Work gloves come in different shapes and sizes. It’s also made of different materials that affect its protective abilities. Depending on the industry you’re working in, the best material for work gloves will vary. You can choose from leather, Kevlar, cotton, polyester, and other fabric blends. Each one of these materials has varying protection levels as well as different cut, puncture, and chemical resistance.
The following are the most common material used on work gloves and its characteristics:
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The shell is the main material of the work gloves on the exterior. It bears the brunt of harsh elements and wears and tear. The material of the shell should be durable and resistant to cuts, punctures, moisture, and other things that your work may throw at it:
Leather is probably the most popular material for work gloves. Take note that leather work gloves can be made of different leather types. The following are the most common options:
- Deerskin. This leather is supple and soft that gives excellent dexterity to the user. It remains soft even if washed and dried repeatedly.
- Cowhide. On the other hand, cowhide is widely used in most work gloves. It’s durable and tough against harsh elements. It also shapes well to the hands of the user and remains usable for years.
- Goatskin. Since goatskin has high levels of lanolin, it remains soft and flexible. Despite regular use, goatskin stays durable, making it the perfect choice for rigorous work that requires consistent dexterity.
- Pigskin. Pigskin is pliable and has the right level of durability. It’s also excellent in withstanding moisture and drying without being too stiff. It’s an excellent material for work gloves, especially if you’re looking for cheaper options.
- Synthetic. Those who want to use leather work gloves without splurging too much can opt for synthetic or faux leather. It’s usually made with a plastic base that’s been treated with polyurethane or wax.
Although you can find work gloves that are made of these specific materials, they still differ in the finish. Usually, true leather work gloves are available in grain or suede finishes.
Another popular work glove material is Kevlar. This is a patented material of DuPont that’s basically a super-strong plastic. It’s a synthetic material that remains lightweight despite its unbeatable strength. In fact, the tensile strength of Kevlar 49 is about eight times that of steel wire.
Unlike typical plastic fibers, Kevlar has excellent heat tolerance. It doesn’t melt easily, and it can endure up to 450C or 850F before sustaining serious damages.
Usually, Kevlar is used on composite work gloves as a reinforcement. To give you an idea of how durable this is, Kevlar is actually used on knife-proof armors as well as bullet-proof vests.
This strength is possible though Kevlar’s repetitive inter-chain bonds. Such cross-linked hydrogen bonds make it stronger than steel with the same weight. It also has excellent puncture and cut resistance, which is why it’s preferred for machinery work.
Aside from that, Kevlar is also used for fiber optics, mining, automotive, aerospace, and other consumer products aside from gloves.
Canvas is one of the top fabric choices when it comes to work gloves. It’s usually blended with cotton but can be pure cotton on some occasions. As work gloves, the canvas material is best used for light work that doesn’t include high risk of cuts or punctures. Take note that canvas does not have high levels of protection against heat. Still, it’s the best work glove material during summer when it’s warm, and you need to keep your hands cool.
To boost the grip of canvas work gloves, the palms are usually dotted with PVC or silicone material.
Due to the advancement in fabric technology, the canvas is now available in water-proof, fire-proof, and heat-tolerant versions.
Polyester is a knit fabric that’s similar to nylon. It’s durable and can resist considerable cuts, punctures, and wear and tear. It’s also a good choice if your work gloves keep developing mildew and fungi. And unlike leather or canvas, polyester doesn’t rot easily, even when infested with insects.
The polyester fiber has a slight stretch that makes it considerably pliable. It also forms in your hand with no breaking in needed.
You can find work gloves that are blended with other materials as reinforcement. Take note that polyester has limited protection against intense temperature and very abrasive work environments.
HPPE or High-Performance Polyethylene is a synthetic work glove material used to protect the hands from abrasions. It’s a thermoplastic polymer known for its versatility and recyclability.
To create the HPPE fibers, the molecular chains of the polymer is stretched and crystallized. Due to this process, the material becomes extremely durable and suitable for use on work gloves.
Aside from the level of protection it gives, HPPE is also pliable and highly tensile. In comparison, the pound for pound quality of HPPE is much stronger than steel. This is the reason why this material is widely used on work gloves, marine cables, medical implants, and sailcloth. If not used as shell material, HPPE is utilized as a glove liner.
Overall, this work glove material is ideal if you’re handing glass or metal scraps. It keeps hand dexterity while offering excellent protection.
For those who only need decent protection against cuts and abrasions, spandex is a good material. It’s usually blended with other fabrics to achieve the right stretch and added strength to resist sharp objects.
The good thing about spandex work gloves is it can protect the hands from liquids and chemicals. It’s also a champ in insulation, which is why it’s used on gloves for working in freezers.
Spandex also comes by the names ‘elastane’ and ‘Lycra’. It’s made of synthetic fibers, which are a form of the polymer. The name spandex is actually an anagram to the word ‘expands’ since this fabric is very stretchy.
As a material for work gloves, spandex allows a pair to fit snugly into the hands of the users. Its elasticity allows some level of ‘give’ to the gloves so it will not feel too tight.
Aside from the shell, your work gloves will also have additional material on the palm area. This is to reinforce the protective benefits of the gloves against specific conditions and elements.
The following are some of the most common palm coating material used on work gloves:
PVC or polyvinyl chloride is a form of thermoplastic polymer just like HPPE. It’s used to coat the palm area of work gloves to increase its protection against punctures, cuts, and chemicals. PVC is excellent in boosting your grip on oily or slippery surfaces. PVC palm coatings are also textured for better grip.
Aside from that, the PVC layer makes the palm of your work gloves UV-resistant. However, you should avoid using PVC-coated work gloves around intense heat. The PVC material will sustain damages at around 212F and melt totally on 500F.
Latex is one of the most common palm coatings for work gloves. It’s also the cheapest but very effective in protecting against cuts, abrasions, and chemicals. One thing that makes latex a great choice is its strong grip, which is better than PVC alone. It also has a flexible fit, so it remains comfortable and dexterous if you’re working on small items.
As a rubber, latex also possesses decent insulating properties. It can tolerate a level of heat, but it’s not supposed to be used on open fire since it can melt easily.
The latex used on work gloves can either be natural or synthetic latex. First of all, natural latex is extracted from the rubber tree sap. Meanwhile, synthetic latex is a blend of natural latex and fillers. Take note that the latter is less durable than natural ones.
Nitrile is another type of polymer made by combining butadiene and acrylonitrile. This material is considered a synthetic version of latex, although it doesn’t have latex proteins.
Moreover, the advantage of nitrile over latex is it doesn’t cause allergic reactions to users with sensitive skin. As a material for work gloves, nitrile can be used both as a shell or a palm coating. It’s very resistant against cuts and punctures while repelling oily substances really well.
Unlike latex, the nitrile material has a higher melting point, allowing you to use it on warmer conditions.
PU is a very flexible and inexpensive choice, which you can find on most entry-level work gloves. This material has a sticky grip and resistance against grease and oil. However, it’s not the most durable coating, so don’t expect it to hold up long under intense wear and tear.
Aside from that, PU has poor water resistance. It also melts faster than nitrile and most latex types. But if you’re using your work gloves for light work, this material is decent enough.
With the best material for work gloves, your gear will last long. You should always check what your gloves are made to ensure that it will protect you well. Also, invest your money in durable options that will last long despite regular use.