You can tear into your garden earth with your bare hands, but most people find that yard work is a lot more pleasant with a pair of gardening gloves. At a minimum, gardening gloves keep your hands from getting completely caked in dirt as you dig and weed, making post-gardening clean-up faster. Better gardening gloves protect your hands from cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds from thorns, and help prevent blisters from using equipment like trowels, pruners, or hedge-trimming shears. The best gardening gloves protect your hands, but also have enough sensitivity to let you feel and grasp thin, slippery weeds—and can be cleaned with a quick toss in the washing machine.
We explored various gardening gloves to see which gardening gloves combine protection and finesse. For gardeners looking to invest in a durable pair of gloves, the Showa Atlas 370(available at Amazon) was the Best Overall, with tough-yet-sensitive goatskin palms and cool synthetic backing. Our pick for the Most Durable glove was the StoneBreaker Gardener (available at Amazon) because of its combination of protective nitrile coating, sizing to fit a range of average men’s and women’s hands and wrists, durable fabric, and price.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Showa Atlas 370
When to use these gloves: Showa Atlas 370 Gloves are best for all-around gardening in dry-to-damp conditions: digging, weeding, carrying garden waste and bags of mulch, handling hoses and watering cans, and pruning shrubs and small trees. Excellent dexterity, superior construction, and good protection make the Showa Atlas 370 a great glove for getting work done.
Sizing: Showa Atlas 370 gloves come in sizes small through extra large, roughly corresponding to glove sizes 6-10. Check your size with the Showa Atlas glove size chart.
Pros: This glove’s multiple sizes and long elastic cuff (3 inches on medium/size 7 gloves) make for a great fit that keeps dirt out, and they’re lightweight enough to forget that you’re wearing them. The nitrile coating extends 1 inch down fingers, protecting your hands from wet hoses and muddy soil, while the fabric back dries quickly. The nitrile coating also protects fingertips and palms from everyday wear-and-tear without bulky, annoying fingertip seams. The breathable nylon knit back keeps the sun off while keeping your skin cool.
Cons: These gloves are fine for light yard work and pulling raspberry canes, but if you’re planning on spending a lot of time moving rocks, pruning roses, or working with power tools like chainsaws, you’ll want a more protective glove.
Washability: Machine washable.
Bonus Features: These gloves are available in dirt-hiding black and assorted can’t-lose-them-under-a-bush bright pastels. You can use a touchscreen with these gloves (as long as they’re not too dirty).
Protection from water, mud, everyday wear and tear
When to use these gloves: StoneBreaker Gardener Gloves are excellent all-around gloves for most light to medium-duty gardening and yard work. You can keep wearing them as you move from task to task all day long.
Sizing: StoneBreaker Gardener Gloves are available in small, medium, and large, roughly corresponding to glove sizes 7-9.
Pros: At about $20 a pair, the StoneBreaker Gloves cost significantly more than the Showa Atlas nitrile gloves, but they’ll last much longer and let you do heavy yard work without worrying about wearing holes through the fingers—a common complaint for nitrile gloves. If you want to own just one pair of gloves, the StoneBreaker Gloves are the gloves to buy. These goatskin/fabric gloves are sensitive enough for fine weeding, but sturdy enough for grabbing thorny stems and rough-edged bricks, and they’ll keep blisters at bay during long pruning sessions. Their fingertip seams have a slim profile, and don’t interfere with fine-detail work. These gloves’ light color and breathable fabric backing keeps them cool on hot, sunny days, and the palms are water-resistant.
Cons: These gloves are pricier than nitrile/fabric gloves, and need hand washing. The backs are not water resistant; if you’re planning to spend the day with a hose, choose a glove that can go in the dryer. And although the cuff is long, the elastic isn’t particularly tight, and some dirt may fall in. It’s also worth noting that while Amazon lists these as “women’s” gloves, the design is unisex and their size range will fit most men.
Washability: Hand wash with cold water to maintain the goatskin leather’s flexibility. Do not wring them dry, or put them in the dryer: Let them air-dry flat on a rack or towel.
Bonus Features: This is the most-protective glove we tested that could still work a touchscreen (when clean).
