The two main types of disposable medical gloves are exam and surgical - each with a particular function.  Medical gloves are further designated by their material - nitrile, latex and vinyl.  To make selecting the right medical glove even more interesting they are also available in powdered, non-powdered, sterile, nonsterile, textured, coated . . .  Let's break it down.

Who Wears Medical Gloves?

Caregivers, Healthcare Professionals, Surgeons, Lab Techs, Catheter Users, Ostimates, Dentists, Pharmacists, Rescue Workers, Police Officers, Manicurists, Chefs, Hair Stylists, Housekeepers, Pet Owners, Gardeners, Factory Workers, Moms, Mechanics, Teachers, Food Handlers and more.

Exam Gloves vs. Surgical Gloves

General purpose exam gloves are most commonly used by caregivers and healthcare workers to protect themselves from contamination during an examination or procedure.  Gloves can also used in the home to clean up household spills and pet messes, gardening or even when changing the oil in the car.  They are low cost and nice to have at hand when unsanitary situations arise.

Surgeons and operating room nurses wear advanced surgical gloves that are more specifically sized and designed to allow better precision and sensitivity. 

Latex, Vinyl or Nitrile Exam Gloves

Latex Powder-Free Exam GlovesLatex Gloves

  • Comfortable
  • Highly durable and flexible
  • Best fit
  • High tactile sensitivity to touch
  • Preferred by surgeons
  • Not recommended for those with latex allergies
  • Mid-range barrier protection

Shop all Latex Gloves - Powder Free

Shop all Latex Gloves - Powdered

Vinyl Powder-Free Exam GlovesVinyl Gloves

  • Low cost, high value
  • Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Standard barrier protection
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Latex-free
  • Less durable
  • Less tactile for sensitive work

Shop all Vinyl Gloves - Powder Free

Shop all Vinyl Gloves - Powdered

Invacare Nitrile Powder-Free Exam GlovesNitrile Gloves

  • Protein-free, latex free
  • High barrier protection
  • Chemical resistant
  • Puncture resistant

Shop all Nitrile Gloves

Shop all Exam Gloves

Shop all Surgical Gloves

In a nutshell, you will be basing your glove decision on the task at hand, the level of protection you need, allergies and/or sensitivites, comfort, fit and cost. 

A Word About Latex Allergies

Healthcare workers and anyone with frequent exposure to latex are at the greatest risk for developing latex sensitivity and allergies.  Symptoms range from minor skin irritation or redness to respiratory problems.  Shock has been reported rare cases.  There is a big push by the healthcare industry to become latex-free to prevent further development of latex allergies.

Powdered vs. UnPowdered Gloves

Powder is used to lubricate the gloves, making them easier to put on your hands.  Cornstarch is used because it is non-irritating, however powder can impede healing if it gets into tissues so unpowdered gloves are the most popular choice among healthcare workers.  Special inner coatings on gloves have now replaced powder in many gloves, thus eliminating powder-related complications.