We’ve all heard (and told) our share of rubber glove jokes, but how many times have you scrubbed your hands raw trying to remove that ground-in grit? Professional mechanics and painters have known for years that using the right combination of gloves in the shop can really make the difference. Read on for details after the jump.
There are a couple of kinds of “rubber” gloves available for shop/home use, and they each have advantages and disadvantages:
Made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), these are the cheapest “rubber” gloves available. They’re often the gloves provided with cheap project kits (stain, cleaning, etc.), and provide minimal (but far better than bare hand) protection from dirt and chemicals.
The worst part about vinyl gloves is that they aren’t form-fitting, which means that it’s pretty easy for liquids to get in the back of them — totally defeating the purpose of wearing the gloves.
Advantages: They’re cheap.
Disadvantages: The least tear-resistant of all “rubber” gloves, not form-fitting, hard to put on, least chemical resistance.
Though vinyl gloves are the cheapest (often under $5 per 100), we heartily recommend skipping these for the others listed in the review. The price difference is only a few bucks, and the others are better in almost every way.
Technically “examination gloves” as used by hospitals (and prostate examiners) everywhere, these are the gloves that you’ve always joked about. You may also have noticed your high-end auto mechanic using them as they’re awesome for keeping grease out from under your fingernails when you’re working on the car.
The biggest concern with latex gloves, as with all rubber-type gloves, is that they can be quite dangerous if used around hot items. They melt, and if you’re wearing them at the time, they melt to you. Also, latex gloves are made of natural rubber, so if you’re allergic to latex, you’ll want to give them a pass.
Around the shop, they’re great for all kinds of messy tasks like oil changes, spray or brush painting, re-packing wheel bearings, etc. In the house you’ll find yourself grabbing them to clean up pet messes, handle dirty items, and all sorts of things.
Advantages: Cheap, thin (they’re skin tight and don’t interfere with your work much at all).
Disadvantages: Thin (they tear if you’re working around sharp things), they’ll melt (to you) if you touch anything hot, if you’re allergic to latex you have a problem.
“Powder-free” latex gloves are available almost everywhere — try your local grocery store, drug store, or Sams Club for a better deal. Once you discover their utility, you’ll note that they’re also available online in larger quantities.
Nitrile Gloves are made using synthetic latex, which makes them more puncture and chemical-resistant than rubber gloves. They’re available in a variety of “grades,” and most of the nitrile gloves you’ll find in home and auto supply shops are “utility grade,” which are a bit thinner than other grades and not certified for medical use.
In the shop, nitrile gloves will last a bit longer (as they’re less likely to tear) and will provide a bit more resistance to thinners and some acids.
Assuming you’re not allergic to latex (in which case you’ll skip latex gloves altogether), it’s easy to think of nitrile gloves as a better version of latex gloves. They’re easy to spot as they’re often blue (or yellow). To some, nitrile gloves seem a bit harder to put on, and indeed more of them seem to be sold pre-powdered (usually cornstarch) to make this easier.
Advantages: Increased tear and chemical resistance over latex and vinyl, good for those allergic to latex.
Disadvantages: more expensive, a bit harder to put on, thin (see latex), still melt w/heat exposure.
They’re also sometimes a little more expensive, but buying from discount retailers such as Harbor Freight can cut down that price difference.
For around the shop and home, it’s hard to beat nitrile gloves for their versatility and cost. If you can’t find them inexpensively, latex gloves will serve virtually the same purpose and can even be found at the grocery store. Pass on vinyl gloves unless they’re free or all you have.