Not all work gloves are created equal. Some are designed to handle the high heat welders face, while others are crafted to be worn with a full-body hazmat suit. Chemical-resistant gloves are made with different kinds of rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (viton); or various kinds of plastic: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene. These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance but thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety.
Natural Rubber Latex Gloves are comfortable to wear, which makes them a popular general-purpose glove. They feature outstanding tensile strength, elasticity and temperature resistance. In addition to resisting abrasions caused by grinding and polishing, these gloves protect workers’ hands from most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts and ketones. Latex gloves have caused allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be appropriate for all employees. Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners and powderless gloves are possible alternatives for workers who are allergic to latex gloves.
Nitrile Gloves are made of a copolymer and provide protection from chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. Although intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity, nitrile gloves stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure to substances that cause other gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when working with oils, greases, acids, caustics and alcohols but are generally not recommended for use with strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones and acetates.
Neoprene (polychloroprene) Gloves are made of synthetic rubber and offer good pliability, finger dexterity, high density and tear resistance. They protect against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids and alkalis. They generally have chemical and wear resistance properties superior to those made of natural rubber.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Gloves provide protection against many acids, caustics, bases and alcohols. PVC is not recommenced for ketones or many other types of solvents. It generally offers good abrasion and cut resistance, but some gloves styles are susceptible to cuts.
Polyethylene Gloves offer economical protection from mild chemicals, oils, fats, punctures and abrasions. Component material of polyethylene gloves comply with FDA regulations for food contact.
Butyl Gloves are made of a synthetic rubber and protect against a wide variety of chemicals, such as peroxide, rocket fuels, highly corrosive acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid and red-fuming nitric acid), strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and nitrocompounds. Butyl gloves also resist oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain flexible at low temperatures. Butyl rubber does not perform well with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated solvents.
The following table from the U.S. Department of Energy (Occupational Safety and Health Technical Reference Manual) rates various gloves as being protective against specific chemicals and will help you select the most appropriate gloves to protect your employees.