unmatched tear resistance and excellent heat resistance.
Moreover, their chemical and wear resistance are superior to other types of synthetic rubber.
They protect against hydraulic fluids, aliphatic solvents, gasoline, alcohol, organic and inorganic acids, and alkalis.
Neoprene lab gloves are the best choice for prolonged contact and chemical immersion.
Butyl rubber gloves
Butyl gloves are durable, that doesn’t absorb chemicals and have extraordinary resistance to a wide range of chemicals, such as
- Highly corrosive and concentrated acids
- Strong bases such as barium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide
- Alcohols and aldehydes
- Ketones and esters
- Nitro compounds
- Amine derivatives
What’s more, they resist oxidation, ozone corrosion, and abrasion.
Amazingly, they’re very thick and always have long sleeves for extra protection.
Additionally, they have the highest permeation resistance to gases and water vapors.
For all the reasons listed above, butyl gloves are the most common type of gloves to be used when extremely high levels of protection are needed. (Level A PPE)
Viton gloves are made of fluoroelastomer, providing the most chemical resistance of all rubber gloves.
To explain more, they have excellent chemical resistance to fuels, highly corrosive chemicals, aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, as well as chlorinated solvents. but they are poor against ketones.
However, they are costly and primarily designed to handle extremely hazardous chemicals, such as carcinogenic or highly toxic chemicals.
Norfoil lab gloves
They are made of ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymers and are also known as “silver shield” gloves.
Moreover, they are thin, lightweight, and offer good flexibility.
Amazingly, these gloves are resistant to over 280 chemicals, including alcohols, aliphatic, aromatics, chlorines, ketones, and esters.
However, they are not used alone because they have a poor fit; you can wear heavier nitrile gloves over them for better dexterity.
What’s more, they are not common in an ordinary lab, but you can find them in hazardous chemical, radioactive, and ionizing materials handling.
However, PVA gloves cannot be used in water or water-based solutions.
This type of lab glove degrades quickly when exposed to light alcohol.
Now that you know all about the different types and materials of lab gloves let’s see how you should choose the best lab gloves.
How to choose the best lab gloves?
Did you know that around 30% of those with hand injuries wore the wrong type of gloves?
This tells us that selecting the right glove type is as essential as wearing gloves themselves.
because even small changes might affect how much they will protect you.
Finding the right lab gloves can be overwhelming.
Let’s review some of the most important factors to consider when selecting your lab gloves.
Here are 10 factors to consider:
Purpose of the lab glove.
Perhaps this is the most critical question to answer before getting your lab gloves.
What type of laboratory will you use them in, and what hazards do you expect those lab gloves to protect you against?
For example, will you need chemical-resistant gloves while working in a chemistry lab? In this case, nitrile gloves are your favorite lab buddy.
Meanwhile, if you are working with drying ovens, autoclaves, and flames, you may consider a pair of heat-resistant lab gloves.
Also, thermal and cryogenic gloves will be your best option for extremely cold materials.
Incidental vs. Extended contact
Will the experiments you perform require things like the total immersion of your hand in a solution? Does this chemical have the potential to cause splashing, spills, etc.?
Incidental contact is when you have little or no direct contact with hazardous materials.
For example, when you have accidental spills, drips, splashes, or oversprays or when handling infectious agents and preventing the contamination of the samples.
If you want high-quality, highly chemical-resistant nitrile gloves, click here.
Extended contact is when your contact with the hazardous material is more than an accidental, brief contact.
- Handling highly contaminated materials
- Immersing your hands in a chemical or hazardous material
- Needing protection from temperature extremes or sharp and piercing objects.
Moreover, incidental contact with corrosives, carcinogens, toxins, radioactive materials, or any material that can easily penetrate the skin is considered high-risk exposure and falls under the “extended contact” category.
In the event of prolonged contact, more protective types, such as thicker nitrile gloves, norfoil, or butyl gloves, may be required.
Therefore, you should consult the glove manufacturer’s chemical resistance chart and compare this to your risk.
You may also want to consider some factors, such as:
It’s the time between the initial contact of the material on the gloves’ surface and the detection of the material inside the gloves.
A lab glove that holds up for more than 8 hours is excellent.
The rate at which the test chemical passes through the gloves once a breakthrough happens.
This involves the chemical’s absorption, migration, and de-absorption into the glove.
This is the physical change of the gloves caused by contact with a contaminant.
