It's time to get to work. There are nails that need hammering, boards that need sawing, and snow that needs shoveling. You don't need praise or incentives to knuckle down, but you would like a little protection. You know that if you actually work your hands to the bone, you won't be able to come back tomorrow and get even more done.
Not to worry, we put some of the best-selling work gloves through their paces in our testing labs to see which ones will save your digits. We judged each set of gloves based on protection they provided, dexterity, and ease of use.
After being cut with knives, choked with rope, and drowned in ice water, we think the Carhartt A518 (available at Amazon for $24.99) will do the best job for most people. These heavy-duty safety gloves had the padding in all the right places and will let you work in comfort.
The Carhartt A518 leather work gloves topped our list because they balanced dexterity and protection. High-quality couble-stiched-sewn-grain-leather pads cover the fingertips, palm, part of the wrist and the knuckles. To test durability, we slashed at these areas with a knife made of 154CM steel, and aside from the very ends of the fingertips, we were pleased with how these gloves held up. However, it's the flexibility that puts them over the top. We opened a pocket knife, turned small dials, and typed this sentence while wearing these gloves.
While we liked the durability and flexibility, we found the A518's to be just adequate when it comes to insulation. When we subjected these gloves to wet, freezing temperatures, the inside of the glove went from a toasty 89°F to 60°F in under five minutes.
Issues aside, our testing showed us that the Carhartt A518s are the best abrasion-resistant gloves for general work such as shoveling, light construction, and moving heavy objects.
Durable enough to withstand knife cuts
Pads protect fingertips, palm, wrist, and knuckles
When it comes to working in frigid conditions, the Youngstown Winter Proof Plus gloves blew everything out of the ice water. We exposed these gloves to freezing conditions and found them to be water and windproof. These winter gloves are not impervious to cold, but, anyone who has worked in the snow knows that it's the dampness that saps your hands of all their strength. The Youngstown also protected our hands well, resisting sharp objects and rope constrictions.
The reason we didn't award these gloves the top spot was due to their stiffness. The thickness in the material allows for only a gripping motion. You can hold onto a shovel, a hammer, or a chainsaw, but that's about all. We could barely pick up a screw that we dropped, much less place it in the right spot and turn a driver. These gloves perform at their best in the dead of winter, dealing with work that requires no finesse.
I'm Jon Chan, and I am the Senior Product Technician here at Reviewed. Throughout the day, I install, move, and test large appliances like washers and fridges, so a good pair of work gloves are essential to my day-to-day. When it came time to test work gloves, I wanted to balance durability and dexterity because if you can't work in work gloves, that kind of defeats the point.
Our testing focused on three major categories: protection, dexterity, and ease of use.
The ideal glove should provide protection against the elements, sharp objects, impact shock, and constriction. To simulate cold and damp weather, we used a bucket of ice water. We measured conditions inside the glove, both at room temperature and submerged into the bucket, using remote thermocouples.
After the gloves dried off, we considered the break-in period over and moved onto the sharp objects test. We very carefully gripped a blade made of 154CM steel and poked at the fingertips. There are niche gloves that are made to protect against cuts, however, we feel that all gloves should provide some defense against sharp objects. The shock and constriction tests involved hitting stuff with a hammer and wrapping a rope around our hands and pulling.
Finally, we did dexterity tests. For quantitative numbers, we pitted our ability to twirl a pen in our fingers ungloved versus gloved. The more revolutions we could complete, the better. We also judged how difficult it was to do normal tasks like turning a screw, adjusting dials, and writing.
What You Should Know About Work Gloves
Why Wear Work Gloves?
You've only got one set of hands and you should protect them. We're not going to tell you what to do, but it's worth mentioning that, in 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 143,000 hand-related injuries were reported in the workplace—a statistic that doesn't cover hand injuries that happened at work but weren't reported or any of the work that folks like you and I do to keep their homes, vehicles, and backyards working as they should. This reported 143,000 injuries meant that, in 2015, hand injuries came in second place to the reported number of incidents of back injuries (191,450) sustained by Americans while they were on the job.
Everyone knows to lift with their knees to protect their backs. Your hands should be shown the same respect.
What Gloves Are Best for Which Situation?
• Cuts: The best cut-resistant gloves are made from Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE, UHMW). Lightweight and flexible, these types of gloves do not typically protect from shock or puncture.
• Bruising and blistering: Look for quality leather to prevent bruising and blistering. A quality pair of work gloves will have an extra layer sewn over the knuckles and over the palm.
• Water and chemicals: In this situation, latex and nitrile gloves will work the best. You want a nonreactive barrier that's also disposable.
• Extreme temperatures: The gloves that protect against extreme hot and cold tend to be very thick. The added bulk provides more insulation.
Other Gloves We Tested
Stanley is a storied company that makes a pretty good pair of work gloves. The S73111 model carries the same design elements as the Carhartts that took the top spot. They have the same sewn leather placements over the palms, wrist, and fingertips, however they are of a lower quality. Where the A518's use a nice grain leather, these Stanley gloves use a much rougher cowhide. We found during testing that the S73111 were pretty good at insulation, but did not give us the dexterity that we were looking for.
Coming in fourth place, the Mechanix MG-05-010 gave us a healthy range of motion and they breathed well. We moved through the lab with these gloves on and were able go through all our tests without any hindrance. We were even able to use our smart phones and laptop with the MG's on.
While these gloves are very light and flexible, they offered only mild protection against sharp objects and reverberation. However, for light handyman work, they work like a charm, slipping on with ease.
Allows for a large range of motion and dexterity
Offered only mild protection against sharp objects
The Firm Grip 5510 combines nitrile and cloth to create a tight-fitting and flexible glove. Retailing for around $3 a pair, we'd consider these Firm Grips to be semi-disposable, which is great for any business that goes through a lot of regular disposable latex or vinyl gloves. During testing, we found the 5510s to be waterproof from one side, so we think they'd be great for people in the seafood business.
The Parva Garden Gloves are the strangest pair on our list. They are elbow length, have kevlar stitching, and are made of 40 percent leather. They are touted as being thorn proof. We'd agree with that assessment, but only for thorns in bushes and on flowers. We read quite a few user reviews that state these gloves couldn't stand up to the thorns on tree branches and cacti.
Thorn-proof against bushes and flowers
Don't stand up to thorns on tree branches or cacti
NoCry are cut-resistant gloves for use in the kitchen. These gloves served their primary purpose well. We gave the NoCry gloves a few good slashes and they held up. Wearing them, we found ourselves feeling confident and safe while chopping. Not padded enough for outdoor use, but if you're worried about knife safety, the NoCry gloves are well worth checking out.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.