Latex gloves are used when handling electronics to prevent electrostatic discharge (ESD) in order to protect the equipment you are working with. Electronic components, such as circuit boards are prone to damage from electrostatic discharges.
Using latex or nitrile gloves minimizes electrostatic discharge in a work environment, such as handling sensitive electronic equipment.
However, not all gloves are created equal. Some ESD gloves are more effective than others. When selecting the best gloves to help eliminate electrostatic discharge, there are several options to consider:
- Latex: cost-effective but not 100% static-resistant, may cause allergic reaction
- Nitrile: anti-static, durable, latex-free
- Vinyl: not as durable or puncture-resistant as nitrile gloves
- Fabric: reusable, washable, cost-effective
Depending on the use, choosing the right anti-static glove is crucial to limiting the potential damage electrostatic discharge can have at home or in the workplace.
When there is the possibility of electrostatic discharge, be sure to choose the gloves that are the best fit for the job at hand.
What is Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)?
Electrostatic discharge refers to the flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects. It can be caused by touching or rubbing a surface, creating a build-up of static electricity. When contact is made with another object, it creates a transfer of an electric current and a visible spark.
ESD can have dangerous outcomes, including gas explosions, fuel vapor, and coal dust, and the potential for the failure of electronic components such as integrated circuits.
Electronics manufacturers often establish protected areas that are free of static, adhering to practices to prevent the accumulation of charge, such as avoiding materials that are highly susceptible to charging.
They also make sure to remove static with practices such as ensuring all human workers are grounded, provided antistatic devices, and that all humidity is controlled.
Why Use Anti-Static Gloves?
For those working with electronic equipment, including technicians and those working on electronic assembly lines, preventing electrostatic discharge is essential.
ESD can damage electronic components and products, such as the components of a computer. If you happen to create an electrostatic charge while touching a computer chip, for example, it can cause a short circuit damaging the component.
Anti-static gloves protect both the wearer and equipment, working continuously to safely discharge electrostatic build-up. Many electronic components, especially integrated circuits and microchips, are very sensitive to the presence of static electricity and can be damaged by a static discharge.
Sensitive components need to be protected during and after manufacture, during shipping and device assembly, and in the finished device. Grounding is especially important for effective ESD control.
By design, the main purpose of anti-static gloves is to protect electronic components. Anti-static gloves should either be conductive or static dissipative.
In other words, they should either conduct electricity or dissipate static electricity. Although anti-static gloves reduce the risk of electrostatic discharge, they are not grounded like other anti-static devices.
Thus, you should keep in mind that you should use a grounding wrist strap to ensure the lowest possibility of electrostatic discharge.
Are Latex Gloves Anti-Static?
Some glove materials like latex can actually cause electrostatic build-up, which can be a hazard to both worker and component. Since natural rubber latex is an insulator, it tends to have the opposite effect to other gloves.
Latex can actually build up static on the outside of the glove from rubbing on your hands then discharge the electricity.
Using latex gloves on their own may not be enough to eliminate the risk of electrostatic discharge. Latex gloves should be used along with a grounding wrist strap in order to lower the potential for ESD.
This way, it is safe for you to touch the components on the devices without worrying that you will have a difference in charge from the device.
You also want to repeat grounding the case to yourself and the ground every few minutes to make sure that nothing has built up from the friction you create from moving around.
Latex gloves are also known to cause allergic reactions, making nitrile or vinyl gloves a preferable alternative.
Are Nitrile Gloves Anti-Static?
Nitrile is a popular alternative to latex rubber, particularly because of latex allergies. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber known for its puncture resistance, durability, and ability to prevent electrostatic discharge.
Even nitrile gloves are not foolproof from passing an electric charge, but they are more reliable than their latex counterparts. Nitrile gloves offer lower surface resistance reducing the risk of ESD and keeping both hands and components safe from harm.
In addition to electrostatic discharge protection, nitrile gloves are a superior material when it comes to puncture resistance and is also more chemically resistant than natural rubber. Nitrile ESD gloves provide greater static dissipation compared to vinyl or latex.
Petroleum-based vinyl gloves are less durable, not as puncture-resistant, but do offer an alternative to those with a latex allergy.
Are There Alternatives to Latex Gloves to Prevent ESD?
There are a couple of alternatives to preventing electrostatic discharge other than latex or nitrile gloves.
One is the grounding wrist band. These wrist straps enable you to ground yourself while working on sensitive electronics.
By grounding yourself, it protects your computer from electrostatic discharge damage when you are installing or replacing hardware, building a computer, or other electronic applications.
Fabric gloves are another alternative to latex or nitrile. They are made of conductive synthetic fibers that prevent static discharge.
Unlike disposable latex gloves, fabric gloves are reusable and offer a cost-effective way of diffusing electrostatic charges when handling delicate and sensitive static-prone materials.
They come in different varieties, such as stretch, low-lint, and lint-free, and can be washed numerous times.