Should I buy Powder-Free or Powdered Disposable gloves?

This old question about buying Powdered Gloves vs. Powder-Free Gloves has recently become a new question again by consumers due to the current catastrophic virus pandemic. This new virus has created a new increased demand for protective disposable gloves by new users. Most people think it’s a user issue regarding a friendlier glove but, funny enough, the powder issue is due to a necessity that came about a long time ago originating with the manufacturing. It brings back fond technical memories to me when I got into the glove business over 30 years ago.  

When disposable gloves were first developed, they were either made from solutions of latex or vinyl. Now, picture a long assembly line that moves with artificial porcelain (mandrel molds) hands hanging from a track. As these mandrels move along, they dip into big vat full with a special liquid solution containing powder. Then they move to another vat containing the latex solution. Next, they travel through a heat chamber which essentially evaporates (dries) the liquid from the latex. The gloves are now cured and ready for removal from the mandrels, inspection and packaging.

To remove a cured glove from its mandrel mold, the mandrels were coated with powder solutions prior to the dipping process in order to make it easier to remove the cured glove from the mold. Without the powder solution coating on the mandrels, the cured gloves would stick to the mandrels casing them to be defective when removed. Therefore, the powder practice became an intricate part of the manufacturing process. This was especially the case with latex gloves. It should be noted that powder ended up partially coating the outside of the gloves due to powder dust caused by the gloves  being removed from the mandrels.

What everyone discovered was that the powder process also made the latex gloves easier for users to slip the gloves on or off. This was because a residue of the powder solution remained inside each glove after they were made. This powder residue made the inside of the gloves slick eliminating a lot of glove breakage when putting them on.

In the late eighties many manufactures even used flavored powder coatings which were popular to the dental industry. A few also manufactured some latex models without powders due to allergic issues caused by the powder. The flavored models eventually were discontinued since they created excess saliva from patients which hindered many dental procedures. Powdered models are still popular but to a less degree due to good vinyl and nitrile glove models which are easier to slip on and off. It should be noted that latex had its own disadvantages to about 20% of the population due to allergies from the proteins in the latex. This is a separate issue from  problems caused by the powder as noted below.

Keep in mind that, today, disposable gloves are widely used in many industries outside of healthcare. For example, they are a required protective accessory (PPE) in the restaurant and food service industries as well as most manufacturing industries.

Today, I highly recommend powder-free gloves for many reasons.

First, they are less expensive. Yes, it is only a matter of pennies a glove but it adds up quickly with disposables.

Also, powder-free disposable gloves have been vastly improved technically over the last two decades and better materials and manufacturing processes make the gloves easier to slip-on and off and rarely break.

Additionally, powdered gloves add another element to contamination and allergy issues. Think of ordering a sandwich in a sandwich shop and they wore powdered gloves which added minuscule talc or powder to the bread or slices of meat or greens.

Another aspect is to know that the FDA has banned powdered gloves from the healthcare industry in 2016. The FDA claims the powdered glove models present an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.  

(It should be noted that having an added element such as a powder or talc added to the gloves creates issues about the type and source of the powder or talc since most all disposable gloves are made outside of the USA.)  

I also predict that powdered gloves will become more expensive over time and eventually become harder to find. I don’t think powdered gloves will disappear from some markets such as manufacturing since some workers will insist on using them. However, powder gloves no longer offer any distinct advantages over powder-free gloves for the manufacturers or for the users.

In conclusion, powder-free gloves offer you a safer and more economical glove choice over their powdered counterpart.

Link: Disposable Gloves

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Joe McGarry

The Glove Guru

2 thoughts on “Should I buy Powder-Free or Powdered Disposable gloves?

Hey Joe,

Is there a big impact on our environment with regards to disposable powder-free gloves, and are there any alternatives for the hospitality industry given the lack of current supply?

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