What's the Difference Between Industrial and Medical Grade Gloves

Industrial and Medical grade gloves are two of the biggest categories when it comes to gloves. But what do these labels really mean? This week’s article will provide you with helpful information as well as address some common misconceptions so that you can more easily navigate the glove world.
Guidelines and Requirements
Medical Grade and Surgical Grade gloves, which are fundamentally synonymous terms, have to pass a series of technical tests to see if they meet the safety requirements put forth by the FDA. Gloves are tested for puncture and abrasion resistance, they are run through tension and elongation tests, and are also tested for chemical substance resistance.
The guidelines and requirements from the FDA are hard and fast, if the glove does not pass the tests, it is not considered “approved” by the FDA, however it may be “accepted”. This sounds a little confusing, but essentially, it means that all glove manufacturers are aiming to meet the FDA guidelines, but may miss a few guidelines by a small margin.
This does not mean that if a glove is not officially “approved” it is not safe to use. It certainly still is safe to use, because the standard set by the FDA drives all manufacturers to produce high quality gloves for consumers. So, for the majority of the time, when you purchase Industrial Grade gloves, for use in different labor applications, you are buying gloves that just missed the mark of being Medical Grade or Surgical Grade. These Industrial Grade gloves are sufficiently safe and protective because they still have to meet certain levels of chemical penetration and puncture resistance.
The difference between Industrial Grade and Medical/Surgical Grade gloves is the proficiency displayed on the FDA safety guidelines and requirements.
As far as Food Service Grade gloves, the USDA has regulations on the glove material used in glove production. They have regulations on the latex, nitrile, etc. but not necessarily on the manufacturing process of the glove. These requirements set in place by the USDA are meant to urge manufacturers to produce gloves in a way that maintains the quality of the original product; resulting in superbly protective gloves. The main regulations lie in employers making sure their employees are actually wearing and utilizing the gloves in order to protect themselves, the food, and the customers.
Two Misconceptions
“Medical Grade gloves can be used in industrial applications but Industrial Grade gloves should not be used for medical applications.” 
Now that we know the difference between Medical Grade gloves and Industrial Grade gloves lies in a few test results being out of range, we see that these two grades of gloves are very similar and provide fundamentally equal protection. When it comes down to the glove itself, they could be used interchangeable. But, when it comes down to the FDA Certification, the Medical Grade gloves carry that label which makes them acceptable in surgical and medical applications, while Industrial Grade does not have that certification, so they would not be approved for use in hospitals. You can easily distinguish medical grade gloves from industrial gloves by the labeling on the box. Medical grade gloves will have the word “Exam” clearly visible on the carton wear as industrial grade gloves will omit the word exam.
“Industrial Grade gloves are stronger than Medical Grade.”
We see that people often equate the word “industrial” with “strong”, and this is not necessarily the case. Industrial Grade gloves are suitable for industrial applications and do not meet the requirements needed to be titled Medical Grade gloves and or exam gloves. Based on this fact, we know that Industrial Grade gloves are not automatically stronger than Medical Grade gloves.
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Kelly, sometimes individuals can have reactions to with dyes used to achieve the color of the glove. Additionally, accelerators used to cure most nitrile gloves can also result in reactions. An accelerator free glove such as SemperSure may be an option. A food service glove should not be used in a medical environment however.


Sandy, food grade gloves should not be used in a medical environment. Most food service gloves are thinner and do not meet the requirements for medical use.


Gian, medical grade gloves are must indeed meet a higher standard than food grade gloves. You can certainly substitute medical grade gloves for for safe gloves but not vise versa.


I work as a health care aide in a hospice and have found since the gloves went from white to blue, I developed itchy spots and can not wear them. My employer has ordered food safe vinyl gloves which I am tolerating. Are they sufficient in protecting me the same as the blue non latex gloves? Thanks!

Kelly Farrell

Is it safe to use food service gloves for medical use?
(In a nursing facility)
The food service gloves seem thinner and seem to tear easier then the medical one.


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