Note: Though this step-by-step description is specific to manufacturing of the latex gloves, it strongly parallels the processes used to manufacture both vinyl and nitrile gloves.
The manufacturing process starts with glove formers being attached, by size, to the assembly line. Retooling each line of formers (approximately 9,000-13,000) takes about 8 hours to complete.
Formers are then cleaned to maintain a sanitary manufacturing environment and prevent defects (like holes) in the gloves. Online washing consists of a five-step process where gloves along the assembly line through tanks of water, acid, and alkaline before being rinsed and brushed. Periodically, formers will also be removed from the assembly line and manually washed in a process called offline washing.
Formers are then dipped into a coagulant tank at 140 degrees consisting of calcium nitrate and calcium carbonate. This allows the latex or synthetic to adhere but not bind to the form. Forms are then put into an oven at 210-250 degrees for about 2 minutes to ensure proper strength for dipping.
Glove forms are then dipped into a tank of latex or synthetic compound. After, the forms are chilled back to 85 degrees.
The formers are then dripped to ensure an even glove surface. Excess compound is restored to the coagulation tank.
After dripping, the formers are cured for five minutes in an oven at 210 to 250 degrees and begin to solidify. This step drastically impacts the physical properties of the glove.
In a process called leaching, forms and the sticky gloves are dipped into 160 degree water tanks for 2 minutes. This process extracts proteins and other residuals to lower the potential for an allergic reaction.
This same process is repeated a second time after beading to further extract any remaining proteins.
The cuff is then rolled to make the glove stronger when donning and stripping. This process, called beading, also improves the vulcanization, which helps to build the glove’s overall durability and chemical resistance.
Powdered gloves are then put through a wet powdering process called slurry for about a minute to ensure even powdering. Like beading, the slurry is intended to help make the glove easier to don. From the slurry, the gloves are again dried in an oven at 200 degrees for 2 minutes.
The finished gloves are now ready to be stripped, one at a time, from the formers. To this day, this process is still done by hand. Approximately 12,000 gloves can be stripped in 45 minutes.
Gloves are then measured and subjected to air and water testing to ensure compliance with ASTM and FDA standards.
Dressed in protective clothing to maintain a clean manufacturing environment, workers then manually package gloves into boxes. Completed outer cartons are then palletized and prepared for shipment to the United States or another international destination.