Medical Gloves Buyer’s Guide

Medical Gloves Buyer’s Guide

Posted on September 7, 2023

In the realm of healthcare, medical gloves serve as a critical line of defence against infections and contaminants. With the ongoing emphasis on infection control, choosing the right gloves is of paramount importance. 

With a diverse range of choices available in the market, it is crucial for healthcare providers to know how to choose the right type of gloves for their needs. This is why we created this handy guide to help you make an informed decision. Continue reading and see what to look out for when selecting medical gloves.

Understanding The Materials

Latex

Latex gloves are widely used in various industries for their great flexibility and comfort. Made from natural rubber latex, they are more environmentally friendly than synthetic vinyl or nitrile gloves. The gloves’ elasticity and strength make them really comfortable and perfect for precise tasks, fitting closely. They offer good protection in risky situations with infectious materials and can be worn for extended periods. Plus, they’re easy to wash without damage.

For individuals sensitive to the proteins found in natural rubber, many have turned to alternative materials to avoid allergic reactions. However, those with latex sensitivities often discover that they can comfortably use chlorinated latex gloves without experiencing adverse reactions.

Through chlorination, the glove’s inner and outer surfaces achieve reduced friction and stickiness, accompanied by lowered latex protein levels. This alteration renders chlorinated latex gloves less prone to triggering allergic reactions when compared to their non-chlorinated counterparts, all the while maintaining the ease of wearing.

Nitrile

The most popular glove variant in our selection, nitrile gloves stand out for their exceptional strength, dexterity, and remarkable resistance to oil, grease, and various aqueous chemical solutions. Crafted from a synthetic polymer called acrylonitrile-butadiene, they exhibit superior robustness and are highly resistant to tears and punctures. Conforming snugly to hands, they offer elevated levels of comfort and agility. 

Their impressive endurance against oil, grease, and diverse chemical solutions is complemented by a prolonged shelf life compared to other glove types. Despite a slightly higher cost than vinyl and latex gloves, their extended durability underscores their value, and they mirror the tactile sensation of latex gloves without the potential allergenic proteins. 

Nitrile gloves are an optimal choice for extended wear and prove economically advantageous for high-volume, disposable glove users.

Vinyl

Vinyl gloves stand out as the most economical option and a favoured selection among individuals with sensitivity to latex proteins or allergenic elements. Constructed from latex-free polyvinyl chloride plastisol, the material boasts inherent softness, delivering a comfortable and snug fit. While offering a looser fit compared to latex or nitrile gloves, they are well-suited for brief, low-risk tasks. 

Enhanced by anti-static properties, they are commonly employed in lower-risk, non-invasive procedures. These gloves exhibit a respectable resistance to oil and grease, making them a fitting choice for applications within food manufacturing and preparation settings.

Assessing Glove Size and Fit

To ensure optimal comfort and dexterity, selecting the right glove size is crucial. Gloves that are too tight can restrict movement and cause discomfort, while loose-fitting gloves may compromise grip and tactile sensitivity. 

Healthcare professionals should accurately measure their hand size and refer to the manufacturer’s size chart to choose the appropriate glove size.

Evaluating Glove Thickness

The level of protection and durability is influenced by the thickness of the gloves. Thicker gloves provide superior resistance to punctures and tears, rendering them suitable for high-risk procedures.

On the other hand, thinner gloves offer heightened tactile sensitivity, enabling delicate and precise procedures. It is crucial to find the right balance between protection and dexterity, aligning with the specific demands of each medical task.

Compliance with Standards

When purchasing medical gloves, it is vital to ensure compliance with relevant standards. Compliance with this standard ensures that the gloves are suitable for their intended use and offer reliable protection. 

Having awareness of EN standards is important while determining the suitable gloves for protecting your hands or those of your staff. We recognise that understanding these standards can prove challenging, which is why we’ve compiled a reference guide outlining the core EN standards and logos for safety gloves.

Standard EN374

Standard for gloves that protect you when working with harmful chemicals and/or micro-organisms. 

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Determination of Resistance to Water Penetration

This standard evaluates glove quality, requiring gloves to pass the test as evidence of their effective barrier against liquids and microorganisms. The examination identifies leaks, pinholes, or material imperfections. Gloves are categorised based on the acceptable quality levels (AQL) they meet, with a minimum AQL level 2 required for displaying this symbol.

Level 1 – AQL 4.0

Level 2 – AQL 1.5

Level 3 – AQL 0.65

The lower the AQL number, the higher the quality of the glove, for example:

An AQL value of 1.5 or lower designates a glove suitable for medical applications, indicating higher quality, for example these blue nitrile gloves.

An AQL value of 4.0 corresponds to a glove appropriate for non-medical or industrial use, such as our vinyl clear gloves.

