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Difference Between Latex, Vinyl and Nitrile

Disposable gloves are one of the most widely used personal protective equipment (PPE) in medical, food service, chemical, primary-care and aged care, life science and industrial industries. There are many things to consider when choosing a glove including quality, protection, and allergies. The three main materials when searching for disposable gloves are: Latex, Nitrile and Vinyl. Here we explain the differences between these three materials and the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Latex or natural rubber (NRL) is the substance obtained from the sap of the Hevea Brasiliense tree (Vaysse, et. al., 2012). During manufacturing, chemicals are added to render latex elastic and stable to heat by vulcanisation (i.e. heating in the presence of sulphur). Further chemicals, commonly known as chemical accelerators, are added for strength and durability, including mercaptobenzothiazole, thiurams and carbamates. Sometimes a dry powder lubricant (usually corn-starch), is added to the surface of the latex to prevent the rubber surfaces from sticking together.

Its soft and stretchy properties make it an ideal material to provide a proper fitting to any palm shape and size. NRL offers a degree of resistance to tearing and has shown to self-seal small punctures. They also boast strong elastic properties, offering reliable performance and barrier protection against infection and contamination.

Often the primary reason to consider an alternative to the traditional latex glove is the potential for people to be allergic to the latex proteins found in the glove. In the worst-case scenario, a person susceptible to a Type 1 allergy can experience an anaphylactic seizure.

What is a Latex Allergy?

A latex allergy is a reaction to certain proteins in latex rubber. The amount of latex exposure needed to produce sensitisation or an allergic reaction is currently unknown (CDC, 2020). However, increasing the exposure to latex proteins increases the risk of developing allergic symptoms. In sensitised individuals, symptoms usually begin within minutes of exposure but can occur hours later and vary in severity. Mild reactions involve skin redness, rash, hives, or itching, while more severe reactions may involve respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and asthma (difficult breathing, coughing spells, and wheezing). Rarely, shock may occur however, a life-threatening reaction is seldom the first sign of latex allergy (AAFA, 2020).

While allergic reactions can occur from latex proteins as well as chemical accelerators, they do not occur with corn-starch itself (AAFA, 2017). However, latex proteins can leach from the glove and stick to the corn-starch causing particles to become airborne when gloves are changed, and spread latex into the local environment (AAFA, 2020). Mun’s range of gloves, including its latex options, are powder-free. Consequently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use and sale of powdered disposable gloves in the US (FDA, 2017).

ComfortLatex can be an allergen
Very elastic and strongLower resistance to punctures
Good dexterityLower chemical resistance
Acts and fits like a second skinNot as chemical resistant as nitrile
Has a high level of tactility 


Vinyl is a synthetic man-made material that is protein-free and non-biodegradable. Vinyl gloves were the first synthetic alternative available, offering an allergy-free option to latex and composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers. The polymerisation process, whereby monomers of vinyl chloride are linked together to form long polymer chains (Vinyl Council Australia, 2020), softens the material and gives vinyl gloves a long shelf life.

They offer little protection from chemicals and micro-organisms but are suited for short-term handling of non-hazardous materials and chemicals. They also do not offer quite as good dexterity as nitrile and latex gloves and can come powdered with a layer of corn-starch for easy donning and doffing. (read more on problems associated with powdered gloves). Other disadvantages include higher rates of chemical permeation compared to other materials, high chemical residue, more pinholes, and a stiff and loose fit which causes muscle fatigue.

Certain vinyl gloves use activation agents that can also cause skin allergies (Gnaneswaran, et al., 2008). The less a glove is washed, the more chemical residue is available for potential contact with the user. Chemical accelerators, which are used in the production of gloves such as carbonates & thiurams, may also cause skin reactions (Gnaneswaran, et al., 2008). Many companies have also announced that vinyl gloves pose high food safety risks (Huddle, 2018; PBC, 2020).

Latex-freeLess dexterity due to a stiffer & looser fit
Good for short-term, low-risk tasksHigher rate of chemical permeation
Long shelf lifeHigh chemical residue
 Susceptible to punctures/pinholes
 Do not offer much chemical resistance
 Powdered gloves cause skin irritation from prolonged use


Nitrile is a man-made rubber made from a synthetic polymer produced from a copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). High-quality nitrile gloves, like those from Mun Global, are often described as ‘medical grade’. Past nitrile gloves were very stiff but today exhibit natural rubber-like characteristics to offer excellent flexibility and sensitivity of fit. Nitrile gloves also provide similar levels of tensile strength and durability, and are available in many colours. They provide easy and early identification of punctures and tears to the wearer when a breach occurs, ensuring they work well in high-risk situations involving infectious materials. Furthermore, nitrile is resistant to many chemicals, particularly petroleum-based products, making it an effective material for safeguarding when handling hazardous substances.

Latex-freeThe synthetic nitrile rubber polymer is also not as cheap to produce as vinyl or latex.
Excellent puncture resistance 
Can be worn for longer periods of time 
Work well for high-risk situations involving infectious materials 
High chemical resistance 
A higher level of durability and tactility 
Best to wear an extended amount of time