Welding Gloves – the definitive guide

Welding gloves and helmet

Aside from the welder’s helmet, welding gloves are probably the most important safety feature the welder has.  With hands so close to temperatures that are high enough to melt steel, and sparks and slag flying in all directions, a solid and well built set of welder’s gloves is critical.

Not just any gloves will do so you’ll want to focus on a few key areas when picking out your favorite welding gloves:

Heat resistant

It goes without saying that your welding gloves should be able to resist extremely high temperatures…you won’t find any that don’t.  What is important here is the variation in temperature your glove is rated at.  932 (f) or 500(c) seems to be a pretty standard rating.

Durability

Welding is hard work and no part of the welder’s attire takes more punishment than the gloves. For this reason, you need to ensure the gloves you purchase will last.  They aren’t cheap so buying gloves that won’t last is like throwing money down the drain.  The problem here is that you won’t find any warranties or guarantees that they will last – your job is too complex and varied for that. The best bet here is word of mouth, your fellow welders, your own experience, and/or general reviews on the gloves themselves.

Welding gloves consist of several components, each with it’s own specific purpose

  • Thread
    • These days you’ll usually find kevlar thread used as it has extremely high heat resistance, does not stretch, and is 2.5 stronger than nylon or polyester thread.
  •  Exterior
    • Usually made of cowhide, deerhide, goathide, pigskin, sheepskin, or silicone.  Each type of material has specific benefits:
      • Cowhide – this is what most people think about when they think of “leather”…the skin of a cow.  It’s the most popular and also the most versatile.  The strength of cowhide leather depends on the cow, where the leather is harvested from the cow, and how it is treated. Cowhide gloves offer several grades and types of grains that affect it’s strength, comfort and pliability.  Cowhide welding gloves are great for Stick and MIG welding
      • Deerhide – this type of leather is usually not as strong or tough as cowhide, but it is generally more comfortable and provides more dexterity during your welding.  Deerhide gloves are generally considered for more light-weight welding and are great for TIG welders.
      • Goathide – goats are tough, right? They eat anything, they go anywhere, they stand up to the toughest environments mother nature can throw at them. Gloves made from goats do the same. They are considered some of the toughest gloves by their weight and can be used for the toughest of welding jobs.  Goathide gloves are exceptionally resistant to rubbing and scraping which, we know, welders do a lot of.  TIG and MIG welders often use goathide gloves.
      • Pigskin – if you think of footballs (which are not made of pigskin by the way), you’ll get the wrong idea here.  Pigskin leather is actually quite soft and supple, and generally has a natural resistance to moisture.  They are ideal for Stick and MIG welding
      • Sheepskin – as you may expect, sheepskin gloves offer some of the best dexterity and smoothest surface of any gloves, making wire handling easier.  Sheepskin gloves are great for TIG welding
      • Silicone – these gloves offer the best of all worlds with high heat resistance coupled with what can be a very strong and durable glove.
  • Interior Lining
    • As with the exterior, you’ll find several types of linings to include wool, cotton, and aluminized.
      • Wool – these linings offer the best heat protection as they are usually the thickest, but at a cost of limited dexterity.  Wool linings are great for cold weather welding.
      • Cotton – these linings are great for medium to heavy stick welding.
      • Aluminized – for high heat handling, aluminized linings are a good choice as they reflect the radiant heat, letting you stay in your weld longer.
  • Extras
    • Reinforcements – depending on the type of welding you are doing, certain parts of your glove will see repetitive use.  Gloves made for the specific type of welding will have reinforcement patches in those areas to increase the durability of the glove.  Think of those extra layers of material sewn into the knees of jeans or the elbows of jackets.  You’ll usually see extra reinforcement patches for the palm, back, and forearm of well made welding gloves.
    • Foam insulation – additional protection against heat
    • Padding – often seen in TIG welding gloves, a bit of additional thin padding can add a bit of comfort. You’ll see double and even triple padded palms in a lot of high end TIG and MIG gloves.

Comfort

Welders get into uncomfortable positions quite often – there’s no reason to add to that discomfort by using gloves that are uncomfortable to start with. There are plenty of well made, durable gloves that are comfortable.  Again, this is something you’ll want to rely on experience and/or customer reviews if you are buying online.  If you can find a store and try some on, even better.

Cuff Length

The length of the glove cuff, or how high up your arm the glove reaches, is important to consider and can be of varying importance based on the type of welding you are doing.  As an example, a 21 inch cuff is not usual.  These cuffs are intended to protect your forearms and to keep slag or sparks from finding their way under your protective gear and onto your skin. These cuffs also routinely offer additional padding and reinforcements for additional protection and comfort.

Sleeves

While not actually a part of the welding glove, you can use sleeves when needed rather than having long cuffs on your welding gloves.  This is a common and entirely acceptable approach as it lets you use gloves as needed but when the situation calls for it, you can use the sleeves.

The video below shows good, strong, thick welding gloves in use: