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TM reader Abe posted the following comment on our recent Tip: Close Off Fluid Lines With Latex Gloves post: “Please do not wear latex gloves in the shop. Petroleum products cause the latex to break down and may cause you to develop a latex allergy.  This is such a serious problem that hospitals will not let workers bring their own hand lotion from home because some lotions contain pertoleum products.   A latex allergy is something you do not want to go through life with.”

I’m going to do some research myself when I get a chance, because I’ve used latex gloves in the shop for years with no adverse effects.  But have any of you heard or seen anything relating to this? 

Let us know in comments.


21 Responses to Reader Question: Latex Gloves Bad For Shop Use?

  1. Patrick says:

    Ask anyone that ever did time burger flipping and you’ll agree – you WILL develop an allergy if you put enough time wearing latex gloves. Why most people don’t develop one is the time factor – the longer you wear it (I’m talking eight to ten hours here) and the frequency (everyday) it will just happen. If you don’t, it won’t happen to you. I got mine from three years of burger flipping, trying to get through college.

  2. SlowJoeCrow says:

    Personally I have always used Nitrile gloves in preference to latex because they are resistant to most every common solvents except Methylene Chloride (paint stripper) which gives them “prune skin”. When I first started using them in 1991 I had to ask my boss to order some because we were using thick PVC gloves in the parts washer and the Nitrile gloves were thinner (like dishwashing gloves). I also used them for rebuilding airless sprayers working with lacquer thinner and paint stripper. I started using the thinner surgical style a few years ago when they became more common.
    I’ve always questioned the value of latex gloves for automotive type work because petroleum products definitely do break down latex, although I’ve never heard of this being a direct cause of latex allergies.

  3. Stuey says:

    I prefer to use nitrile gloves instead of latex gloves for a few reasons.

    In most cases, people will choose latex gloves over nitrile since latex offers increased tactile and temperature sensitivity. While they do make thinner nitrile gloves (such as Kimberly Clark’s “Sterling” gloves), the sensitivity to cost tradeoff isn’t really worth it.

    While latex and nitrile gloves offer similar chemical and biological protection, nitrile gloves, being thicker, *might* offer slightly greater protection in more demanding environments such as shops and garages.

    I’ve had latex gloves partially disintegrate before, but that was a few days after random exposure to oil contaminants.

    Also, most latex contraceptive packages include a disclaimer that warns against using petroleum based products since doing so will cause physical degradation and failure of the latex product.

  4. Mark says:

    You are supposed to use Nitrile gloves with acetone. Latex will actually facilitate absorption of “bad stuff.”

    From: http://case.edu/finadmin/does/web/ChemSafety/gloves.htm

    Latex gloves have been in use in laboratories for many years as general use gloves. This trend is reversing itself as new information regarding the unsuitability of latex gloves for chemical skin protection becomes more wide spread. Latex gloves offer little protection from chemicals because the pore size of the latex polymer used in gloves is highly variable in size and distribution. This can clearly be seen if you take a latex glove and stretch it. The pattern of lighter areas and darker areas represent the variance in the polymer. The pore size of the latex molecule will also tend to pass solvents very easily. If you have ever washed glassware in the laboratory using acetone and felt a cold sensation on your skin, you have experienced the acetone permiating the latex gloves. The cold feeling is the acetone evaporating off of your skin. Had that been something like DMSO with a poison disolved in it, the poison would have been carried through the glove, onto your hand, and then into your blood stream.

    This not to say that latex gloves are completely useless in the laboratory. Quite the contrary. Latex gloves are fine to use in situations involving biologicals, water based reactions, and for protection from messy non-toxic items like carbon black. (work in a fume hood is still a respiratory hazard!)

    For those of you that may be wondering why latex gloves have been in the spot light lately, please checkout this page about a recent death involving latex gloves. Dimethyl Mercury

    Latex gloves can cause allergy in some individuals

  5. Fred says:

    If you pull on latex gloves in the shop and walk behind some power tools, they get a bit nervous.

  6. kythri says:

    I work in the health care field now, and have been inundated with all kinds of stuff about latex allergies.

    It seems that most hospitals and clinics these days are moving to nitrile gloves for the latex allergy issues…

    I’ve also found that nitrile gloves are quite a bit stronger than latex…

  7. Chris says:

    Yeah, what Mark said. I used to work in a chem lab and we *never* used latex gloves for exactly that reason — they’re too permeable. I’d almost rather wear no gloves at all than wear latex. I’m not worried about allergies, but since nitrile gloves are fairly inexpensive and easily available too, you’re better off with them than latex, and they work just as well for the aforementioned fluid line closure as latex gloves do.

