Your hands need the right kind of protection if you work a lot with them. Work gloves significantly decrease the chances of injuring your hands during work. However, they come in all shapes and sizes so it’s important to choose the right ones according to the type of work and work environment. This guide aims to cover different types of work gloves and some of the best gloves you can buy under each category.
Things to Consider When Buying Work Gloves
The ultimate goal of all work gloves is to protect your hands against cuts and skin damage, chemical burns, hard impacts, shocks, and other mishaps. While many believe a pair of work gloves should protect you from all these things, the reality is far from it.
Work gloves are diverse and meant for different purposes. A pair of factory work gloves, for instance, might not work well for other activities such as gardening and cooking. This makes it important to consider a few things before making a purchase decision. You’d also find many multi-purpose work gloves that protect hands and work well for a variety of situations. Still, professionals need something designed specifically for their tasks–whether they’re related to woodworking, crafting, or something else.
No matter what you’re working on, you want to get the right kind of gloves for a safe and manageable experience. You’d also be spending a bit of money on quality work gloves, so it’s best to choose the most appropriate choice for your needs.
Let’s start with a few common things one should consider when searching for a pair of work gloves.
Work gloves are made using different types of materials such as synthetic leather, genuine leather, glass-fiber, polyethylene blends, spandex, rubber and cotton/fleece. The material being used along with the price is the decisive factor in most buying decisions. Choosing the right material depends on your workload, durability, things you want to protect yourself from, and other factors such as a cold or hot work environment.
People who just need light protection might want to consider spandex; it’s lightweight and works well for a variety of jobs. For tougher jobs, you’d want work gloves that were made using thick leather and with adequate padding. As a general rule of thumb, the thicker a glove the more durable it is and vice versa.
You’d also come across gloves made from thin materials that have higher breathability and can wick moisture. These materials are ideal for working in hot and humid conditions and minimize the issues related to working with sweaty hands.
We’ve discussed the various materials for work gloves below in some detail. You may have to choose more than one pair if you work on different kinds of projects. Take a look at your workshop, the tools you handle, and what your projects require. Make a list of what you need from your glove material and choose accordingly.
The ultimate goal of work gloves is to help you do your job without fearing cuts, scrapes, burns, hard impacts, shocks, etc., while still providing adequate dexterity. Different gloves offer different levels of protection against these things. High cut-resistance gloves are more resistant to sharp objects, while heat protection gloves are more fine-tuned for jobs such as welding.
Synthetic leather is considered to be stronger and more durable than natural leather and some varieties of synthetic leather are up to four times stronger. You’d want touchscreen-friendly gloves if you have to deal with touchscreen devices frequently during work. Gloves with conductive thread help you use touchscreen devices without having to remove the gloves and make life a little easier.
Again, we shouldn’t think of gloves as the sole means of protection while doing potentially dangerous jobs. Make sure to read all about the important safety practices while using power tools; these could be life-saving in certain situations.
3. Dexterity and Fitting
Dexterity refers to one’s ability to maneuver his/her fingers and grip surfaces when wearing gloves. Considering dexterity is especially important if you are working with tasks that require precision and fine motor skills such as planting delicate flowers or picking up nails. If you are dealing with such tasks wearing thick work gloves that compromise dexterity, you’d end up taking them off quite frequently. This would probably defeat the purpose of even wearing work gloves in the first place.
Gloves made of thinner materials are more suitable for tasks that require fine motor skills and accuracy. Perfect fitting is another aspect to consider as improper or uncomfortable fitting means excess bulk and more fabric to deal with than required. On the other hand, pick up a pair of gloves too small and you end up with restricted and cramped movements.
4. Range of Movements
Once you find the right size and fit, check how much you can move your fingers with the gloves on. Along with getting a snug fit, we need to make sure that the design of the gloves allows a certain range of motion without causing any pain, chafing, or other types of discomfort.
If you’re handling hand tools or power tools, rubber-coated gloves are probably the best option. These will allow you to pick up and handle these tools without risking any dropping or fumbling accidents.
If you require an extra strong grip during a project, look for gloves with suede on the palms. Suede is a durable material that gives a great grip as well. For impact protection, you may want to look at tactical gloves.
Rubber or knit cuffs are the usual option in canvas work gloves. These are usually fitted versions, so they help to keep off dirt or moisture from getting inside.
Open cuffs are usually available in heavy-duty work gloves made of leather. These allow you to easily slip the gloves on or off. Lighter grain leather gloves may have an elasticized open cuff to provide protection from grime, moisture, dust, dirt, sawdust, etc.
Leather pads may need more padding in the palm area, especially if you’re wearing them while using power towels like chainsaws or jackhammers. These tools usually send a lot of vibrations and shocks to the hands, so one needs padding to absorb them effectively. This precaution will also protect the hands and wrists from any possible injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome.
