Manufacturers use 9 core materials to make the safety gloves that are available today. The material you choose to protect your hands, or the hands of your staff, should have the properties that you need (that offer the optimal protection), and that you want (that offer the optimal comfort). This post will discuss each of the 8 most common glove materials, their characteristics, and pro’s & con’s.
RECOMMENDED READING: if you have any other questions about safety gloves, check out our Glove Glossary!
An Overview of the Most Common Glove Materials
Leather has been used to make safety gloves for centuries, thanks to its strong, mouldable & flexible characteristics. Glove leather is farmed from various animals, and each have different uses and strengths.
- Cow hide is the thickest and most durable, meaning they can withstand heat and water. A common cow hide glove are rigger gloves.
- Pig’s leather is also durable but has small holes throughout from the pig’s bristle. This means they aren’t waterproof but are breathable.
- Goat’s leather is thinner and much softer, making them less durable but more dexterous. This makes it useful for gloves that require flexibility.
- Deer skin is thinner and softer again! This makes them very dexterous and comfortable to wear, but they don’t have the lifespan of a cow hide glove. It’s a common saying in the industry; “The best and worst thing about deer skin is how soft it is!” Deer skin is often used in freezer gloves because of its dexterous qualities.
Animals skins have different characteristics, depending on where they come from on the beast. The back and shoulders provide stronger, thicker leather, while the sides offer a softer cut. Before being processed, the leather is split into an upper layer, known as the grain or nappa, and a lower layer, known as the split.
Grain leather is more pliable and flexible and provides protection against moisture.
Split leather is porous, so isn’t water resistant, but has a rugged surface which provides insulation, therefore making it a good choice for gloves that require heat resistance, such as welding gloves. The Badger Gold palm is made with split leather, as it also provides better grip.
Synthetic leathers have been developed to resemble natural leather and its characteristics, but also offer added advantages such as water repellence. The two ways synthetic leathers are made are:
- Polyurethane (PU) laminated onto a polyester or polyamide to provide a grain leather appearance.
- Polyurethane (PU) fibre mixed with polyester or polyamide to provide a split leather appearance.
Cotton is another ‘staple’ when it comes to glove materials. It is a natural fibre which is comfortable to wear and has a relatively good lifespan. It is often used in low cost, light duty gloves, such as liners, and is commonly mixed with a polyester to improve its durability. It doesn’t absorb moisture, however, so it can make the wearer’s hands sweat.
Polyester is a synthetic fibre that is strong, elastic and shrink-free. It is commonly used in gloves thanks to its abrasion resistance and durability, and is often blended with cotton, as we mentioned above. It is not as comfy as cotton to wear, which is why it is blended into a polycotton.
Acrylic is a synthetic fibre with a similar ‘soft-feel’ to wool. It retains air particles, making it an effective thermal insulator. We use acrylic lining in a few of our thermal gloves, such as the Cosy CrissCross.
PVC is a plastic that provides durability, wet’n’dry grip and superior chemical resistance. It is commonly used in waterproof and chemical gloves, as it is completely sealed against moisture.
Latex is a natural rubber with extreme elasticity, durability and grip. It is most commonly used in disposable gloves, thanks to its dexterity and tight fit, however it is being replaced by nitrile, as latex contains a natural protein that can cause allergic reactions. Not sure which disposable glove to go for? Check out this extensive guide!
Nitrile is basically a synthetic version of latex. It has the same elasticity, durability and flexibility, but doesn’t contain the proteins that cause reactions. While it is also commonly used in disposable gloves, nitrile is also often foamed and used as a glove coating.
Neoprene is a synthetic rubber which good flexibility, durability and offers protection against oil, fat and organic acids. The Badger UltraChill gloves have a neoprene knuckle bar for added protection and flexibility in this high movement area.
Common Glove Palm Coatings:
PU is a very hard wearing synthetic material that protects against dirt, oil and other moisture. It isn’t highly flexible, however.
Nitrile is a synthetic rubber with high abrasion resistance and barrier protection against oil and grease.
Latex is a natural rubber that has extreme elasticity and dexterity, even at low temperatures. It is very grippy, as well.
PVC coatings provide effective and tough protection against moisture, making them a good choice for working in harsh, wet conditions.