This includes but is not limited to swelling, shrinking, hardening, stiffening, cracking, etc., of the glove material.
It indicates how well the gloves can hold up when exposed to certain materials.
Lab gloves’ length:
Do you need just to protect your hands and fingers, or must you also protect your forearms or even your full arm?
Accordingly, you might want to look for gloves with extra-long sleeves.
Lab gloves over 14 inches offer extra protection against splashes and immersion.
Lab glove thickness:
Thinner, lighter gloves offer better sensitivity and flexibility but may be less protective with short breakthrough times.
On the other hand, thicker gloves mean more protection and longer breakthrough times, but they also mean less dexterity and touch sensitivity and more hand fatigue and overheating.
Therefore, you must select a glove that can protect you and help you do your tasks precisely and easily.
People recommend using the double-gloving technique with less compatible material when you can’t achieve fine dexterity with the needed protective gloves.
For instance, using nitrile gloves over silver shield gloves improves dexterity.
Lab glove grip:
You may need to work in the laboratory with fine tools and delicate subjects such as glassware.
It wouldn’t be the greatest thing in the world if the flask containing your chemicals or the plate with your specimen slipped out of your hand because you’re wearing slippery lab gloves.
Additionally, determining the work environment can help a lot with selecting your gloves.
Will you be working in wet, dry, or oily conditions?
Lab gloves should offer you protection, dexterity, and tactile sensitivity; this can be found in textured nitrile gloves.
You can find textured nitrile gloves suitable for your laboratory here.
Sterile Vs. non-sterile lab gloves
Sterile gloves are usually used in medical and research laboratories in procedures where a high risk of contamination is expected.
working with biological samples, tissues, and cultures, for example.
However, non-sterile gloves are usually used in standard laboratory settings with low risk of infection and contamination.
If you’re looking for sterile lab gloves, check this out!
Powder vs. Powered free lab gloves
Using powdered gloves in medical settings was very popular because it made donning and doffing gloves much more manageable.
However, they are no longer preferred due to several health problems and allergies associated with the powders.
Moreover, powders can interfere with some chemicals and biological reactions and mess with your results.
So, powder-free gloves are much better for lab gloves, and you can find high-quality powder-free gloves here.
Additionally, if you’re concerned about latex allergies, you might want to consider some alternatives, such as:
If you have sensitive skin, you might want to take a look at the Alo-Vera nitrile gloves.
Reusable Vs. Disposable lab gloves
Disposable lab gloves are usually thin (4–8 mils), giving them better sensitivity for standard laboratory procedures.
Moreover, they are the best for incidental contact but unsuitable for extended contact, highly toxic or infectious materials, hazardous materials, or harsh chemicals.
Therefore, they can be used for both extended and incidental contact.
Size and comfort
Choosing too-tight gloves will cause you fatigue and overheating, and you may not be able to perform your tasks effectively.
What’s more, it will be overstretched, which will compromise the gloves’ barrier and hence make them less effective.
On the other hand, if your gloves are too loose, they may get entangled with your tools and equipment, making your hands feel clumsy, making work more difficult, and compromising your protection.
Therefore, choosing the right size is a crucial element when selecting your lab gloves.
It doesn’t only keep you comfortable but also increases compliance with wearing gloves.
Because they make you feel at ease, like you are not wearing anything,
Use the manufacturer’s size chart to choose an appropriate fit.
Choosing a high-quality lab glove is an essential part of your selection process.
Poor-quality lab gloves can affect your lab’s efficiency and safety and can put you and your workers at risk of injuries or exposure to contamination.
The higher the quality of your gloves, the more confident your employees will be when using them.
Choosing the wrong gloves can cost you a lot regarding effectiveness, health, safety, and, therefore money.
The most crucial aspect when choosing lab gloves is to consider the temperature the gloves will be used in, the chemicals you will be handling, and whether there are any other potential risks such as blood contaminations, infectious biological agents, or physical hazards such as punctures, cuts, or abrasions.
Furthermore, it is critical to consider the type of contact you anticipate having with a particular hazard.
Additionally, you must balance many aspects, such as protection, dexterity, and comfort.
Make sure you choose the right-fitting, high-quality lab gloves that serve the purpose you need in addition to fulfilling your protective needs. in terms of length, thickness, and durability
Finally, at the end of our journey to laboratories and lab gloves, we hope the journey was fun and comprehensive with everything you need to know.
If you still have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send them to us.