Skip to main content

How to choose an exam glove: Types, usage & recommendations

In order to promote hand hygiene and help prevent cross-contamination between patients and staff, the CDC recommends glove use for all healthcare workers. It’s important to choose the right exam glove for your practice.

What’s the right fit for your practice?

When choosing an exam glove, there are many factors to consider, including:

  • Your practice type
  • The types of procedures performed
  • Glove types available and their basic features

The type of glove to be used greatly depends on your practice type and the various procedures performed. Whether you’re performing frequent blood draws, seasonal flu tests, or yearly physical exams, the right glove can help protect patients and staff by reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

Practice types & healthcare settings

The list below represents various healthcare settings that would be likely to utilize exam gloves.

  • Physician Office/Specialty Clinic/Community Health Center
  • Phlebotomy
  • Laboratory
  • Long Term Care
  • Pharmacy/Oncology Clinic
  • Home Care
  • Urgent Care/Emergency Room
  • Environmental Services

When to use exam gloves, and when they’re not needed

Examination Gloves Indicated in
Clinical Situations
Direct Patient Exposure Indirect Patient Exposure
Potential for touching blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions and items visibly soiled by body fluids.
  • Contact with blood
  • Contact with mucous membrane and with non-intact skin
  • Potential presence of highly infectious and dangerous organism
  • Epidemic or emergency situations
  • IV insertion and removal; drawing blood
  • Discontinuation of venous line
  • Pelvic and vaginal examination
  • Suctioning non-closed systems of endotracheal tubes
  • Emptying emesis basins
  • Handling/cleaning instruments
  • Handling waste
  • Cleaning up spills of body fluids
Gloves Not Indicated (except for CONTACT precautions) Direct Patient Exposure Indirect Patient Exposure
No potential for exposure to blood or body fluids, or contaminated environment.
  • Taking blood pressure, temperature and pulse
  • Performing SC and IM injections
  • Bathing and dressing the patient
  • Transporting patient
  • Caring for eyes and ears (without secretions)
  • Any vascular line manipulation in absence of blood leakage
  • Using the telephone
  • Writing in the patient chart
  • Giving oral medications
  • Distributing or collecting patient dietary trays
  • Removing and replacing linen for patient bed
  • Placing non-invasive ventilation equipment and oxygen cannula
  • Moving patient furniture



Recommendations for the right fit

Now that you’ve considered your practice type and the procedures you perform, additional factors to consider while choosing the right glove include fit and comfort, elasticity and chemical resistance. The chart below offers basic recommendations based on glove type and common areas of concern.

  Barrier Protection Allergen
Strength & Durability Elasticity Fit
Chemical Resistance
Nitrile Good Choice


  • Provides good barrier protection
Good Choice


  • Contains no latex proteins
  • Can contain a low level of chemical allergens and curing agents
Good Choice


  • Performs well with a modest tensile strength per the ASTM requirements
Good Choice


  • Adequate flexibility
  • Does exhibit some memory and moldability
Good Choice


  • Provides good comfort and fit due to increased memory and elasticity
Best Choice


  • Provides good resistance to many chemicals
  • See chemical resistance chart
Latex Best Choice


  • Provides good barrier protection
Not Recommended


  • Contains protein and chemical allergens; check with specific manufacturer for allergen content
Best Choice


  • Performs well with a modest tensile strength per the ASTM requirements
Best Choice


  • High flexibility and memory
Best Choice


  • Provides excellent comfort and fit due to its high elasticity
  • Retains its shape and fit during rigorous manipulation
Good Choice


  • Provides good resistance to many chemicals
  • See chemical resistance chart
Not Recommended


  • May tear when put under significant stress, so protection is limited
Good Choice


  • Contains no latex proteins
  • Can contain some curing agents and other chemical ingredients
Not Recommended


  • Can break or puncture when put under tensile strain
Good Choice


  • Exhibits some stretchability and memory
Not Recommended


  • Limited elasticity
  • Fit and comfort can be limited
  • Wrist diameter can be large, making gloves baggy around the cuff after extended use
Not Recommended


  • Easily permeated by organic solvents



Chemical resistance ratings for nitrile & latex gloves

In some healthcare settings, chemical resistance is one of the more important factors to consider when choosing an exam glove. The below chart offers an overview of chemicals that may be found in healthcare settings, along with their resistance ratings for nitrile and latex gloves.

Chemical Nitrile Resistance Rating Latex Resistance Rating 
Acetaldehyde*   Good Good
Ammonium Hydroxide  Very Good Very Good
Citric Acid (10%)   Very Good Very Good
Cyclohexanol Very Good Fair
Ethyl Alcohol  Very Good Very Good
Ethyl Ether* Good Good
Formaldehyde Very Good Very Good
Formic Acid  Very Good Very Good
Hydrogen Peroxide (30%) Good Good
Lactic Acid (85%)  Very Good Very Good
Oleic Acid  Very Good Fair
Oxalic Acid  Very Good Very Good
Palmitic Acid  Very Good Very Good
Phenol Fair Fair
Potassium Hydroxide Very Good Very Good
Propyl Alcohol (Iso)  Very Good Very Good
Sodium Hydroxide  Very Good Very Good
Tannic Acid Very Good Very Good
 Triethanolamine (85%) Very Good Very Good
 Xylene* Fair Poor



Chemicals marked with an asterisk (*) are for limited use. This chart and its contents have been adapted from OSHA’s Chemical Resistance Selection Chart for Protective Gloves, and are not meant to be inclusive.Note: When selecting chemical-resistant gloves, be sure to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations, especially if the gloved hand(s) will be immersed in the chemical.