Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Glove Information


  • No glove may be used as protection from all chemicals.  A glove may protect against a specific chemical, but it may not protect the wearer from another.  If a glove protects the wearer, it will not protect the wearer forever, as the glove material will deteriorate.
  • Different glove materials offer different kinds of protection. Determining what you need protection from (e.g. sharp edges, acids, pesticides, solvents) and the length of your exposure (e.g. splash only, 15 minutes to conduct an experiment, or complete submersion to wash a mechanical part) will allow you to determine which glove is the best for the task you are performing.
  • Factors to consider when choosing gloves:
    • Chemical to be used:  Consult the compatibility charts to ensure that the gloves will protect you.
    • Dexterity needed:  The thicker the glove, typically the better the chemical protection, as the glove will be more resistant to physical damage, like tears and cracks, but it will harder be to handle and feel the work.
    • Extent of the protection required:  Determine if a wrist length glove provides adequate protection, or will a glove that extends further up the arm be required.
    • Type of work to be done:  gloves are specific to the task.  Ensure the correct glove is chosen to avoid injuries.  Examples: A nylon cryogenic glove will be damaged if a hot item is handled, where as a “hot mitt” will not protect the wearer when liquid nitrogen is used, as it may be too porous.
  • Examples of different types of gloves and their possible applications.
    • Natural Rubber (latex) is inherently elastic and resilient, plus resists acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones. Natural rubber gloves are suited for food processing, electronics assembly, and laboratory chemical handling.
    • Neoprene a synthetic rubber developed as an oil-resistant substitute for natural rubber. It also resists a broad range of chemicals. Neoprene gloves are used in petrochemical, degreasing and refining applications, and when handling acids, caustics, and chemical washing.
    • Nitrile a synthetic rubber with superior puncture and abrasion resistance in addition to chemical protection. Nitrile gloves are suited for stripping and degreasing, as well as acid etching and chemical washing.
    • Polyvinyl chloride or vinyl (PVC) is a plastic material that resists acids and alcohols, but not petroleum products. Vinyl gloves are used for intricate assembly work, food processing, laboratory, research, and pharmaceutical menu.
    • Viton a specialty fluoroelastomer which has excellent resistance to oils, fuels, lubricants, most mineral acids, hydraulic fluids, and aliphatic and aeromatic hydrocarbons.
    • Chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) has increased resistance to oil, ozone, heat, and chemicals. It also provides low permeability to gases.
    • Kevlar is resistance to cutting and punctures from sharp materials such as cage wires or sheet metal edges. It does not provide chemical resistance by itself.
  • Rules for glove use in the labs:
    • Wear the correct gloves when needed.
    • Wear gloves no longer than 2 hours.
    • Wash hands once gloves have been removed.
    • Disposable gloves must be discarded once removed.  Do not save for future use.
    • Dispose of gloves into the proper container (biologically contaminated gloves go into a red biohazard bag while chemically contaminated gloves may not).
    • Non-disposable/reusable gloves must be washed and dried, as needed, and then inspected for tears and holes prior to reuse.
    • Remove gloves before touching personal items, such as phones, computers, pens and one’s skin.
    • Do not wear gloves out of the lab.  If gloves are needed to transport anything, wear one glove to handle the transported item.  The free hand is then used to touch door knobs, elevator buttons, etc.  If you are wearing gloves to “protect your sample from you” and are in the hall, no one else understands this and will be concerned about the items you have contaminated with those gloves.

    If for any reason a glove fails, and chemicals come into contact with skin, consider it an exposure and seek medical attention.


The following are links to various glove suppliers. Available on each site are the glove compatibility or chemical resistance charts.  It is important to note that all chemicals will not be listed on these charts nor may two similar gloves supplied by two separate manufacturers provide the same level of protection to a specific chemical.  Therefore, it is necessary to consult the manufacturer’s specific compatibility chart for the brand of gloves being used. Understanding terms used in glove compatibility charts:

  • Breakthrough time: Time it takes for the chemical to travel through the glove material.  This is only recorded at the detectable level on the inside surface of the glove.
  • Permeation Rate:  Time it takes for the chemical to pass through the glove once breakthrough has occurred.  This involves the absorption of the chemical into the glove material, migration of the chemical through the material, and then deabsorption once it is inside the glove.
  • Degradation rating:  This is the physical change that will happen to the glove material as it is affected by the chemical.  This includes, but is not limited to swelling, shrinking, hardening, cracking, etc. of the glove material.
  • Compatibility charts rating systems will vary by the manufacturer’s design of their chart.  Many use a color code, where red = bad, yellow = not recommended, green = good, or some such variation.  A letter code may be used, such as E = excellent, G = Good, P = poor, NR = Not Recommended.

If you have any questions regarding glove selection or glove use contact EH&S at 335-3041 for further information.

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