Vinyl vs Nitrile vs Latex Gloves

Kiera Powell, R.N.

Verified by Kiera Powell, R.N. and written by Chad Birt on Tue Jul 13 2021.

Medically Verified

Three boxes of different types of gloves.

Many caregiving responsibilities require medical-grade gloves. Gloves protect you and your loved one’s skin, reduce the risk of microbial contamination, and provide a more sanitary environment. But if you’re a new caregiver, it’s normal to wonder about the difference between vinyl vs. nitrile vs. latex gloves. These glove materials look similar, but they offer different strengths and weaknesses. To make the research process a bit easier, we’ve compiled a helpful guide.

What’s the difference between vinyl, nitrile, and latex gloves?

Vinyl, nitrile, and latex gloves are all considered medical-grade, but they have unique features.

Vinyl gloves.

Vinyl is a synthetic polymer derived from petroleum. It’s latex-free, affordable, and used in dozens of applications. Vinyl gloves can be found at nearly any retailer, but they aren’t ideal for caregiving. That’s because they’re less durable than nitrile or latex gloves and provide limited protection against chemicals, bacteria, and other microbes.

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Nitrile gloves.

Nitrile is a type of synthetic rubber. It’s incredibly durable, latex-free, and specifically designed for medical applications. Nitrile gloves were first developed during the early 90s’. Since then, they’ve become the go-to glove for many doctors, nurses, and home caregivers. Nitrile gloves are unique in that they tear easily. This feature makes it simple to tell if a glove (or pair of gloves) is compromised.

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Latex gloves.

Latex gloves are made of rubber. They’re comfortable, can be used for medical applications, and encourage optimal finger dexterity. The only real downside is they’re made of latex. Researchers estimate more than 1% of Americans suffer from a latex allergy. If your loved one is one of these individuals, make sure to use nitrile or vinyl gloves instead. 

What are the pros and cons of each type of glove?

Now that you know a little more about the different types of gloves, let’s take a closer look at their pros and cons.

Pros and cons of vinyl gloves:

Pros and cons of nitrile gloves:

Pros and cons of latex gloves:

In what situations should I use vinyl vs. nitrile vs. latex gloves?

The type of gloves that will most benefit you and your loved one depends on their individual needs and your caregiving responsibilities. As a general rule, we recommend the following:

Vinyl gloves. Since vinyl gloves contain more elastic than nitrile or latex, they tend to fit loosely. Avoid wearing them when changing diapers, providing bathing assistance, or helping your loved one use the toilet. Vinyl gloves are ideal if you’re on a tight budget, only need to wear gloves for a few minutes, or need to cover your hands while preparing snacks, drinks, or meals.

Nitrile gloves. When it comes to caregiving, nitrile gloves are considered the “gold standard.” Because they’re free of allergens like latex, there’s less risk of skin irritation, or in severe instances, anaphylaxis

Nitrile gloves fit your hands comfortably and encourage finger dexterity. That makes them ideal for cleaning and sanitation as well as tasks that require gripping, twisting, or lifting. When you’re finished wearing a pair of nitrile gloves, remove and toss them in the trash. Thanks to advances in manufacturing, many of the nitrile gloves currently on the market are biodegradable.

Latex gloves. Latex gloves are just as comfortable as nitrile, but because they’re made of latex, present the risk of an allergic reaction. They’re safe for use in almost any caregiving situation, as long as your loved one doesn’t suffer from a latex allergy.

What type of glove is most affordable?

The price of gloves varies depending on the brand and the materials used. Generally speaking, vinyl is most affordable, followed by latex, and then nitrile. 

When selecting gloves, it’s important to remember that price isn’t the only factor to consider. Even though nitrile gloves are more expensive, they’re incredibly versatile and provide long-lasting protection from chemicals and microbes. If your daily responsibilities include changing diapers, sterilizing catheters, or administering enteral or parenteral feeding, invest in high-quality gloves that hold up.

Frequently Asked Questions: Vinyl vs. Nitrile vs. Latex Gloves

Which is better, vinyl or nitrile gloves?

In caregiving situations, nitrile gloves are typically better than vinyl ones. Even though vinyl gloves are relatively affordable and latex-free, they offer limited protection from chemicals and microbes. Nitrile is more durable and comfortable. What’s more, nitrile gloves are specifically designed to withstand exposure to chemicals and bodily fluids.

What are nitrile gloves made of?

Nitrile gloves are made from a synthetic material called acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber. It’s chemical resistant and capable of withstanding exposure to various substances, including mineral oils, acids, and topical medications.

Are nitrile gloves latex-free?

Nitrile gloves are made from synthetic rubber that’s free of latex. Even so, about 1% of users experience an allergic reaction, such as hives or itching. If you’ve recently made the transition from vinyl or latex gloves to nitrile gloves, and you have a history of allergies, watch for signs of potential irritation.  

Are vinyl gloves safer than nitrile?

Vinyl gloves are cheaper than nitrile gloves, but they aren’t necessarily safer. In fact, they’re probably less so. Vinyl gloves fit loosely, are prone to tears, and offer limited protection against chemicals and microorganisms.

Vinyl vs Nitrile vs Latex Gloves Comparison Table

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.