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
TypeAdvantagesDisadvantagesUse Against
Natural rubberLow cost, good physical properties, dexterityPoor vs. oils, greases, organics. Frequently imported; may be poor qualityBases, alcohols, dilute water solutions; fair vs. aldehydes, ketones.
Natural rubber blendsLow cost, dexterity, better chemical resistance than natural rubber vs. some chemicalsPhysical properties frequently inferior to natural rubberSame as natural rubber
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)Low cost, very good physical properties, medium cost, medium chemical resistancePlasticizers can be stripped; frequently imported may be poor qualityStrong acids and bases, salts, other water solutions, alcohols
NeopreneMedium cost, medium chemical resistance, medium physical propertiesNAOxidizing acids, anilines, phenol, glycol ethers
NitrileLow cost, excellent physical properties, dexterityPoor vs. benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, many ketonesOils, greases, aliphatic chemicals, xylene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethane; fair vs. toluene
ButylSpeciality glove, polar organicsExpensive, poor vs. hydrocarbons, chlorinated solventsGlycol ethers, ketones, esters
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)Specialty glove, resists a very broad range of organics, good physical propertiesVery expensive, water sensitive, poor vs. light alcoholsAliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, ketones (except acetone), esters, ethers
Fluoro- elastomer (Viton) ™ *Specialty glove, organic solventsExtremely expensive, poor physical properties, poor vs. some ketones, esters, aminesAromatics, chlorinated solvents, also aliphatics and alcohols
Norfoil (Silver Shield)Excellent chemical resistancePoor fit, easily punctures, poor grip, stiffUse 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: February 22, 2024