There is often confusion surrounding different types of disposable gloves and which is right for any job.
A great example is “surgical gloves.” You may have heard or seen—in media coverage or TV police procedurals—a criminal said to be wearing surgical gloves while committing a crime, whether it’s a bank heist or a serial killer at work.
Thing is, surgical-grade gloves are most likely not the culprit. Not only are they too expensive for all but the most well-to-do villain, but they are made in smaller quantities aimed at a niche medical market.
Ultimately telling one glove from another is not complicated, but the important differences between grades and their usage can be mystifying. It doesn’t help that there is a lot of misinformation making the rounds on the internet or in the media.
We’ll start with the basics: The two primary types of single-use gloves are industrial grade and medical or exam grade. (Medical and exam have the same meaning in this context, despite what you may see on less-informed websites.)
Those distinctions are determined by Acceptable Quality Level (AQL). Medical gloves have an AQL of 1.5 to 2.5, meaning that 1.5% to 2.5% in a particular batch will have pinholes during testing in which gloves are filled with water and suspended with fingers pointing down. Industrial gloves have an AQL of 3.0 to 4.0.
Within the exam-grade group, there are further distinctions.
Non-sterile exam gloves are suited for most routine medical procedures. Zoomget sells non-sterile exam gloves under the 1st Choice brand: 3 mil. Blue Nitrile (1EN), 3 mil. Light Indigo (1VSEIN), 3 mil. Indigo (1EIN), 3 mil. Black Nitrile (1EBN), and 5 mil. Black Nitrile (1MEBN). We also sell exam gloves from AMMEX: 3 mil. Black Nitrile (ABNPF), Blue Nitrile (APFN), Indigo Nitrile (AINPF), Clear Vinyl (VPF), and 4 mil. White Latex (GPPFT).
Sterile exam gloves are for invasive procedures that contact sterile parts of the body, and may be used in protecting immunocompromised patients or delivering babies.
Then there are surgical gloves, perhaps the most misunderstood category. Not only are surgical gloves sterile, but they are, as mentioned, not widely available. The manufacturing process is complicated and expensive, and they’re packaged in pairs instead of 100-count boxes to further avoid contamination.
Another facet of surgical gloves is precise sizing. Many are made specifically for the left or right hands—most disposable gloves are ambidextrous—and are available in half-sizes so the fit enhances sensitivity. Sterile gloves have the strictest AQL of 1.0 to 1.5.