Selecting the Right Chemical Gloves
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When handling chemicals, wearing proper chemical resistant gloves will prevent or minimize the potential for worker injuries due to chemical hazards. There are so many gloves on the market from a variety of manufactures. Which one do you choose? First, you should review a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from your manufacturer of choice. The MSDS will provide a recommendation for which glove material is appropriate for the chemical(s) you are working with. If that information is not available on the MSDS, the glove manufactures test their glove material with common workplace chemicals and provide a test data in chart format. Click a manufacturer below to view their MSDS sheet.
Material Safety Data Sheets
An important consideration when choosing a protective glove for working with chemicals is how the specific chemical reacts with the glove material. A MSDS that only specifies an “acid-resistant glove” is misleading because one glove material may work fine with hydrochloric acid but provide little or no protection from nitric acid. Chemical Resistant Gloves are generally tested and rated in 3 categories for chemical compatibility: degradation, breakthrough time and permeation rate. All three should be considered when choosing 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.
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 is 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.
The Permeation Rate is a measurement which describes the rate of chemical passing through the glove material at the molecular level. This process is similar to how a balloon looses 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 chemical passing 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, then 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.
Frequently 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.
Please Note: The information contained in this publication 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 questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.
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