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Choosing Chemical Resistant Gloves

Quick Tips #166

Choosing Chemical-Resistant Gloves

Chemical-resistant gloves are an important piece of personal protective equipment when working with chemicals. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is the first and usually the best place to find a recommendation for which glove is appropriate the chemical you're using. If that information is not on the MSDS, the glove manufacturers test their glove materials with common workplace chemicals and provide test data in chart format. The test data is generally from a laboratory environment and with one specific chemical. Glove manufacturers generally do not test chemical mixtures and don't consider other variables in your application, such as hot or cold temperatures and cut hazards. Below are chemical guide links of the larger glove manufacturers distributed by Grainger.

ShowaBest Glove

On these chemical-resistance guide charts, you will find gloves made from many different materials. Different glove materials can react differently to individual chemicals. An important consideration when choosing a protective glove for working with chemicals is how the specific chemical reacts with the glove material. An MSDS that only specifies an acid-resistant glove is misleading because one glove material might work fine with hydrochloric acid, but provide little or no protection from nitric acid. Gloves are generally tested and rated in three categories for chemical compatibility: degradation, breakthrough time and permeation rate. All three should be considered when selecting a glove.

Degradation is a change in physical properties of the glove material. Common effects include swelling, wrinkling, stiffness, change in color or other physical deterioration. The degradation ratings indicate how well a glove will hold up when working with a specific chemical. Degradation tests vary by manufacturer. There is no standardized test that is used by everyone in the industry. However, the glove material usually has constant exposure to the test chemical and the percent weight change is then determined at time intervals.

Degradation is one critical factor when choosing a glove but other considerations are chemical breakthrough time and the permeation rate of the glove with the chemical. Degradation is usually the first test. Most manufacturers do not test permeation or breakthrough time if the chemical causes significant degradation to the glove material. Degradation alone can be enough to disqualify a glove for use with a chemical.

Breakthrough time is the elapsed time between initial contact of the chemical on one side of the glove material and the analytical detection of the chemical on the other side of the glove material. This test is conducted per ASTM F739 standard test method for resistance of protective clothing materials to permeation by hazardous liquid chemicals. The higher the result, the longer it takes for the chemical to pass through the glove material. The actual time reported on the chemical is usually listed on the compatibility charts. If breakthrough did not occur, the data reported is typically ND (none detected) or > (greater than) the indicated test period. The times generally reflect how long a glove can be expected to provide resistance when totally submerged in the test chemical.

Permeation rate is a measurement that describes the rate of a chemical passing through the glove material at the molecular level. This process is similar to how a balloon loses air after enough time passes even though it is still tied and has no visible holes. The thickness of the glove can greatly affect the permeation rate.

Manufacturers report permeation rate in different ways. Some report in micrograms of chemical per square centimeter of glove material per minute. The higher the result, the more of the chemical that passes through the glove material. Other manufacturers rate the permeation similar to that done for degradation: excellent (E), good (G), fair (F), poor (P) and not recommended (NR). If chemical breakthrough does not occur, permeation is not measured. This is reported as ND (none detected) or NT (not tested), depending upon the manufacturer. This test is also conducted per ASTM F739.


The manufacturers' chemical-resistance glove links above will help you select the proper glove for handling hazardous chemicals. Choose the most appropriate glove by comparing the degradation, breakthrough time and permeation rates. Remember that these tests were conducted on specific gloves under laboratory conditions. Your application might also have temperature, cut resistance or other considerations. It is recommended that you consult your MSDS and conduct your own tests to determine the appropriate glove for your specific application.

See Quick Tips #191: Chemical-Resistant Gloves Guide for more information on selecting a chemical resistant glove.

See Quick Tips #306: Safety Glove Size Chart for assistance with glove sizing.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q.   If a glove is compatible with 50% Nitric Acid, can I assume it will work for 10% Nitric Acid?
A.   No. You should never assume that different concentrations will have the same effect on gloves as the test data. In fact, Nitric Acid is more corrosive at 10% than it is at 50%. You should always check the MSDS for chemical information and glove recommendations. It is also suggested that you perform your own tests before you use the glove in your application.



MAPA® Professional

NORTH® Safety

Ansell Protective Products Inc.

SHOWA BEST® Glove Inc.

MICROFLEX Corporation

(Rev. 1/2012)

Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The content in this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific compliance questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.

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