When to use these gloves: West County Classic Slate Gloves are great for all-around medium-to-heavy duty gardening, especially with thorny brush.
Sizing: West County gloves come in sizes extra small to large. A West County medium is approximately a size 7 glove.
Pros: These sturdy gloves have enough padding on palm and fingertips to thwart the thorniest rose. The combination of nylon/polyurethane palm is sturdy and flexible, and the fabric back of the glove is light and breathable.
Cons: The thick padding on fingers reduces sensitivity for fine garden work. Although the wrist has a velcro adjustment, the fabric folds under the velcro create gaps and allow dirt to fall into the fingers. Underside of fingers feels stiff and awkward when you’re closing your fist. The palm side of the glove does not dry quickly in wet conditions. Once the palm or underside of the fingers get wet, they stay wet, and the glove feels like a heavy sponge until it’s had a chance to dry out.
Washability: Rinse obvious dirt off the gloves, then throw them in the washer/dryer.
Bonus Features: These 100% synthetic gloves are vegan-friendly.
Wells Lamont HydraHyde Desert Tan Grain Cowhide 3204
When to use these gloves: These gloves are best for medium-to-heavy work that doesn’t involve much digging or handling dirt.
Sizing: These gloves come in small, medium, and large. The medium is roughly equivalent to glove size 7.
Pros: The padded cowhide leather palm-side provides protection against thorns and sharp edges, but feels soft and supple.
Cons: The stiff velcro wrist closure has a natural gap that allows dirt and water to fall into the glove. The fingertip seams are more prominent than in other sewn gloves, and may bother some users. The stiff seams also reduce fingertip sensitivity. The gloves are stapled to their packaging, making it difficult to remove the packaging without tearing the glove.
Washability: Although some users report washing their Wells Lamont gloves in a machine, that approach isn’t recommended for leather. Hand wash the gloves in cold water, then let them air dry.
Bonus Features: The HydraHyde fabric is breathable and water-resistant (as long as water doesn’t come in through the wrist closure).
When to use these gloves: These gloves are great for scratching and digging in fine, loose soil. They’re awful for using any sort of tool or digging in soil that’s at all compacted or rocky, or doing any sort of work that involves fine movements.
Sizing: Garden Genie gloves only come in one size.
Pros: The “high-density rubber” coating protects hands from scratches and thorns. Scratching the dirt with these gloves’ claws is an effective way to uproot small weeds, spread mulch, and dig compost into the top layers of soil. These gloves are also fairly water-resistant due to their coating, which extends to the knuckles on the back of the hand.
Cons: It is awkward and frustrating to hold any object with thick plastic claws on your fingers—trowels, loppers, pruners, wheelbarrow handles, you name it. Thick rubber coating is hot in the sun and the claws don’t provide enough leverage to dig in many types of garden soil, but can’t be removed.
Washability: Rinse in cold water and air dry.
Bonus Features: Claws! If you always wanted claws, these are the gloves for you. If you actually want to dig in the garden, go buy a trowel. If you want garden gloves that will protect your hands while you work, get one of our top three picks.
When to use these gloves: The Digz Nitrile Coated Gloves 3-pack gloves are best for light gardening tasks that don’t involve heavy equipment or thorny brush, or for people who tend to lose gloves a lot.
Sizing: These gloves come in one size—women’s medium/large—which is roughly glove size 7. A children’s size is available.
Pros: These inexpensive gloves have long, elastic cuffs that cover your wrists. The waterproof, protective nitrile coating on the palm and fingertips is latex-free, and sensitive enough for delicate garden tasks. The light-colored polyester backing fabric stays cool on hot days and dries quickly.
Cons: The glove fabric isn’t very sturdy: I observed pilling and snags on the gloves after the first wash. The gloves’ nitrile barely extends past the base of the fingernail, making it very easy to get wet hands when handling hoses and watering cans. The fingers are very short, and may not accommodate people with large hands or long fingernails.
Washability: These gloves are theoretically machine washable, but given their rapid deterioration, it might be best to hand wash/hand dry them.
Bonus Features: These gloves come in a variety of patterns and colors ranging from dull green to eye-searing red that’s very difficult to lose under a bush.
When to use these gloves: The Dig it gloves are designed for medium to heavy-duty garden work.
