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In the last few years, polyurethane-coated work gloves have gained tremendous popularity, replacing commonplace leather gloves in most manufacturing plants.
They come in a variety of liners: from low cost general purpose gloves, to highly cut-resistant gloves for metal handling. However, polyurethane (or “PU”) coated gloves do have some downsides that most people aren’t aware of.
Here is a list of pros and cons to help you decide if polyurethane-coated gloves are right for you.
Let’s rip off the Band-Aid, and start with the disadvantages.
Work gloves that are coated with polyurethane are unique in that the coating on the glove “strikes through” onto the inside of the glove. Since the coating ends up on the inside of the glove, this means that polyurethane coated gloves hold heat, and as a result, can become very sweaty over time.
In the image above, the polyurethane coated glove is on the left, and a nitrile glove has been placed on the right for comparison. Both gloves are turned inside out. As you can see, the coating has seeped through onto the inside of the polyurethane coated glove – that’s what we call “strikethrough.”
And, because of the overheating, your workers may also experience mild discomfort while wearing polyurethane coated gloves. Clammy hands? Itchiness? Yuck.
Most polyurethane gloves are made by dissolving polyurethane in a solvent known as dimethylformamide – or DMF, for short. The glove liners are dipped into the mixture of polyurethane and DMF, soaked in a hot water bath, and then cured in an oven. Although virtually all of the DMF is removed in the hot water bath or evaporates in the oven, trace amounts of DMF are still present in many polyurethane coated gloves. Because of these potential health concerns, we are proud to report that most of our polyurethane coated gloves are DMF free.
The softness and flexibility of polyurethane comes at a price: almost all polyurethane coated gloves are ANSI abrasion level 1, compared to the ANSI level 3 protection that nitrile or latex coated gloves provide. This means that a typical polyurethane coated glove will have a hole in the coating in under 500 cycles on the Taber® Abrasion Tester, whereas a typical nitrile coated glove will last up to 3000 cycles. That’s a pretty huge difference in wear life, meaning that you’ll have to purchase replacements more often.
Read our post “5 Telltale Signs That You Need a New Glove Manufacturer” for more honesty.
Polyurethane coating provides amazing stretch – which gives these gloves the best touch sensitivity of any work glove available. Considering most hand injuries occur when workers aren’t wearing gloves, it’s hard to overstate this benefit: workers are much more likely to agree to wear their gloves on the job if they won’t inhibit movement and prevent them from doing their job. And, from a safety standpoint, worker compliance is always a huge plus.
Even though they won’t stand the test of time, nowadays, general purpose polyurethane coated gloves can be purchased for as little as 70 cents per pair; that’s roughly 1/3 of the cost of an inexpensive general purpose work glove! Crazy cheap, right? This means that although you’ll have to replace them more often than other gloves, the cost per pair is extremely reasonable.
Along with the overall value and flexibility it offers, polyurethane coating will also provide you with an excellent grip – which, in a nutshell, is advantageous in most applications. As well, polyurethane coating has a low-particulate shed – meaning that choosing work gloves with this type of coating will reduce risk of contamination.
Wondering if the pros outweigh the cons? Well, when it comes to these types of gloves, it all depends on the application you need them for, and the workplace hazards that accompany it. Looking for an inexpensive work glove that’s super flexible? How ’bout a work glove that will offer you a stellar grip without being sticky? Polyurethane coated gloves may be right for you!
Want to try some polyurethane gloves? Get a sample of a best-seller – the 2015 NSC Best in Show glove:
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Hand Injury Rates are Reduced by 60% when using the right gloves.