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Updated September 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best disposable gloves

If your work requires close physical contact with others or the handling of tools, chemicals, or other harmful materials, you’re probably no stranger to the use of disposable gloves. Most of us encounter disposable gloves in use for common everyday tasks, from serving tacos at the community potluck to experimenting with at-home hair dye. These gloves are essential when it comes to protecting your skin and promoting proper hygiene.

With the wide variety of vocations, activities, and tasks that might require the use of disposable gloves, inevitably, not all gloves are alike. There are differences in materials and size, as well as puncture resistance and hypoallergenic qualities. Learning about these factors and how they affect durability, dexterity, and protection will help you in choosing the right disposable gloves for your needs.

Person washing hands with soap
Disposable gloves are not a substitute for proper hygiene. Hands should still be washed after wearing the gloves and when you change pairs.

How to buy the best disposable gloves

Uses

There are many uses for these gloves, each with roughly the same goals: to prevent cross contamination, protect skin, and maintain sanitary and hygienic standards in professional and personal settings. These are some examples of places and services that regularly use disposable gloves:

  • Hospitals and medical offices
  • Dental offices
  • Nursing homes and caregiving facilities
  • Scientific and biologic research labs
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Law enforcement 
  • Food services
  • Cleaning services
  • Auto mechanics
  • Beauty salons
  • Tattoo and piercing salons
  • Personal home use

Each of these settings has different requirements and standards for hygiene, flexibility, and durability in disposable gloves. The different kinds of gloves reflect the tasks they’re best suited for, and understanding the differences can help you choose the best gloves for you.

Materials

Nitrile: This synthetic rubber is one of the most common materials for these gloves. Nitrile is known for its durability and superior resistance to chemicals, temperatures, and punctures, making it a top choice for the medical field. It’s stronger than latex or vinyl. It’s also unlikely to cause allergic reactions, unlike latex. 

Latex: This was one of the first disposable glove materials. It is very durable, allows good dexterity, and resists many chemicals. However, natural latex can cause allergic reactions, sometimes severe, in some people. For this reason, nitrile and vinyl disposable gloves have largely replaced latex.

Polyethylene: PE or poly disposable gloves are thinner and looser than other types. They’re breathable and flexible and a popular choice for food service or other tasks where users must take off used gloves and put on fresh ones frequently. These gloves aren’t very durable and offer little to no protection from hazardous materials, but they are resistant to most foodborne pathogens. 

Vinyl: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was the first synthetic alternative to latex in disposable gloves. These gloves are stiffer than others and offer little protection from hazardous chemicals or pathogens. Vinyl gloves are best for tasks that require a lower level of protection, such as food service or cleaning. 

Do not use gloves that are discolored or feel brittle or hard. They have either already been used or been stored poorly and degraded from age and the elements. 

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Features to look for in disposable gloves

Thickness

The thickness of disposable gloves is measured in mils. One mil equals 1/1000 of an inch. Here are the most common thicknesses of these gloves:

2 mil and less: These thin disposable gloves are most often used in the food service industry, salons, or at home for miscellaneous tasks. These gloves are easy to put on and take off and best used for basic protection.

3 to 5 mil: This thickness includes nitrile medical-grade gloves. They have impressive durability and chemical resistance while still preserving tactile sensitivity and dexterity. These gloves are most commonly used by medical professionals.

6 mil and more: These gloves have high puncture resistance and can protect the skin against sharp tools and hazardous materials. They are less flexible than gloves made of other materials, but they prevent the skin from being scratched, cut, or irritated by substances. Mechanics and industrial workers use these gloves.

Size

Depending on the brand and intended use, the sizes of disposable gloves can range from one-size-fits-all to extra small, small, medium, large, and extra large. The sizing for disposable gloves, such as 7, 8, or 9, is determined by measuring the circumference of the palm at the widest point, just under the knuckles. Most brands have a size chart for reference so you can find the gloves that will fit you correctly. 

