20 September 2022

ALL ABOUT NITRILE COATINGS (SIMPLIFIED)

When we say simplified, we honestly mean it. Starting from the very beginning is usually a fairly safe bet so that’s where we’ll jump off from. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber, so it’s man-made as opposed to being naturally sourced. It’s used in gloves because it offers great durability, grip and chemical resistance, to a wide range of substances.

What are the different Nitrile coatings? 

There are two main nitrile coatings - flat and foam. The foam coating is split into two categories because there are both regular foam nitrile coatings and microfoam nitrile coatings There is only one type of flat nitrile coating, and the same goes for the sandy nitrile gloves.

What exactly is the difference between microfoam and regular foam nitrile gloves? Well, when you examine both pairs of gloves up close, you can see that they both have small bubbles that make up their surface area. However, if you look really closely, you can see that one of the gloves has even smaller bubbles than the other. This one is the microfoam glove, and the bubbles are called microbubbles. These bubbles increase the surface area of the glove, meaning that oils that come into contact with the coating are absorbed into the glove, and as a result, the grip is not affected. Let us guess; you’re wondering why there are two different types. Essentially, the microfoam is thinner than the regular foam, allowing for better breathability and dexterity. 

The flat nitrile coating is a highly durable option (more so than the other nitrile coatings), and it has excellent liquid repelling qualities. The flat and foam coatings actually use the exact same base components, but the foam coating is achieved through the use of an extra manufacturing process that removes the outer layer of the coating, giving the glove the required foam finish. Due to this extra process, the foam gloves are more expensive than flat. Whilst not excessively so, they are priced between 10 and 20% higher. 

Appearances of the coatings

The confusing thing about all these coatings is that there can be two gloves with the same coating, yet they look completely different. It’s very misleading, and that is why it’s so important to understand why this is. The same coating can look different depending on the surface that it coats. For example, a nitrile foam coating straight on top of a liner will look different to a nitrile foam coating on a double dipped glove as the coating has not been put straight onto the liner and the finished look is therefore not identical.  

A flat nitrile coating is shiny and flat to look at, regardless of whether it has had one or two dips. It’s a great glove but better in dry conditions with regards to grip. The sandy nitrile is rough to the touch.

Pros + Cons of the various coatings

It’s difficult to understand the coatings unless you can see the benefits and drawbacks of each one, so we’ve given you a few pros and cons of each coating down below!

Flat

Pros: very durable, unrivalled grip in dry conditions, water resistant, economical

Cons: reduced grip in wet conditions 

Microfoam

Pros: excellent grip in wet, dry and oily conditions, very durable, high abrasion resistance, very comfortable and good fit, high stretch and tactility, more breathable

Cons: more expensive than flat nitrile (10-20% more), can start to flake, can get saturated in oily conditions

Foam

Pros: excellent grip in wet and oily conditions (spreads oil across its greater (rougher) surface area due to the foaming (larger bubbles...greater surface area to soak up the oil), cheaper

Cons: not as good grip as microfoam in wet and oily conditions less dexterity due to thicker layer of nitrile (Microfoam is thinner)

Sandy nitrile

Pros: high abrasion resistance, excellent in oily + wet conditions, more durable than standard Nitrile, protect hands from arc flashes

Cons: more expensive, less breathable, uses salt/sand and very high-water usage to manufacture, less flexible and tactile – can reduce dexterity. 

Which scenarios are each coating suited to?

Flat: construction, automotive, engineering and manufacturing

Microfoam: fine assembly work, automotive, construction and utility, warehousing and logistics

Foam Nitrile: oil and gas, construction and utility

Sandy nitrile: high abrasion tasks, offshoring, construction

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