Cotton is the long forgotten option for work gloves.
With the increase in popularity of cut-resistant fibers and inherently flame-resistant materials, people overlook the basic cotton work glove.
This Guide to cotton work gloves highlights the amazing benefits of this most simple form of hand protection.
What are Cotton Gloves Used For?
Cotton work gloves can be used for a lot of jobs. In a lot of cases, these gloves are neglected for other, more expensive materials.
The benefits of cotton: They’re comfortable, cool, absorbent. They won’t leave scratches or fingerprints, are naturally biodegradeable, will not melt to your hand, and have good abrasion resistance.
On top of that, they’re inexpensive compared to ‘advanced’ fiber options.
A Quick History of Cotton
The origins of cotton are hard to place down. Reports are few and far between with some saying as early as 5500 BCE and others dating it closer to 2500 BCE.
Author and professor Rudi Volti states that after invading India, Alexander the Great and his troops traded in their woolen garments for more comfortable and cool cotton clothing.
Cotton reached global prominence in the 1600s with the cultural transformation of Europe during the Industrial Revolution.
By 1664, the East India Company was importing a quarter of a million pieces into Britain annually.
In the 1700s, the middle class wanted garments that were more easily cleaned and fashionable. Britain surpassed India as the world’s leading cotton textile manufacturer in the 19th century. This was made possible, in part, by Britain’s trade deals with its own colonies, whose settlers retained their British sensibilities and fashion sense.
This growth further increased with Eli Whitney’s invention of the modern cotton gin in 1793.
While the cotton gin existed in some form since the 6th century, it was Whitney’s invention that made it possible to separate cotton fibers from its seeds. A chore previously done by hand.
Today the international trade for cotton is estimated to be $12 billion USD.
How Are Cotton Gloves Made?
Textile mills process the raw cotton into a yarn or a fabric. Cotton work gloves can be made from either option, which are called knitted or cut-and-sewn, respectively.
Cut-and-sewn cotton work gloves use knitted fabric that is cut in a cutting room and then sewn together with a sewing machine.
Cut-and-sewn is easier to produce than knitted gloves because it doesn’t require highly technical machines.
There are three disadvantages to cut-and-sewn cotton work gloves:
- Generates a lot of wasted fabric
- It is labor intensive
- The stitching results in bulky seams
Seamless knit cotton work gloves use yarn that is knitted by industrial machines.
The main advantage to seamless knit:
- No seams, which makes the glove more comfortable
- Less prone to tearing
- Longer durability and can be washed
- Conforms better to your hand
There isn’t a noticeable cost difference for a basic knitted cotton glove compared to a cut-and-sewn type so it’ll come down to personal preference.
Cotton Gloves for Heat Resistance
Cotton is an insulating fiber that has excellent resistance to heat degradation. It begins to turn yellow after several hours at 250°F (120°C) and will noticeably degrade at temperatures around 450°F (232°C).
This means that for tasks that involve low amounts of heat, gloves like the Cool Grip® Terry-Cotton Gloves Made With Protex® are a cost-effective option to avoid burns.
Cotton and Flame Resistance:
Natural cotton should not be used around open flame or spark because cotton burns readily and quickly.
However, cotton can be chemically treated to reduce its flammability.
Cotton can be modified by adding flame retardants during the spinning process. Fibers like flame-resistant rayon, acrylic, or olefin, or through chemical treatments.
Be Careful: Cotton work gloves that are treated for flame resistance have a limited number of washings before the treatment will no longer be effective.
Learn more about treated versus inherently flame-resistant materials here.
Biodegradability of Cotton Work Gloves
Unlike textiles produced in laboratory settings, cotton is biodegradable — meaning it can degrade on its own. In most cases, cotton will degrade in as little as one month.
This makes it an ecologically sound fabric choice, it’s also an integral part in the creation of our 100% biodegradable palm-coated glove.
Can Cotton Work Gloves Be Washed?
The short answer is yes.
Cotton is one of the easiest fibers to wash. Although it absorbs water during the washing process which causes it to swell, cotton will return to its natural size when drying.
Cotton is also one of the few fibers in the world that increases in tenacity when wet, meaning that you shouldn’t be afraid of your washing machine’s heavy cycle with these gloves.
Thanks to its excellent thermal properties, cotton work gloves can also be dried using machine dryers without fear of degradation.
How to Wash Cotton Gloves:
Step One:Use warm water (105°F/40°C)
Step Two:Wash with regular detergent, can be bleached
Step Three:Tumble dry on low or no heat
Be warned: Your gloves will most likely shrink on high heat settings.
Perfect Industries for Cotton Gloves:
Like we said at the beginning of this Guide, cotton is not your grandpa’s work glove. There are still a lot of industry that can benefit from this inexpensive, easy-to-wash fiber.
If you’re working with devices that are sensitive to electrostatic dissipation (ESD), then you need gloves that are slightly conductive. That’s because the glove’s surface won’t retain a charge.
If you need a glove to protect components from skin oils and salts, plain cotton gloves are your answer.
Cotton’s cellulose fibers retain some level of moisture which renders them slightly conductive. This makes them sufficient for ESD protection purposes.
Cotton is often the top choice for inspection areas in automotive, manufacturing and assembly industries because cotton work gloves don’t leave fingerprints.
Cotton wicks away the oils and moisture from your skin to prevent contamination from parts.
Cotton gloves will also not scratch or damage parts and they have excellent abrasion-resistant properties.
Because cotton can easily be washed and bleach can be used, cotton is a perfect option for the food industry assuming you don’t require cut resistance.
Hacks to Get the Most Out of Your Cotton Work Gloves:
Improve Your Grip:
PVC dots can be added to cotton work gloves for added grip, like on our Sure Grip® 7-Gauge PVC-Dotted Gloves.
Choose Your Color Wisely:
We talk about this in our post “5 Ways to Keep Glove Costs Down Without Sacrificing Quality” but the easiest thing you can do to extend your glove’s life is to not buy white.
White shows dirt and if a pair of gloves look dirty, they’ll be thrown in the garbage well before their time is up.
A washing program can eliminate that risk but a darker pair of gloves like our Sure Knit™ 7-Gauge Speckled Glove is a safer bet.
Look for Ambidextrous Gloves
Ambidextrous design is one of the smartest ideas in glove technology. It makes glove selection fast and easy, but it also doubles the lifespan of your gloves.
When your gloves are beginning to wear through on one side, you swap hands and have a whole new pair of gloves.
Ambidextrous gloves can also feature PVC dots like our Sure Grip® 7-Gauge Double-Sided PVC-Dotted Gloves.
Where To Buy Cotton Work Gloves:
Realistically, you can buy cotton work gloves anywhere. A local hardware store, a gas station or Amazon will all carry similar styles.
But the quality of your work gloves will differ depending on where they’re purchased.
Have you ever noticed that the webbing between your pinky and ring finger is lower than the webbing between your other fingers?
So we created a sewing process called THT®, or True Hand Technology. This patented process allows us to better conform our gloves to the shape of your hands for a better fit and longer lifespan.
Not Just Your Grandpa’s Glove
The aim of this post was to celebrate the most basic of work gloves.
Cotton gloves aren’t as technologically advanced as Kevlar®.
They’re not as bad-ass as leather gloves.
But cotton work gloves shouldn’t be overlooked. These simple, natural, cost-effective gloves have a lot to offer your hands.
Find a pair in this post that will fit your needs?
Click ‘learn more’ to get a FREE sample!