How Latex Gloves are Made


Natural rubber latex glove production is an interesting process that starts with nature and ends with comprehensive barrier protection. Each step along the way ensures the gloves are of the utmost quality when they arrive to distributors and end users.  Here is an overview of the production cycle from start to finish.  How latex gloves are made:

The harvesting phase
The process begins with the Hevea brasiliensis tree, which mostly grows in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Farmers extract the trees’ milky white latex sap from mature trees through a process called tapping. This occurs in the early morning, as the sap coagulates faster when temperatures rise later in the day. Farmers start by stripping bark from the tree at a downward curve. This directs the sap to a spile, which then allows the latex to drip into a cup affixed to the tree. Then, farmers boil the milky white latex to make it more concentrated, which gives the sap a consistency similar to syrup. Rubber trees are suitable for tapping for five years.

“Farmers remove latex from trees through a process called tapping.”

The production phase
Once farmers collect the sap, it goes to a factory for production. This phase includes several steps:

  • Preparing the latex: While latex gloves come from natural rubber latex, they are not 100 percent pure. This is because manufacturers combine the latex concentrate with a number of compounding chemicals during the initial step of the production process. This step enhances the latex’s properties, such as the elasticity, as well as stabilizes the material and its shelf life.
  • Cleaning the formers: To mold the latex into the shape of a glove, manufacturers use hand-shaped ceramic formers. The first task is to wash these formers by dipping them in water and then bleach. This ensures no residues are left from the previous batch. Afterward, formers dip into a chemical solution of calcium carbonate and calcium nitrate to help the latex stick.
  • Dipping in latex: Once the formers are ready, manufacturers dip them into a tank full of latex, with the length of time the former is immersed in the tank varying based on the desired glove thickness.
  • Vulcanizing the rubber: To ensure the rubber does not crack while drying, the formers enter an oven to dry and solidify. The development of the vulcanization process was integral to the creation of the latex rubber.
  • Leaching the gloves: This process involves dipping the gloves in water tanks and removing excess latex proteins to lower the risk of wearers having an allergic reaction and enhance the feel.
  • Beading the cuffs: Once the gloves are done with leaching, the manufacturers roll the cuffs to make the gloves easier to remove. The gloves may undergo leaching again after beading.
  • Applying powder: If the gloves are powdered, they enter a wet food-grade cornstarch powder slurry. Afterward, manufacturers dry the gloves again.
  • Chlorinating or polymer coating the gloves: If the gloves are powder free, they undergo alternative processes to facilitate easier donning. The first is chlorination, which makes the latex less tacky. The second involves coating the gloves with a polymer, which makes the surface smoother.
  • Stripping the gloves: Once the gloves are finished, workers remove them from the formers by hand.

“Medical-grade gloves are subject to more rigorous testing.”

The quality control phase
To ensure the gloves are of the highest quality, manufacturers test them. Workers test gloves using methods from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these standards. The pinhole leak test is one of these methods. Workers first fill the gloves with one liter of water. Then, they close and hang the gloves to check for leaks.

The tests adhere to guidelines regarding acceptable quality limits (AQLs). These standards designate a percentage to evaluate a batch of gloves. If a batch’s failed gloves exceed this percentage of the total batch, all the gloves in that batch fail.

The results of these tests determine whether the gloves will be industrial- or medical-grade. The latter are subject to more rigorous testing.

The packaging phase
Once the gloves are done with production, workers package and pack them for shipping. The gloves travel from the manufacturing plants in Southeast Asia to the U.S. by ocean freight.

And there you have it, that is how latex gloves are made.  From something as simple as tree sap, you get durable barrier protection in latex gloves. Learn how you can add the durable protection of Latex Gloves to your product line today, by becoming an AMMEX Distributor.  More disposable glove distributors rely on AMMEX to supply their customers with superior barrier protection products.

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Beyond Medical Exam Gloves


Did you know workers in the medical and dental industries use an average of 15 pairs of disposable gloves each day which is 3,960 pairs each year? While this number may appear high, it is not that different – or even the highest usage – compared to glove usage in other industries.

When people think of disposable gloves, they often picture doctors or nurses snapping latex gloves on their hands. However, the medical and dental industries are far from the only places where gloves are used.

Let’s consider the glove revenue for these combined industries, which was nearly $5 billion in 2012. While this is an impressive figure, it is a little more than half the glove revenue for the industrial safety industry. If this is not enough of an indication of how medical and dental glove usage is just a small part of the total market, consider that the revenue share for this sector was approximately 27 percent of the total in 2012.

This is all not to say there are not still opportunities for glove use in exam settings – all applications are projected to see significant growth. Yet, the data does indicate there are a wealth of opportunities to get workers in various industries the gloves they need to get the job done.

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The Many Uses for Gloves in a Facility


There are various types of facilities, each of which having numerous applications that require disposable gloves. Within these facilities, numerous tasks – some core to the business and other supporting – are undertaken, and each of these instances requires a certain level of protection.