  8. Chuck Cage says:

    I generally use latex gloves less to protect me from the grime than to just simplify its removal. Wearing latex gloves keeps me from having to scrub as hard to get the grime out, so I generally wear them.

    Most of the nitrile gloves I’ve seen are a lot more expensive than my latex gloves. Does anyone know of a really cheap source for ’em?

  9. Stuey says:

    I’ve seen boxes of 100 generically branded gloves go for $10-$15 at most hardware/auto/*mart stores.

    I did a quick amazon search and they offer one brand that goes for $6.53 a box and ships direct so >$25 free shipping applies.


    The cheap route would be to order four boxes or one box with some other items and give them a try.

    Try to find gloves that have textured fingertips – occasionally it makes a difference.

  10. Evan N. says:

    I work in an analytical chemistry lab, and we use nitrile gloves almost exclusively, mainly to protect samples from skin proteins as well as to prevent methanol, acetone, etc from absorbing into the skin. BTW, acetone will feel cold with nitrile gloves as well because of the evaporative cooling effect. Even in a glove your hands are still warm enough to evaporate the acetone!

    I think it’s all about knowing the proper type of gloves to use. The dimethyl mercury case was an eye opener for the chemistry community for sure. As for us Toolmongers, for example, using the longer and heavier gloves for farm type chemicals and acids is prudent and practical. In the shop I just use Mechanix gloves–in comparison to solvents and acids, wheel bearing grease, motor oil, and engine grime are not that dangerous (you see I mostly work on cars in the shop).

    As for cheap gloves — at HF I see latex are $8 a box, and nitrile are about $12.

  11. Dennis says:

    @Mark – I work in a chemical lab were acetone is used regularly. We usually use nitrile except when working with acetone, we use butyle gloves since acetone will degrade the nitrile gloves we have.

  12. KMR says:

    We use blue nitrile gloves in our shop, we go through about two boxes a week between three guys (that is 100gloves/box, so 200 gloves a week).


    Those are the gloves we use in the shop (Blue Marlin 2099) and we get them from Glove Nation by the case load (a case lasts about 5 weeks for us). Good pricing at $4.69/box, shipping is reasonable too.

    For our Safety Kleen tanks, we have much thicker reusable gloves.

  13. Fzzt says:

    After being hounded about never using gloves while cleaning up my carb parts (in either mild/medium degreaser or just plain gasoline) I was talked into using a pair of latex gloves that ‘melted’ around my hands in about 5 minutes. I wasn’t injured but the subsequent clean up of all the little bits of latex in the parts cleaner was a *****. I have since bought myself a pair of blue nitrile gloves that say they are pierce resistent (carb flashing) and so far seem to work well.

  14. Stuey says:

    Everyone should take a look at the site that KMR linked to, http://www.glovenation.com. At the right side of the page there is both a “free sample” link and a “chemical resistance chart”.

    The chemical chart shows that latex has fair and poor resistance to brake fluid and cutting oil respectively, while nitrile has excellent resistance. I think that this chart deserves a bookmark.

  15. jgb says:

    I’ve been using the nitrile gloves from HF for a long time. They are great with everything except acetone.

  16. jamesBrauer66 says:

    I’m pretty sure they use nitrile in the clean rooms, but mostly because the powder inside the latex sheds particles. I keep a box of latex around for packing bearings and things that are too messy for my goatskin mechanics gloves; but I won’t wear the rubber any longer than I have to. I use nitrile for staining and finish work since the latex seems to let even water based stain get on my skin.

  17. Chris says:

    By the way, the dimethylmercury case that Evan mentions is explained in detail here:


    Long story short, it took her five months to develop symptoms and another five to die after she first reported the symptoms. Granted, dimethylmercury is a lot nastier than anything you’d commonly encounter around the shop, but it goes to show how permeable latex can be.

  18. Randy says:

    Harbor Freight nitriles are just fine and a decent price ($12/100). Once you figure in the shipping on the Blue Marlin, HF is only a few cents more per hundred, and you don’t have to buy a case at a time.

    Another bad thing about latex is that they will dry rot in the box if not well sealed.

  19. I am a scenic painter and signwriter. For the last 10 of my 24 year career, I have worn gloves. The last 3 years have been torture to my hands, recently finding the culprit has been latex gloves. (and mothering 3 kids, the dishwashing gloves) All this time I thought it was something else..

    Be careful of the latex!

  20. Bob says:

    In Mys shop i use Vinyl and Nitrile. I use only latex inside my house for clean up work.

  21. US says:

    I find nitrile gloves the best alternative to latex. I found a great place online to purchase nitrile gloves for under $5 per box of 100.


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