The Advanced Photon Source
a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility

Safety Glove Selection Guide

Skin contact is a potential source of exposure to toxic materials.  It is important to ensure proper steps are taken to avoid skin contact with toxic materials.  Most accidents involving the hands and arms can be classified under four main hazard categories: chemical exposure, abrasions, cuts, and heat.  Gloves are available that can protect workers from any of these individual hazards or a combination of any of these hazards.

Gloves should be replaced periodically, depending on frequency of use and permeability to the substance(s) handled.  Overtly contaminated gloves should be rinsed and then carefully removed after use.

Gloves should also be worn whenever it is necessary to handle rough or sharp-edged objects and very hot or very cold materials.  The type of glove material(s) that can be used in these situations include leather gloves, welder’s gloves, aluminum-backed gloves, and other types of insulated glove materials.

Careful attention must be given to protecting hands when working with tools and machinery.  Power tools and machinery must have guards installed or incorporated into their design that prevent the hands from contacting the point of operation, power train, or other moving parts.  To protect hands from injury due to contact with moving parts, it is important to:

  • Ensure that guards are always in place and used.
  • Always lock-out machines or tools and disconnect the power before making repairs.
  • Treat a machine without a guard as inoperative; and
  • Do not wear gloves around moving machinery, such as drill presses, mills, lathes, and grinders.

The following is a guide to the most common types of protective work gloves and the types of hazards they can guard against:

  • Disposable Gloves: usually made of light-weight plastic, can help guard against mild irritants
  • Fabric Gloves: made of cotton or fabric blends and are generally used to improve grip when handling slippery objects; also help insulate hands from mild heat or cold
  • Leather Gloves: used to guard against injuries from sparks or scraping against rough surfaces; used in combination with an insulated liner when working with electricity
  • Metal Mesh Gloves: used to protect hands form accidental cuts and scratches; most commonly by persons working with cutting tools or other sharp instruments
  • Aluminized Gloves: designed to insulate hands from intense heat; most commonly used by persons working with molten materials
  • Chemical Resistance Gloves: may be made of rubber, neoprene, polyvinyl alcohol, vinyl, etc.; protect hands from corrosives, oils, and solvents. 
    • Refer to the Glove Chart below for information regarding the different types of glove materials and the chemicals from which they can provide protection.  When selecting chemical resistance gloves, consult the manufacturers’ recommendations, especially if the gloved hand will be immersed in the chemical in question.

Use the ANL Glove Selection Fact Sheet for more information.

Glove Chart
Type Advantages Disadvantages Use Against
Natural rubber Low cost, good physical properties, dexterity Poor vs. oils, greases, organics. Frequently imported; may be poor quality Bases, alcohols, dilute water solutions; fair vs. aldehydes, ketones.
Natural rubber blends Low cost, dexterity, better chemical resistance than natural rubber vs. some chemicals Physical properties frequently inferior to natural rubber Same as natural rubber
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Low cost, very good physical properties, medium cost, medium chemical resistance Plasticizers can be stripped; frequently imported may be poor quality Strong acids and bases, salts, other water solutions, alcohols
Neoprene Medium cost, medium chemical resistance, medium physical properties NA Oxidizing acids, anilines, phenol, glycol ethers
Nitrile Low cost, excellent physical properties, dexterity Poor vs. benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, many ketones Oils, greases, aliphatic chemicals, xylene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethane; fair vs. toluene
Butyl Speciality glove, polar organics Expensive, poor vs. hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents Glycol ethers, ketones, esters
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) Specialty glove, resists a very broad range of organics, good physical properties Very expensive, water sensitive, poor vs. light alcohols Aliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, ketones (except acetone), esters, ethers
Fluoro- elastomer (Viton) ™ * Specialty glove, organic solvents Extremely expensive, poor physical properties, poor vs. some ketones, esters, amines Aromatics, chlorinated solvents, also aliphatics and alcohols
Norfoil (Silver Shield) Excellent chemical resistance Poor fit, easily punctures, poor grip, stiff Use for Hazmat work

*Trademark of DuPont Dow Elastomers

Contact the APS User Safety Program with any questions or if the internal links are not working properly.

Reviewed: December 15, 2022