Characteristics

Strength: Disposable gloves undergo a testing process that subjects them to certain levels of stress in order to rate their durability. This involves challenging their elasticity or flexibility, resistance to punctures, and resistance to tears (tensile strength). These factors are especially important for gloves used in medical settings, where professionals need durable gloves that won’t hinder their ability to make precise movements while handling delicate tools.

Powdered: The interior of some disposable gloves (typically those made of vinyl) is powdered with cornstarch, which is intended to make the gloves easier to put on. Powdered gloves are common for everyday uses but not allowed in professional medical environments.

Quality: The FDA rates the hygienic quality of disposable gloves using an Acceptable Quality Level (AQL). AQL ratings range from 0.065 to 6.5. The number refers to the percentage of glove failure in a sample batch, like 100 pairs for example. The lower the AQL rating, the safer and more reliable the gloves. Industrial or commercial disposable gloves, for example, have AQL ratings of between 3.0 and 4.0. This means that out of a batch of 100 pairs of gloves, less than 3% to 4% of them are defective.

DYK-1-Medical-Supplies-Best disposable gloves
You can apply hand sanitizer to disposable gloves if desired, although it isn’t necessary. Hand sanitizer doesn’t negatively affect the glove material. 
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Tips for wearing disposable gloves

Follow these simple steps to properly put on disposable gloves to optimize hygiene:

  1. Remove any jewelry. 
  2. Inspect the gloves and packaging for damage.
  3. Wash hands and forearms with warm water and soap.
  4. Dry fingers, hands, and forearms thoroughly with a dry paper towel.
  5. Glove your dominant hand first by holding the glove by the cuff.
  6. Gently slide your hand into the glove, evenly spreading the material along your  fingers and adjusting for comfort as needed.

How much do disposable gloves cost?

Inexpensive 

The most affordable gloves cost $6 to $15. Gloves in this price range are fairly cheap to make, can be made of any material, and come in packs of 50 to 100 pairs. You can find thin poly gloves in packs as large as 500 pairs at this price.

Mid-range

These gloves cost $20 to $50. They include thicker nitrile or vinyl gloves and come in much larger quantities, such as 1,000 to 3,000 pairs. You can also buy poly gloves in bulk in this price bracket.

Expensive

The most expensive disposable gloves include the largest numbers of poly, vinyl, and nitrile gloves (up to 7,000 pairs) and thicker gloves. Prices range from $50 to $200. You can also find pallets of disposable gloves in quantities of 70,000 pairs for around $5,000.

Don’t blow into your gloves to inflate them before putting them on. You want the inside to be uncontaminated, and your breath could transmit airborne bacteria into the gloves.

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Tips

  • Try a larger glove size. If your hands are sweating excessively, your gloves are probably too small. Too much sweat inside the gloves can cause them to slide around on your hands and could cause an unfortunate or even dangerous accident.
  • Replace damaged gloves. If your gloves rip or tear, switch them out for a new pair. As soon as you notice a hole in a glove, take both gloves off, wash your hands, and put on two new ones, even if only one glove is damaged. 
  • Never wash and reuse disposable gloves. These gloves are designed to wear once to protect the skin and prevent cross contamination. Washing and reusing them is considered unsanitary and strongly discouraged. 
Person putting on gloves
Sharp fingernails can puncture disposable gloves, making them ineffective and likely causing you to have to switch out pairs frequently. Trim your nails and avoid long false nails if you’re going to wear gloves. 

FAQ

Q. How often should I change disposable gloves?

A. You should change them every few hours or each time you switch tasks. One pair of disposable gloves shouldn’t be worn for more than a few hours at a time. 

Q. Do disposable gloves have a shelf life?

A. Nitrile and vinyl gloves have an average shelf life of about five years and often have an expiration date that reflects this. However, some nitrile gloves that have been stored in ideal conditions have been known to last as long as a decade.

Q. Are disposable gloves sterile?

A.  Not all of them are. If you’re looking for sterile disposable gloves, check the AQL rating on the packaging or in the description. It must be 2.5 or less to be considered sterile.
 

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