Nitrile or Latex Gloves?

Which are better, nitrile or latex gloves?

Well, if you’re allergic to latex, there’s no choice: it’s nitrile for you.

But I’m not allergic and didn’t think there was much of a difference. Or maybe I should say I didn’t previously think there was much of a difference when just using them as basic gloves to keep my hands clean while doing yucky jobs.

In fact, I knew that nitrile gloves are more chemical resistant and for that reason, thought they were “better” overall.

I’ve learned otherwise as we’ve been working on the bottom of our boat.

Initially, we bought a package of disposable nitrile gloves and I wore them as I scraped bottom paint. By lunch time, I’d have at least one tear and even when the glove wasn’t torn, my hand would be dirty. Not as filthy as without a glove, but dirty nonetheless. Dirty enough that I rinsed my hands off with a hose before heading to the bathroom to actually wash my hands.

And so I’d don a fresh pair of gloves for the afternoon . . . and the same thing would happen.

When we ran out of those, the local store only had disposable latex gloves. As I’m not allergic to latex, that was fine with me and I began using them.

What a world of difference!

The latex gloves appear to be about the same thickness as the nitrile gloves and actually cost less. But I’ve been wearing the same pair for two full days now without any tears. And my hands, while not totally clean, are a LOT cleaner when I take the gloves off.

So next time, unless I specifically need the chemical resistance of nitrile, I’ll be looking for latex gloves. Curious if anyone else has had a similar experience?

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  • Allan Cobb
    Posted at 28 October 2014 Reply

    Glove selection should be based on what chemicals you are also handling. Here is a quick guide.

  • D and Don
    Posted at 28 October 2014 Reply

    I was wondering if any one has tried layering the gloves; in other words if you are allergic to latex, put on a nitrile glove first and then the latex second for strength? Just a thought.


  • Robert William Mohn
    Posted at 28 October 2014 Reply

    If you are working wih oils, the latex will desolve.

    • Keith
      Posted at 08 November 2014 Reply

      Hmm… Not in my experience, Bob. Perhaps the type of oil is the difference? Synthetic vs mineral? But yes, Latex definitely isn’t as resistant to some chemicals.

  • Lisa
    Posted at 28 October 2014 Reply

    In response to D, for many with latex allergies it doesn’t require skin contact to have a reaction. Simply breathing around balloons or gloves causes issues. Also, a latex allergy can become more severe with increased exposure, so wearing latex gloves over nitrile gloves might seem ok at first, but could be needlessly increasing risk.

    • D and Don
      Posted at 28 October 2014 Reply

      Thanks for the info.


  • Charles
    Posted at 29 October 2014 Reply

    If you’re doing long, heavy work – like hull scraping – your money is better spent on non-disposable but cheap rubber gloves. I don’t mean dish gloves, but the heavier rubber gloves such as the Atlas Vinylove line. They also cost less in the long run because they’re reusable and much less likely to suffer punctures or tears during ordinary use.

  • Eve
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    To chime in since I worked on my science company’s implementation of glove manufacturer Kimberly-Clark’s nitrile glove recycling program. We use a lot of crazy chemicals at my work, so protection is very important.

    In addition to choosing the right glove based on the chemical you are working with, there are lots of different thicknesses and cuff length for disposable nitrile gloves. Kimberly-Clark has very high quality gloves for a variety of purposes. For example, KC’s Purple Nitrile is great for most chemicals and is very durable… but their Lavender Nitrile is very thin and delicate… not good for boat work!

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