The Difference Between Industrial and Medical Gloves

Ask GIA Blog

Glove Intelligent Assistant

At SW, we are well known for our high quality disposable gloves. However, many may wonder what is the difference between medical or exam grade from industrial gloves. Industrial gloves are more often categorized as general use gloves. They fall under FDA guidelines only if they are meant to be used for food safety. These kinds of gloves are generally used for non-medical laboratory environments, and protection for janitorial or sanitation tasks. They can also be used in various industrial industries (ie. engineering, automotive, etc.).

Medical gloves are better known as exam grade gloves. These types of gloves are used to handle chemotherapy agents and need to go through strict FDA testing (regulated by FDA 21 CFR Part 801). They are tested for toxicity, skin irritation and sensitization. The FDA labels them as medical devices, and they cannot be labeled safe for exam use until they pass these protocols. Medical gloves must past physical properties tests per ASTM D6319 for tensile and elongation.


The biggest difference is FDA certification. Industrial and medical gloves can actually be made out of the same materials. Industrial gloves might have different gripping or thickness depending on the environment they are needed for. Exam gloves are monitored for pinhole defects, with AQL 2.5 FDA requirement. AQL is an acronym for an accepted quality level. This measurement details the statistical measurement of the maximum acceptable number of defective goods in a particular sample size. Industrial gloves are not regulated but industry standards usually set their AQL at 4.0.

This means that exam gloves are produced at a higher quality with less defects per total sample size, and in general are safer to use in environments that are advertised for use. The one major difference is medical gloves must be powder free, which the FDA enforced, beginning from 2016. While powdered gloves are easier to put on and more resistant to tearing, they are more prone to carrying proteins that can trigger allergies or contribute to detrimental reactions after surgical procedures.

At SW, our exam grade gloves include all gloves in our PowerForm, PowerChem, TrueForm, and MegaMan glove series. PowerForm offers adequate chemical resistance. Our PowerForm nitrile glove series is tested against the American Society of Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) D6978 Standard Practice for Assessment of Resistance of Medical Gloves to Permeation by Chemotherapy Drugs. The tests have determined the gloves to be resistant up to 4 hours against permeable chemicals such as fentanyl and were also tested against simulated gastric acid. PowerChem is SW’s neoprene glove series.


Neoprene naturally provides superior resistance to chemicals, punctures and abrasions with a secure grip for handling small parts and slippery objects. Our PowerChem gloves are ASTM tested against viral penetration with low dermatitis potential. Lastly, our MegaMan series is just as versatile. It is a more durable and multi-layer nitrile flock-lined glove that lasts three times longer than a regular nitrile glove. The glove is designed for long term usage without compromising in comfortability, containing SW’s DriTek technology lining inside. DriTek technology curbs sweat accumulation, meaning less irritability throughout long periods of wear. We aim to provide various options for our customers in their choice of hand protection.