Starting, we’re going to jump into one of the most common types of gloves: latex gloves.
Latex gloves have been around since 1894 and were invented by Willian Stewart Halstead. They were used in the Johns Hopkins Hospital to protect his wife’s hands from contracting dermatitis while performing surgery on patients.
Due to how successful the level of protection was and the greater understanding of how infections and bacteria work, these rubber gloves are now used daily worldwide in all kinds of workplaces and practices, specifically in healthcare and industrial industries. Some of the most popular include;
- Medical and dental practices
- Child care
- Senior care
- Food processing
- Food services
And many more. In essence, if you’re looking for the best general way to protect yourself, a product, or someone you’re working with, Latex gloves are perhaps your best option. They are affordable, disposable, and easy to use, and as you can see, they are very flexible in terms of how you choose to use them.
What is Latex Gloves?
We’ll dive into the characteristics and benefits of latex gloves in the next section, but first, let’s explore the core of what these gloves are. Latex gloves are made from natural rubber, one of the oldest and most common materials in human history.
Using these raw rubber materials, natural rubber gloves are produced using ceramic and aluminum molds designed to be hand-shaped. These molds are professionally washed and cleaned to prevent contamination from previous batches or pollutants before being dipped in a calcium nitrate and calcium carbonate solution. These solutions act as a coagulant and release agent, respectively, enabling any pollutants to come off easily.
Once dried, the molds are dipped into the latex compound, and how long they are dipped for will determine how thick the gloves are, thus creating the various thicknesses you can purchase.
The molds are then subject to other solutions, such as a hot water and chlorine mix designed to reduce latex protein build-up on the gloves, which decreases the risk of an allergic reaction in people who may have an intolerance to latex.
After the gloves are then dried and cured, the gloves will go through a ‘Vulcanization’ process that adds elasticity to the gloves by causing a reaction between the latex molecules within the gloves themselves. It’s this process that gives latex gloves their stretchiness and makes them less likely to tear. This stretchiness also ensures that the latex gloves are a comfortable fit for the end-users.
The latex gloves are then rinsed again to rid them of any more built-up latex proteins; the cuffs of each pair are beaded at their rims to make them easy to take on and off. Finally, the latex gloves are dried using various methods.
They are then boxed and packaged while the molds are cleaned and rinsed, ready for the process to begin again.
This might sound like a laborious process, and perhaps one that’s far more complicated than you first thought, but that’s just how it works and has no doubt been refined and optimized plenty of times over the last few decades.
This is pretty much the same process that applies to all gloves, including all the gloves we produce. There are only slight variations in the compounds used, the shape and sizes of the molds, and the type of rubber used.
The Benefits and Characteristics
So, why latex gloves? Why would you and millions of other buyers around the world choose to use them?
In addition to the fact, they’re pretty universal and can be used in all manner of circumstances and situations. The fact that most people will have used these gloves at some point in their lives, there are some hard-and-fast benefits as to why you would choose these gloves over any other kind.
A Balanced PPE Solution
Firstly, these gloves balance performance over price.
As a business, budgeting and managing your operational costs is everything, which means you need to look for affordable products that aren’t too cheap that the build quality is poor and break at a moment’s notice. However, they aren’t so expensive that they rinse through your PPE budget. Right in the middle of this spectrum is where you’ll find latex gloves.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business or industry you operate in. Latex gloves hold many opportunities for you to indulge in. For example, if you’re a supplier, latex gloves are a popular choice for customers looking for general-purpose gloves that can be used in various situations whenever gloves are needed. This means that when shopping, customers are familiar with shopping for latex gloves first and will typically be the gloves of choice.
This is reflected in the market figures.
Statista reports that worldwide latex glove sales peaked in 2021. In 2022, this figure is expected to increase further by 2025. North America is set to be the fastest-growing market during this time, with their global market increasing, a staggering increase which goes to show how many opportunities and demand there is for latex gloves alone and just how much focus there is on this variation of PPE.
Studies have proven time and time again that latex gloves are incredibly durable. In addition, they are far more puncture-resistant than other glove varieties, specifically the more traditional vinyl gloves.
However, this does depend on the type of latex glove in question. Latex gloves tend to be available in various thicknesses, from lightweight and thin to heavy-duty, so always ensure you choose the right glove for the job you’re protecting yourself from.
What’s more, latex gloves are known for having increased elasticity than other brands, again, such as vinyl gloves or hard latex gloves, and those made from fabric (think of thick gloves you’d use while clearing out a garden).
Combining these benefits, you have a durable glove that you infrequently replace, therefore maximizing your investment while giving your business or home the correct PPE that benefits what you’re doing.
Gloves for the People
While latex gloves have their origins in the medical industries, they are undoubtedly popular in all sectors due to their range of user-friendly features. It’s these universally helpful features that make them ideal as general-purpose gloves.
Since latex gloves are durable and elastic, they provide high levels of comfort and dexterity for their users and are available in various sizes that guarantee a perfect fit.
This is vital in certain practices, such as performing surgery or working on an engine, because if the user is wearing a loosely-fitting glove, they’re far more prone to accidents taking place, such as getting caught in a machine or losing their grip on whatever instrument they’re using. Perfectly-fitting latex gloves prevent this from happening.
The Quality is Guaranteed
Due to the critical implications and settings in which latex gloves are used, the quality control measures enforced on these gloves are such a high standard, and quite rightly too. Businesses cannot afford to risk using gloves in, for example, medical practices that aren’t hygienic and haven’t passed the proper safety checks.
Of course, there are variations in this. It’s most certainly possible to purchase gloves that aren’t tested and don’t meet the recommended standards. However, if you invest in these gloves and get caught out, whether that’s by investigation or a reported accident, this can create serious legal repercussions for your business.
While quality control measures will vary slightly from country to country, they are generally the same wherever you go. For example, in the USA, all glove brands must be approved or tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
These tests relate to procedures detailed by the AQL or the Acceptable Quality Limits. Each set is tested against such guidelines.
In the EU, gloves must come with specific documentation and stamps to prove they have been tested and meet the predetermined safety and quality guidelines. If the gloves are used in industrial or medical practices, the testing guidelines are far stricter.
It’s easy to see why latex gloves are considered the most popular glove type. Available in various sizes, powered and non-powered, sterile and non-sterile versions, suitable for all kinds of operations, and available all over the world, it’s easy to see why latex gloves are the standard when it comes to PPE gloves.
As a business, if you’re looking for general-use PPE gloves, latex gloves will probably be your go-to gloves in terms of performance and being budget-friendly. If you need something a little more specialist, you may want to keep looking, but for day-to-day use, this is the PPE option you’ll go for.