Acetone, a chemical solvent and a main component of nail polish remover, is relatively safe to work with occasionally or in small amounts. But when you have sensitive skin, or experience prolonged exposure to acetone, you'll benefit from wearing butyl rubber gloves. As a liquid and strong chemical solvent, acetone often penetrates or even dissolves some glove materials, leading to skin contact which can result in irritation. Picking the proper gloves ensures the best protection for your skin.
Permeation, Breakthrough, Degradation
Most gloves used with liquid solvents have a permeation factor, which means the solvent slowly seeps through the glove to your skin. While the glove may initially protect you, it won't offer good protection with increased exposure to a solvent like acetone. Check a glove's chemical resistance time on its package to determine how quickly specific chemicals penetrate the glove. Some solvents degrade some glove materials, either by dissolving the glove completely or making it brittle or otherwise unusable. Other factors to consider include the glove's thickness and its reaction to chemical and external temperatures.
Butyl Rubber Gloves
Butyl rubber stands up best to acetone. As an artificial polymer, butyl rubber is more specialized than most glove materials, but don't expect these gloves to be inexpensive. Because butyl rubber gloves have a higher chemical resistance to acetone, it is recommended for this use. Natural rubber, also known as latex, offers another option, although it has about a 10-minute breakthrough time when used with acetone. Latex can also result in allergic reactions for some people.
Nitrile, an organic compound, is a fairly common glove material because it does not produce the same allergic response that latex does, which makes it generic and common. But with a four-minute breakthrough when used with acetone, it is not as safe an option as gloves made from butyl rubber. While neoprene demonstrates some resistance to acetone, it is not as good as either butyl or latex.
Consider other aspects of the project when choosing gloves. For example, gloves that easily puncture or rip don't offer needed protection. For safety and best practices, pick a glove durable enough to stand up to the type of work anticipated. Chose the thickness of the glove and its permeability based on the job being performed. Glove length also plays a factor, especially if you anticipate splashing or immersing your hands in acetone. Choose gloves that extend further up the arm when needed.
About the Author
Michael Judge has been writing for over a decade and has been published in "The Globe and Mail" (Canada's national newspaper) and the U.K. magazine "New Scientist." He holds a Master of Science from the University of Waterloo. Michael has worked for an aerospace firm where he was in charge of rocket propellant formulation and is now a college instructor.
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