Here are some examples of activities at large facilities and how gloves are be beneficial to each:

  • Cleaning and janitorial staff: These workers need gloves for protection from the harsh chemicals in the cleaning supplies they use. Additionally, they must protect themselves from pathogens while sanitizing restrooms. Nitrile or vinyl gloves are used for these workers, as nitrile holds up to harsh chemicals, and vinyl is perfect for many glove changes between tasks.
  • Childcare: Some facilities have childcare services for employees on site. Daycare employees wear gloves as a protective barrier for themselves and the children. Gloves are donned for diaper changes, cleaning up messes, cleaning toys and feeding children.
  • First aid: This is another area where gloves serve as a protective barrier between wearers and the individuals. Nitrile exam gloves, for example, safeguard employees administering first aid against bloodborne pathogens and other diseases and are latex free.
  • Cafeteria: Three glove types are used in this area. Vinyl gloves appear in food production, poly gloves are used in food service and nitrile gloves are donned for heavier-duty, longer-period use. Many facilities prefer the use of antimicrobial vinyl gloves as an added layer of protection.
“When maintenance workers at industrial manufacturing facilities repair machines and fleet vehicles, they should protect their hands with disposable gloves.”
  • Line workers, assembler and fabricators: Workers on a factory floor handle harmful materials and substances. In battery manufacturing and processing plants, for example, lead is present during the manufacturing process. Employees who are exposed to these risks need protection for their hands while they work. Nitrile gloves, which are made of a highly chemically resistant synthetic rubber, are a suitable choice. Plus, they conform more closely to the hand as they are warmed by body heat, which allows for additional dexterity.
  • Maintenance: This area includes repairs to machinery used for manufacturing processes and to a facility’s fleet of transport vehicles. Maintenance workers come into contact with grease, gasoline and other solvents and need protection for their hands as they make repairs.
  • Packaging: Workers in this part of the manufacturing process are also subject to food safety regulations if foodstuffs and other consumables are being packaged. Furthermore, glove usage preserves the integrity of the packaging by preventing fingerprints.
  • Printing workers: Industrial printers use chemicals to produce printed labels and other items for their products. These chemicals include emulsions, inks, oxidizers and solvents. Disposable gloves protect workers’ hands from health risks, such as nervous system damage, that occur through skin absorption. Due to these chemical hazards, nitrile gloves are the solution in this case.
  • Security guards: These employees conduct inspections of other workers and need to wear gloves when doing so. Gloves protect security guards against contracting illnesses from persons they come in physical contact with.
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EMS Workers Must Follow Proper Glove Procedures


Emergency medical services (EMS) workers go through a lot of training regarding safety when donning and doffing barrier clothing such as disposable gloves, according to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.

However, these workers must remember to change their exam grade gloves at appropriate times during a call so they do not contaminate clean surfaces. This is true even if the patient does not have any visible lesions or is not vomiting. Per best practices, EMS workers should don gloves prior to touching a patient and remove them after a procedure or assessment is finished before touching a clean surface.

If workers must come into contact with patients after removing their gloves, they should immediately don a new pair. This indicates that workers should have ample supplies of disposable gloves on hand for the multiple changes.

Additionally, EMS workers need the appropriate gloves for the call. EMS workers frequently choose heavy duty exam grade gloves for the extra protection offered by the additional thickness and extended cuff. Additionally, if they are responding to a call involving dangerous chemicals, such as an on-the-job injury at a manufacturing plant, they must have a glove material that is resistant to the chemical involved in the accident, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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Growth for Global Disposable Glove Industry

A recent report by Allied Market Research has projected the global disposable glove industry is on track for large-scale growth through 2020. Let’s take a look at the forecasted future for wholesale disposable gloves.

The report forecasted the disposable glove industry will have a 6.2 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2014 and 2020. The Allied Market Research report projected a 12.6 percent CAGR for powder-free gloves based on a market shift away from powdered gloves. Several sectors are predicted to be the catalysts for growth, including industrial and nitrile gloves.

Nitrile disposable gloves have become popular in the auto repair industry as a more chemical-resistant and allergy-free alternative to latex. These gloves protect the skin against absorbing harsh chemicals and solvents that are common to auto shops, the California Department of Health Services Occupational Health Branch reported.

The researchers also pointed to several pandemics as the driving forces behind expanded glove use. For example, the recent Ebola outbreak has prompted demand for protective clothing, and multiple sources report the World Health Organization has suggested health workers assisting patients with Ebola don nitrile exam gloves.

Despite current international health concerns, industrial disposable gloves are expected to have the fastest growth of all segments. The report cited that food industries are key drivers of growth in this area and elaborated on the potential expansion for vinyl (PVC) and polyethylene (PE) gloves, which are used in the food processing and service industries, respectively. Disposable vinyl gloves accounted for the second-largest market share – 28 percent – in 2013.

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