Chemical Safety Gloves: Picking the Right Fit for the Job

Think of a job where workers don’t need to use their hands. Difficult, isn’t it? So, when it comes workplace safety, the importance of choosing the right hand protection can’t be over stated, especially for work involving hazardous chemicals.

From acids and solvents to oils, each hazardous chemical requires careful consideration when choosing the proper protection. The right pair of safety gloves is a critical defense, so when considering the best glove for the job, consider the following:

  • What hazardous chemicals might be encountered?
  • How could workers come in contact with the chemical? Do gloves need to protect against a potential splash, or will hands be submerged?
  • How long would workers be in contact with the chemical?

Chemical Safety Glove Testing

Depending on the application, specific, standardized test parameters are used to confirm that gloves provide adequate protection.


Permeation is the process where chemicals move through glove material at a molecular level, eventually coming into contact with skin. The time it takes a chemical to move through the glove material is called the breakthrough time, which is used to classify gloves into the following types and protection levels:

Glove TypeProtects AgainstProtection Time
AAt least 1 chemical>30 min.
BAt least 3 chemicals>30 min.
CAt least 6 chemicals>10 min.


Unlike permeation, which travels through the material itself, penetration occurs when chemicals move through imperfections in the glove like small holes or faulty seams. Penetration tests are performed using air or water.


Degradation measures the change in a glove’s physical properties when exposed to a chemical. Visual signs of degradation include flaking, swelling and hardening of the glove. Degradation tests are performed by measuring the puncture resistance of the glove before and after exposure to the chemical.

Selecting the RIGHT Chemical Safety Glove

Given the wide variety of protective gloves available, it’s important to understand the specific application to ensure the right glove is selected for every task:

Nitrile Gloves

  • General purpose glove; resists gasoline, kerosene, and petroleum solvents
  • Avoid Ketones, oxidizing acids and organic chemicals containing nitrogen

Natural Rubber Gloves

  • Thicker, more durable glove
  • Protects from chemicals during heavy-duty cleaning

Neoprene Gloves

  • Flexible material makes them ideal for precise work
  • Protects against acids, alcohols, oils and inks
  • Avoid inorganic oxidizing agents such as concentrated nitric or chromic acids

PVC Gloves

  • Frequently used in the cleaning and petrochemical industries
  • Protects against diluted oxidizing agents like hydrochloric and nitric acid
  • Avoid ketones, ether and aromatic or chlorinated solvents

Butyl Gloves

  • Made of a synthetic rubber, these gloves protect against a wide variety of chemicals
  • Low permeability protects against chemical gases like chlorine or hydrogen cyanide

Viton Gloves

  • Developed for use in the aerospace industry for extreme resistance to chemicals and heat
  • These specialized gloves protect against polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated triphenyls, benzene and aniline.

For more information on the latest technology and materials in hand protection, talk to your local Bunzl Safety professional – or, choose from a wide selection of chemical safety gloves at!

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