Sizing: These gloves come in sizes small to extra large, but the sizes seem to be one size smaller than standard American sizes. The large is roughly glove size 7, or a medium in most other glove brands.
Pros: The long cuff and velcro wrist closure keep dirt out, and silicon dots increase grip. All-synthetic construction will appeal to vegans while the breathable polyester/spandex back fabric dries quickly.
Cons: Disproportionately short fingers made of inflexible leather and bulky fingertip seams will make these gloves uncomfortable for many users, and reduce dexterity and sensitivity.
Washability: Machine wash in cold water, air dry.
Bonus Features: Extra “pillow top” padding on tops of fingertips may help protect fingers from crushing.
When to use these gloves: These gloves are best for medium to heavy-duty brush clearing and other garden work that doesn’t involve contact with soil.
Sizing: These gloves come in women’s size extra small to large, and men’s size medium to extra, extra large. A women’s medium is roughly glove size 8—one size larger than most other brands.
Pros: These 100% synthetic gloves have a sturdy, protective palm that keeps hands safe from thorns. The thumb has stretchy fabric backing that makes the gloves more flexible and doubles as a brow wipe. The fingertip seams are relatively unobtrusive for a protective glove, and stretchy fabric on the sides of the fingers and back of the palm make this glove flexible and comfortable.
Cons: The short cuff closes with a velcro band with a gap. Gardeners who dig and move soil will end up with dirt inside their gloves.
Washability: Machine wash and dry.
Bonus Features: These gloves come in three different men’s colors and five women’s colors. Both men’s and women’s gloves come in bright red, making it easy to find the gloves you left out by the woodpile.
While every garden is different, most have at least some form of substrate, typically with loose rocks in the soil, and help grip slippery wet plants and pots. Good gardening gloves will help keep muck off your hands and can be easily hosed off or thrown in the washing machine. They'll also help prevent your skin from the abrasive surfaces of small rocks hiding in the soil (and the stingers of any insects that might call that soil their home). They also provide adequate friction to delicately grasp plants or lug around heavy pots that are slick with dew or rain.
The best gardening gloves will also be thin enough to not feel bulky, or dull sensation so much that it makes working in your garden harder than it needs to be.
What materials are gardening gloves made out of?
Gardening gloves are typically made of a combination fabric and some sort of protective material—either nitrile, latex, or leather.
Glove fabrics include cotton, nylon, and polyester. Cotton is breathable and cool, but if it gets wet, it dries out slowly, leaving your fingers pruney wrecks. Nylon and polyester dry faster in damp conditions, but low-quality fabrics can pill and break down in the wash.
When it comes to protective materials, you're dealing with nitrile, latex or leather.
Nitrile is a synthetic rubber commonly used on work gloves used in cleaning, labs, and medical facilities. It doesn’t contain latex or latex proteins, so it’s generally safe for people with latex allergies—but manufacturers add other chemicals to nitrile to make it more flexible, so check with the manufacturer if you’re concerned about skin-contact allergies. Nitrile resists abrasion, punctures, and degradation by oils and acids, so it’s a great choice for yard work where your hands might be exposed to skin-drying clays, fertilizers, and other lawn and garden chemicals.
Latex is a vague term, but in the glove world, latex generally means that the gloves are made out of the sap of the rubber tree. Latex is very flexible and strong, and waterproof. Unfortunately, many people are either born with latex allergies, or acquire the allergy from exposure to latex gloves in medical or industrial workplaces.
Goatskin leather is a popular choice for lightweight work gloves. Compared to cow-skin leather, goat skin is more flexible, and it can be “shaved” thinner than cow-skin to make a very lightweight glove that’s cooler and preserves dexterity better than cow-skin leather. Goatskin gardening gloves aren’t as durable as leather gloves, but they can be used for fine tasks like sorting seeds, which cow-skin leather gloves just can’t do.
Meg Muckenhoupt is an environmental and travel writer. Her book Boston Gardens and Green Spaces (Union Park Press, 2010) is a Boston Globe Local Bestseller. Meg was awarded a certificate in Field Botany by the New England Wild Flower Society and earned degrees from Harvard and Brown University.
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