Examination gloves 101

Gloves 101: How to Evaluate and Select Examination Gloves

Purchasing examination gloves may appear to be a very simple choice, after all, “a glove is a glove”.  This simply is not the case, and due to the plethora of options and uses, choosing examination gloves can become quite complicated.  Here is everything you need to know to choose the appropriate exam gloves!


The first step to choosing the appropriate examination gloves is to determine their use.  There are many different healthcare settings that require examination gloves, but the type of glove needed will vary depending on what they are being used for.  Knowing exactly what situations the gloves will be used in is an obvious, but critical set in selecting exam gloves. 

Regardless of the material they’re made of, exam gloves are usually classified into a few categories:

Sterile vs. Non-sterile

Sterile – Sterile gloves are required for any invasive procedure and when contact with any sterile site, tissue, or body cavity is expected.  Many medical practitioners choose sterile gloves because they:

  • Prevent the spread of infections
  • Don’t hamper the healing process
  • Don’t react with wounds

Non-sterile – Non-sterile gloves are typically used when fluid contact isn’t necessary, such as when a patient comes in for an annual wellness check.  Many medical practitioners choose sterile gloves because they are:

  • Generally, more affordable than sterile gloves
  • Easier to store and use


Powdered vs. Powder-free

Powdered – Powdered gloves have cornstarch or lycopodium powder added which makes them easier to put on and prevents gloves from sticking together.  Due to concerns about patient sensitivity or allergies to powdered gloves, on January 18th 2017, the FDA banned the use of powdered medical/exam grade gloves.

  • Presents allergy concerns
  • Generally, more affordable than powder-free gloves

Powder-free – Powder-free gloves undergo a process known as chlorination, in which gloves are treated with a chlorine solution, rinsed with water, and then dried to remove most of the powdered residue and latex proteins.  The chlorination process makes latex gloves less form fitting so that powder is not needed for easy removal.

  • Slightly harder to remove
  • Generally, more expensive than powdered gloves



Exam gloves are typically made from one of the following 3 materials:

Nitrile gloves – Made from a synthetic rubber that doesn’t contain latex, making the gloves more durable, as well as reducing the chance that someone will have an allergic reaction to them.

  • High-level barrier protection
  • Available in both sterile and non-sterile
  • Stronger than vinyl or latex
  • Greater protection against chemical exposure
  • Protein & latex free

Latex gloves – Also made from synthetic rubber, latex gloves set the standard for comfort and flexibility while also providing good barrier protection and chemical resistance.  However, wearers with latex allergies may experience an allergic reaction.

  • Highly elastic
  • Durable & comfortable
  • Mid-level barrier protection
  • Polymer coating replaces corn starch powders

Vinyl gloves – Made from polyvinyl chloride, vinyl gloves are great for short-term jobs where comfort and durability isn’t as much of a concern.  They are also generally more affordable than nitrile or latex gloves.

  • Latex free for those with allergies
  • Less durable than nitrile or latex gloves
  • Generally, less expensive than nitrile or latex gloves
  • For use in examination applications only


Each category of medical glove has been designed to meet the needs of different situations and tasks. First and foremost, determine what the gloves will be used for and decide what properties are required.  Regardless of what equipment you’re purchasing, our dedicated team wants to help you make strategic and intelligent purchasing decisions.  For assistance choosing the correct examination gloves, we invite you to call us at 561-418-3076 or click the button below!


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