8. Proper Stitching
The stitching of any work gloves should be as durable and strong as possible. If there’s any compromise in this area, even strong material will start coming apart at the seams. When trying on a pair, make sure that it can fit the lengths of each finger without undue stretching.
Make sure to especially check the palm for stitching quality. If the glove has double or hidden stitching, it should be quite durable.
9. A Reasonable Price
The highest quality of work gloves can also be the most expensive one, though this may not always be the case. You can choose unbranded work gloves that fall within a certain budget but still have all your desired features.
At all events, it’s best to buy your required work gloves after reading reviews and feedback from other people. If you don’t personally know anyone who’s recently bought work gloves for similar projects as yours, try asking about certain pairs online. It also helps to select gloves with a warranty, so ask the supplier or manufacturer about any guarantees before a purchase.
Types of Work Gloves
Work gloves are designed for different workloads and can be broadly categorized into the following categories:
1. Specialty gloves
These cut-resistant heavy-duty work gloves are designed to handle rough, abrasive, oily and hot/cold environments. Specialty gloves are made from different materials, including Kevlar, nylon, lined/unlined neoprene and nitrile. These gloves are impervious to most liquids and offer good-enough dexterity and grip people need to handle tough jobs.
2. Aluminized gloves
Aluminized gloves are designed to reflect and insulate when dealing with tasks such as welding and working with furnaces (some provide protection in tasks involving up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit). Kevlar gloves are lightweight, durable and cut and abrasion resistant, but cost a lot more than standard work gloves.
3. Disposable gloves
Made of PVC, latex, vinyl or nitrile, these gloves are the most economical and usually meant for single use. They are suitable for light-duty tasks that require a lot of fine motor skills and don’t pose any serious threat to your hands. Disposable gloves can be used for tasks such as medical and labs, food handling, manufacturing and handling small parts.
4. Knit gloves
Usually made of polyester and cotton, knit gloves offer flexibility and comfort. Many knit gloves come with PVC dots, which improve grip and help users handle light-duty tasks with ease. Since these gloves are thin and lightweight, they can also be used inside other gloves as a liner for added grip and extra protection.
5. Leather gloves
Leather gloves are generally used for resisting heat and abrasion as leather provides both the strength and dexterity needed for medium-duty tasks. Leather gloves made from cowhide and goatskin also come with elasticized or shirred cuffs, providing better grip and strength.
Leather gloves are also one of the best kinds of insulation when you’re working in extreme temperatures. They resist most punctures, protect your hands from cuts or abrasions, and also help to keep all sorts of spills away from your skin. There are at least two kinds of leather gloves to consider:
- Split leather for heavy-duty tasks–these are resistant to most liquids and perfect for tasks like electrical installations, cutting lumber, etc.
- Grain leather for a softer, smoother experience–this provides protection while allowing for more dexterity than split leather
6. Fabric and canvas gloves
These gloves are mostly made from synthetic fabrics and cotton and are suitable for medium and light- duty tasks. They are also referred to as general purpose gloves that provide comfort and dexterity, while many of them come with PVC dots for better grip. Synthetic fabrics gloves are resistant to cuts, abrasions, and punctures and are usually machine washable.
7. Dipped or coated gloves
These gloves are essentially knit gloves that also have some sort of coating made from PVC, polyurethane, or foam nitrile. They are mostly used for handling and processing food, oil, chemicals etc. and are suitable for medium and heavy-duty tasks. While the level of protection varies by material, dipped/coated gloves are designed to protect people from chemicals, cuts, punctures, and abrasions.
How to Maintain Work Gloves for Proper Usage
We may understand why it is so important to have a hobby, but it’s equally important to stay safe while doing it. Whether you work with tools as a hobby or profession, having the right work gloves is a must. Even when you find the right pair, do take steps to maintain them properly. With the right care, these loves can last you a long time.
Here are some tips for properly using and maintaining work gloves:
- Wash the work gloves at least twice or three times a month. Wash them especially if they have dirt stains, as these may otherwise weaken the glove’s structure and expose you to spills, cuts, etc.
- Inspect the gloves on a regular basis and replace them if they’re completely worn out at the palms or fingertips areas
- Ensure that the gloves are resistant to corrosion if you work with chemicals. If they aren’t the chemicals might burn through and get to your skin
- If you feel any stinging or irritation while wearing the gloves, wash them again. In case the problem continues, check to see if there’s an allergen in their material–if this happens, you will have to look for another pair with different components
Buying work gloves is about considering the job, your work environment and the kind of protection you need. Thin gloves with high dexterity work well for most everyday applications, but you need a pair of gloves with a decent amount of padding and durability for tougher jobs. Another important thing to consider when buying work gloves is the fitting.
Trying a pair of work gloves at the store might be a good idea if you are not sure about the fitting. If you bought them online and they don’t fit well, you can still return them and try another size. Small, Medium, Large and so on aren’t always the perfect indicators of a perfect fit. That’s why you might have to try different fits and styles before finally finding the most durable work gloves that complement your job and work style.