Choosing the Right Exam Glove for the Task

On-the-job barrier performance of exam gloves can differ, depending on the glove material and the task at hand. Consider the benefits and limitations of these materials when selecting exam gloves for each situation:

Natural Rubber LatexNitrileVinylPolychloroprene
Puncture resistance/durability
Comfort and tactile sensitivity✓ ✓✓ ✓
Resistance to chemo drugs and chemicals✓ ✓
Risk of Type 1 allergic reaction

With its balanced properties, affordable cost and no risk of latex allergies, Nitrile has become the #1 exam glove material in the healthcare industry.

Important Factors to Consider

ASTM standards can help you determine if your glove has the properties you need for each application. The standards for nitrile exam glove characteristics are contained in ASTM D6319-10.1

  • Powder-free. Powdered exam gloves are banned by the FDA as of January 18, 20172 because they present a substantial risk to patients and healthcare workers. Make sure all exam gloves are powder-free.
  • Thickness (ASTM D3767). Choose glove thickness based on the level of risk. Thicker gloves are generally more protective but offer less comfort and tactile sensitivity.
  • Length. Choose longer gloves when the area of exposure is wider or unknown or there is a risk of channeling (fluids flowing down between the gown cuff and the glove).
  • Tensile Strength (ASTM D412). Aim for high tensile strength (the amount of force applied to a glove until it breaks, normalized for thickness). Also consider the force at break, which is not normalized for thickness. This gives you a better reading of glove durability.
  • Ultimate Elongation (ASTM D412). Look for a high level of stretch so gloves give rather than break when stressed or snagged during a procedure.

Know About Testing Standards

A wide range of tests help determine the usability of exam gloves in different environments and procedures.

  • Water Leak test (ASTM D5151) fills gloves with water to detect holes that compromise protection. Aim for the lowest possible value: AQL of 1.0 or lower.3
  • Viral Penetration (ASTM F1671-97b) – be sure the gloves you choose have successfully passed this test.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs testing clears gloves for this special use. The chemotherapy gloves you select should be tested per the latest standard (ASTM D6978-05) using a wide range of chemotherapy agents. Breakthrough times should be listed on the dispenser box.

Related Article


  1. The standards for exam gloves characteristics are contained in ASTM D3578-05 for natural rubber latex and D5250-06 for vinyl.
  3. The ASTM standard allows for an AQL of maximum 2.5 for exam gloves.

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Caution: These gloves do not protect against heat or fire. Do not use in applications involving exposure to fire, flames or other heat.