What is the Difference between industrial and medical grade gloves?

Stauffer offers two of the biggest categories when it comes to disposable gloves. These categories include industrial and medical grade gloves. But what do these labels really mean?

Guidelines and Requirements

Medical grade, also known as exam gloves must pass a sequence of technical tests. These tests insure that the gloves 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 main difference between medical grade and industrial grade gloves lies in a few test results being out of range. Both grades of gloves provide fundamentally equal protection when it comes down to the glove itself.  But, when it comes down to the FDA Certification, medical grade gloves carry that label which makes them acceptable in medical applications. Industrial grade gloves do not have the certification to be approved for use in hospitals. Distinguishing medical grade gloves from industrial gloves is easy. Medical grade gloves will have the word “Exam” clearly visible on the box.


The primary purpose of an exam glove is to provide a barrier protection against pathogens for both the patient and the healthcare worker. Exam gloves are held to standards that test strength, check for pinholes, and glove thickness. Exam gloves require a 510K certification from the FDA that allows them to be sold as a Class 1 medical device. Class 1 medical devices are deemed a low risk and therefore subject to the least regulatory controls.  Exam gloves are also required to have an AQL (acceptable quality limit) level of 1.5 vs 4.0 for industrial rated gloves. An AQL level of 1.5 accepts the statistical probability that there are less than 1.5% defects in a batch of gloves. Gloves are tested using the watertight test for detection of holes.

Industrial grade gloves are suited for industrial applications that require protection against non-hazardous chemicals and materials. Common industries include the janitorial and sanitation, plumbing and painting, food service and food processing industries.