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How to Select Chemical Resistant Gloves

- June 21, 2017 by Linda Schafer (View all posts by Linda)

In my last blog, I discussed selecting the proper glove. However, choosing gloves for chemical hazards is more complicated and requires some research to ensure the appropriate glove is chosen. Skin contact with chemicals can result in local effects such as irritation, corrosion and allergic reactions, as well as systemic effects, such as toxicity and cancer, if chemicals are absorbed through the skin.

Generally, gloves are tested and rated in three categories for chemical compatibility: breakthrough time, degradation and permeation rate. All three should be considered when selecting a glove:

Breakthrough Time

The “breakthrough time” is defined as the time between the initial contact with the chemical on the outside surface of the glove and when it is detected on the inside surface. It’s important to remember that mixtures can have shorter breakthrough times than their individual components. In this case, the glove should be tested against the mixture before use in the workplace.


Another selection consideration is the degradation of the physical properties of the glove due to contact with the chemical. Most glove manufacturers will provide chemical resistance data for their products. In addition, Safety Data Sheets can provide information on the proper personal protective equipment recommended for use with the chemical.

Permeation Rate

Permeation rate describes how quickly a chemical can move through a chemically resistant barrier. The thickness of the glove can significantly affect the permeation rate. Manufacturers also report permeation rate in different ways.

It’s important to also note that penetration can also occur due to punctures or tears in the glove, so gloves should always be inspected prior to use. The use of latex gloves, a natural rubber, has been associated with allergic reactions, which introduces another hazard to be considered.

When choosing gloves for the workplace, remember that improper selection of gloves and the failure to use them appropriately may result in injury or occupational disease. Proper glove selection will increase safety within your company and help increase your overall bottom line and productivity.