Determination of Resistance to Permeation by Chemicals

This gauges the time it takes for a chemical to breach the glove’s material. Multiple samples from the palm of the tested glove are exposed to chemicals placed on the surface. The duration it requires for the chemical to permeate the interior of the sample is termed as the breakthrough time. This is then categorised across a spectrum from 0 to 6:

Measured Breakthrough  Time Performance Level

> 10 minutes                   Level 1

> 30 minutes                   Level 2

> 60 minutes                   Level 3

> 120 minutes                   Level 4

> 240 minutes                   Level 5

> 480 minutes                   Level 6

Gloves must demonstrate a breakthrough time of a minimum of 30 minutes for at least 3 out of the 18 chemicals defined in the standard to bear this symbol. Chemicals are denoted by the letters provided:

CodeChemical
AMethanol
BAcetone
CAcetonitrile
DDichloromethane
ECarbon Disulfide
FToluene
GDiethylamine
HTetrahydrofuran
IEthyl Acetate
Jn-Heptane
KSodium Hydroxide 40%
LSulphuric Acid 96%
MNitric Acid 65%
NAcetic Acid 99%
OAmmonium Hydroxide 25%
PHydrogen Peroxide 30%
SHydrofluoric Acid 60%
TFormaldehyde

CE Category

The European Community has established the Personal Protective Equipment Directives (89/686/CEE) and (93/68/CEE) to harmonise regulations concerning the testing and sale of all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) within the community. 

This collaborative framework ensures the coherence of standards across PPE products. Particularly, gloves with intermediate to complex designs now require independent testing to assess their performance and user safety. An essential criterion for compliance is the presence of a CE Mark on the gloves or their packaging, signifying adherence to these standards.

CE Category 1

Simplified Design – suitable for minimal risks only. Intended for low-risk applications where potential hazards can be recognized by the wearer in sufficient time for effective response.

CE Category 2

Intermediate Design – addressing reversible risks. Products undergo type examination by an authorised body, which evaluates the manufacturer’s technical specifications and conducts tests according to relevant standards to ensure conformity and performance.

CE Category 3

Involves potentially fatal risks, such as activities involving toxic or highly corrosive chemicals. Gloves in this category must meet the defined standards. Their compliance is not only certified but also verified by a notified body, whose reference number is displayed beneath the CE logo.

Standard EN455

Standard for medical gloves for single-use.

This entails examinations to evaluate the absence of holes, utilising a penetration resistance test similar to EN374 Part 2. It also encompasses evaluations of glove dimensions and the mechanical robustness of its materials, both pre and post undergoing an ageing process.

 This European Standard encompasses the basic attributes that correspond to specific fundamental prerequisites outlined in the Medical Device Directive 93/42/EEC.

EN455-1: Criteria and Evaluation for Hole-Free Performance

Gloves undergo this test to demonstrate their efficacy as a barrier against microorganisms. A representative sample from a gloves batch is checked for pinholes and leaks by being filled with water. To be approved for use as examination, procedural, or surgical gloves, they need to achieve an acceptable quality level (AQL) of 1.5 or better.

EN455-2: Standards and Assessment of Physical Characteristics

This standard encompasses evaluations of glove dimensions and physical strength. Gloves are treated differently based on their intended application and the material used for their production.

EN455-3: Guidelines and Assessment for Biological Examination

This standard entails examinations for potentially harmful substances that could impact the wearer or be transmitted to a patient. Such substances encompass:

Endotoxins: Toxic remnants produced by specific bacteria that can induce human fever.

Latex Proteins: Due to the natural origin of rubber latex, it contains proteins and enzymes that may trigger severe allergic reactions in genetically susceptible individuals.

Chemical Residues: Primarily, accelerators utilised in the glove’s manufacturing process. These can lead to allergic dermatitis in genetically predisposed individuals.

Powder: Powder-free medical gloves should maintain a powder level of 2mg per glove.

EN455-4: Guidelines and Evaluation for Shelf-Life Determination

This standard involves a range of tests to ascertain the duration for which a glove remains suitable for use when stored in warehouses or end-user storage areas. 

All calculations derived from these tests must be validated through comparisons with samples aged in real-time as soon as those samples become available. The maximum shelf-life that can be asserted for medical gloves is five years from the date of manufacture.

Ensuring safety and preventing the transmission of infections in healthcare settings heavily relies on the careful selection of appropriate medical gloves. It is of utmost importance to choose the right gloves to safeguard the well-being of healthcare professionals and patients. 

F2 Medical Supplies recognise this critical need and proudly offer a diverse range of medical gloves, including vinyl, nitrile, and latex options, available in various sizes. With us, healthcare providers can confidently access a wide selection of gloves to meet their specific requirements and maintain a safe environment.