It’s important to keep in mind when choosing gloves that some chemicals will damage your skin without protection. Those chemicals can even enter your bloodstream in the right conditions, causing real physical distress, which is why it’s essential to use the proper gloves.
OSHA recommends asking the following questions to help determine when and what chemical resistant glove may be necessary:
- What types of chemicals are being handled?
- What is the nature of contact? Is it total immersion or only splashes?
- What is the duration of contact?
- Is it just the hand that needs protecting, or the forearm and arm as well?
- What kind of grip is required?
After you identify the specific solvents, chemicals, or solutions that you’ll be exposed to, it’s time to select the type of material and glove model that is best to use.
Choosing the best glove for your workplace application means not just getting the size right but getting the protective material right too. The material used in your chemical resistant gloves must be appropriate for the process they are being used for. The job and the health of your skin depend on it.
After identifying the chemical hazards you’ll be exposed to, the next step is to consider how the glove material — or polymer — will stand up to it. Different glove materials offer varying degrees of protective properties, texture, flexibility, and thickness.
There are four most common types of chemical resistant materials that will protect against chemical hazards.
- Rubber (or latex) coated gloves resist bases, acids, alcohols, and diluted aqueous solutions of most types of chemicals. When used for gloves, it adds superior grip and cut resistance. Rubber-coated gloves are an excellent choice for handling ceramic, glass, and some sharp-edged products.
This material is very common and often used in less expensive protective gloves. It’s not known for high chemical exposure protection. Instead, it is mainly used to offer protection against bloodborne pathogens and is used frequently in the food industry.
Note that it also can create an allergic reaction in some people, so a skin test before use is a good idea.
- Nitrile is a perfect solution for oils, petroleum, and certain acids and caustics. It is sometimes also known as synthetic rubber. Additional abrasion resistance offers a non-slip grip and makes nitrile gloves a good choice for general-purpose use.
It’s a material used in a wide variety of gloves for many applications. Used in the oil and gas industry as well as the medical industry, the material is considered a mainstay of chemical-resistant glove construction.
Because they have poor flame resistance, it’s not recommended when using strong oxidizing acids or organic chemicals with nitrogen.
- Neoprene has similar basic chemical resistance qualities as nitrile but with less abrasion resistance. Depending on the application, both nitrile and neoprene are available in unsupported and coated (palm or fully coated).
Neoprene is known for excellent protection against certain acids and a broad range of other chemical hazards like alcohols, oils, and inks. It is also known for its flexibility and dexterity and therefore really holds up in work environments that need good sensitivity and grip.
However, gloves made from Neoprene material are not recommended around oxidizing acids like nitric or chromic acids.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is the best choice for cost-effectiveness when protecting against chemicals, oils, and grease. This compound is the perfect choice for hand protection against petrochemicals, refining, and construction sites.
PVC is available in laminated (PVC sealed to a baseliner such as knit lining) or impregnated (PVC blends through a cotton or jersey liner).
You may already be familiar with PVC but instead, refer to it as plastic or vinyl. It offers durability and has good resistance to cuts and snags. It is an excellent choice for chemical and abrasion resistance where moisture is not a concern.
It’s not recommended to use with acetone or chlorinated type solvents because it can actually harden the material and make the glove challenging to use.
When choosing any PPE, the actual environment where you’ll be using it is the most significant consideration. Ask yourself what physical hazards will you be exposed to and what work needs to get done when wearing it?
Review the chemical resistant chart below to help you identify the material that’s best suited for the work you’ll be performing.