An overview of latex gloves manufacturing process
In 1876, Sir Henry Wickham collected rubber seeds from Brazil and planted in Kew Garden in London. Some of these seedlings were later planted in Malaysia where they grow strongly.
Rubber trees can live up to 100 years. The prime time for latex rubber production is when they are between the ages of 6 and 30 years.
Latex is a white, milky liquid. The latex is obtained from the rubber tree by a thin shaving of the bark. The latex flows into a collecting cup and emptied into a larger container for easy transportation to the factory where the latex is made into gloves.
On the average, the annual yield of latex from a rubber tree will produce only the equivalent of 200pcs of gloves!
Many types of chemicals are added to help the vulcanization process at the later stage and to prevent deterioration of the rubber molecules in the final product by heat, moisture and ozone.
Dipping & Coagulation
Thousands of ceramic hand-shaped formers are coated washed and dipped into the latex to coat them with a thin film of latex. These formers then pass through an oven where the liquid latex forms into gel.
Pre-vulcanization and Leaching
In this process, the formers run through the pre-vulcanization leaching tank to remove excess chemical residue and latex protein.
In this stage, the latex film is heated and the latex gel harden giving strength to form latex gloves. The formers pass through another drying oven and gloves are finally removed from formers where they are turn inside out.
Chlorination is a process where gloves are washed in chlorine water to produce powder free gloves. Chlorination removes all the powder in the gloves and it also makes the gloves surface slippery for easy donning. Chlorination has been shown to substantially reduce protein levels in latex gloves.
At various stages of the manufacturing process, sampling and quality control tests are taken to monitor product quality. These tests include pinholes test, tensile strength tests, chemical residual test and visual inspection.
This is the last stage where gloves are arranged and packed into bags and carton for export.
Standard packaging is 100 gloves per polyethylene bag, 10 bags per outer polyethylene bag and one outer bag per carton. Gloves are arranged flat and in one orientation i.e. cuff to cuff and fingertip to fingertip