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The Difference Between Exam Gloves and General Purpose Gloves

Feb 18, 2020 11:00:00 AM posted in Exam Gloves, General Purpose Gloves

In any healthcare setting you’ll find multiple reasons to use gloves. But one glove may not serve well for all applications. To optimize performance with cost efficiency and access the appropriate level of infection protection, you’ll need to match the kind of glove to your intended activity. 

General purpose gloves are disposable gloves that are great as hygiene aids for activities like food handling and housekeeping. Medical or exam gloves, on the other hand, need to be worn when directly in contact with a patient outside the OR, or other surgical sites; since surgical gloves need to be worn in those areas Here we take a closer look at what you need to know about how medical and industrial gloves differ:


Differences in Material

Gloves are often made from either latex, nitrile or vinyl. Which material is used to make a new set of gloves depends on the tasks they’re intended for. 

  • Latex is a popular choice in both medical and industrial settings because of its flexibility and how well it fits your hand. Though Natural Rubber Latex (NRL) gloves are comfortable and allow for dextrous work, latex sensitivity is so widespread that it isn’t always the practical choice in healthcare settings. When it is a feasible choice, it can help you withstand high heat and resist caustic substances and detergents.

  • Nitrile is a synthetic latex alternative that’s significantly more durable and chemical resistant. They’re also exceptionally puncture resistant. Less elastic than latex, they tend to shred easily when torn.       


  • Vinyl gloves are another, less-durable, latex alternative. Where nitrile gloves can be used in similar situations to their latex counterparts, vinyl gloves are best suited in environments that don’t expose you to working with hazardous materials. Because they don’t have much tensile strength, vinyl gloves also fit your hand more loosely.  


Differences in use Cases

Disposable gloves are categorized according to their intended use. Medical gloves — including examination and surgical gloves, and those used to handle chemotherapy agents — are categorized by the FDA as medical devices that need to pass stringent technical tests before they can be labeled as safe for surgery or medical examination. This means they’re vetted for things like stretchability, leak and have an AQL of 2.5.     

Industrial grade (or general purpose) gloves fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction if they are used in the food industry. These general purpose gloves are generally used as personal protection for janitorial and sanitation tasks, or for non-medical laboratory tasks.


The Question of Powder

In 2016, the FDA published a rule banning the use of powder on surgical and examination gloves. While powder acts as a lubricant and helps you don and doff gloves more easily, they are linked to avoidable health risks including severe airway inflammation and allergic reactions such as asthma. Latex and nitrile medical gloves are therefore now typically chlorinated or coated with polymers to aid with donning and doffing in these environments. 

On the other hand, powdered general purpose gloves remain a practical choice outside of medical examination and surgical settings. 



Finding the right sized glove maximizes comfort and dexterity, and also ensures your safety — if your gloves are too loose, they might slip off and increase the likelihood of microbial contamination. Gloves that are too small or tight contribute to hand fatigue and decreased dexterity.  



A textured surface can improve grip in wet and dry conditions. Before you purchase, however, you’d need to confirm whether you’d do best with fully textured gloves, or ones that are only textured on the fingertips. 



While color seems like a matter of preference, distinct colors can help you distinguish between different kinds of gloves. In a busy healthcare setting, this can save you precious seconds. In the food industry, brightly colored gloves help identify any fragments that might contaminate food after a rip or tear. 



Chlorination and polymer coating are alternative finishes to powder, and help with donning and doffing medical grade gloves. Chlorination, for example, will make the glove have a satin-like finish while also reducing the latex allergen content. Industrial, or general purpose gloves may be powdered. This finish absorbs moisture and makes them easier to wear for long periods

When you’re choosing those new exam gloves for your practice, considering these key differences will help you find the right match. What you need is a glove that’s the correct size, fits properly and is designed for your needs. 

Ventyv leads the charge in personal protection. Our range of examination and general purpose gloves cover all your needs. Our new exam gloves come in latex and nitrile options:

  • Ventyv® Polymed® is a powder-free, multi-layered latex exam glove that offers the elasticity of latex with the strength of copolymers. Our TLC version comes with an aloe and Vitamin E coating that protects against dry and cracking skin. 
  • Our nitrile, powder-free range of exam gloves include options with aloe & Vitamin E coating (ULTRA 3.5 Flamingo), texturing and tested for use with chemotherapy drugs (PLUS 5.0 Bull), and design that ensures a natural fit for unrestricted hand motion that reduces hand fatigue (SELECT 3.0 Walrus).
  • Our Core 5.0 (Whale) model is a latex powdered General Purpose glove that is durable and comfortable for extended use in non-medical applications.

From healthcare to food handling, cleaning and sanitation, and everything in between — we’ve got you covered. Let’s Outsmart Infection together and change the world for the better.

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