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Testing Cut-Resistant Gloves

By Miye Bromberg Published

Cut-resistant gloves promise to protect your hands against injuries. Do they actually work? And which brand is best?

If you’ve spent any time at all in the kitchen, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve cut yourself while breaking down a chicken, skinned a knuckle grating cheese, or sliced a fingernail (or worse) using a mandolineA sharp blade doesn’t discriminate; injuries are possible even for the most careful or experienced cooks. Made from high-tech engineered fabrics that are stronger than an equal weight of stainless steel, cut-resistant gloves promise to help protect your hands against accidental cuts, providing extra insurance against damage. 

That said, there are limits to their powers. As the manufacturers of these gloves are all quick to declare, their products are cut-resistant but not cut-proof, meaning that they can’t entirely eliminate the possibility that you might cut yourself. In short, using a cut-resistant glove does not give you license to adopt reckless or unsafe practices in the kitchen. They’re also not puncture-resistant, so they’re not great for tasks where your hand might slip and cause you to jab yourself, as you might when shucking oysters.

We used the cut-resistant gloves in a variety tasks, including pitting avocados and grating soft cheese.

Still, we liked the idea of having a bit more security when using sharp tools. It had been a while since we last reviewed these products, and we wanted to know if our favorite, the Microplane Cut Resistant Glove, held up to the competition. So we bought six models priced from about $5 to about $25 per glove, including our previous winner, and put them to the test, wearing them as we halved, pitted, and sliced avocados; grated soft cheese and carrots; and peeled potatoes and sliced them on a mandoline. Most models came as individual gloves rather than pairs, and were ambidextrous, so we could use them on our dominant or nondominant hand as the situation required; one model came as a pair, with dedicated right- and left-handed gloves. 

What Makes a Cut-Resistant Glove Cut-Resistant?

Cut-resistant glove manufacturers often say that their gloves are “five times stronger than steel” or other such compelling claims. What does this actually mean? 

 

For starters, the manufacturers aren’t saying these gloves are stronger than any steel glove—just that their materials are stronger weight for weight. In other words, a cut-resistant glove weighing half an ounce will be more protective than a glove made from an equal weight of thin steel wire.

 

But what makes a cut-resistant glove more cut-resistant than, say, a cotton glove? 

 

In broad strokes, cut-resistant gloves are made from special technical materials—tough plastic fibers that have high shear strength, meaning they are engineered to withstand the sharp edge of a knife. Most of the gloves are made with Dyneema or Spectra, two brand names for ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), engineered plastic yarns that are used for body armor, rock-climbing ropes, and more. These materials are made from extremely long polymer molecules. The longer a molecule, the better ability it has to overlap and bond to its neighboring molecules, and the stronger the resulting fiber. Cotton is made of cellulose, which is also a polymer, and its molecules are fairly long, at least where natural materials are concerned.  But its molecules dwarf in comparison to those of UHMWPE’s; a single molecule of UHMWPE is thousands of times longer than a molecule of cellulose, conferring much more strength as a result. Other gloves are made with yarn that has glass or fiberglass at their core; because these materials are so hard, they are also good at stopping knives and protecting hands. 

 

Within the category of technical textiles, factors like the gauge (thickness) of the yarn itself, the density of the weave, and the application of special coatings can also enhance the ability of a fabric to resist cuts. But these factors didn’t figure into our testing—at least for the tasks for which we use them, all of the gloves were acceptably cut-resistant, regardless of how thick or dense they were. —Paul Adams

Cut-Resistance Levels Don’t Matter

Cut-resistant gloves come in different levels of cut resistance, which are evaluated in the United States by an independent organization called the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The gloves in our lineup had ANSI cut scores that ranged from A3 (takes a weight of 1,000 grams or less to cut material with 20 millimeters of blade travel) to A7 (takes a weight of 4,000 grams or less). We tested these cut scores informally by stuffing Slim Jim Beef Jerky Sticks in the fingers of each glove and using fresh razor blades to cut across them with increasing levels of force; each glove held up to the cut score it claimed.

Using Slim Jims to simulate real fingers, we informally tested the purported cut resistance levels of each glove.

In the end, though, the cut-resistance level itself didn’t make a difference for the tasks we performed. We’re pleased to report that all of the gloves did a good job of keeping our fingers safe from harm. After cutting, grating, peeling, and slicing nearly 50 pounds of food, our hands were still intact, with not so much as a scratch on them.

Design and Fit Are Key

The gloves, however, were a different story. By the end of testing, some of them had holes in the fingers, or fibers that had been tugged loose when they caught on a blade. There was no correlation between damage and cut score or even thickness; thick and thin gloves were equally likely to get holes or snag, and both more and less cut-resistant gloves saw holes, too.

Gloves with fingers that were too long sometimes got stuck on the blades of mandolines and graters.

What determined the damage? The design of the glove, for starters. The gloves that tore were those that had excess fabric that extended too far beyond the users’ fingers and got stuck on grater or mandoline blades. While unattractive to look at, these loose threads and holes didn’t actually detract from the protection the gloves provided, since our fingers were safe below them. We were also relieved to find that any holes that were generated did not get significantly larger when we washed the gloves 10 times; the holes stayed about the same size from start to finish. 

That said, the overly long gloves were also simply less pleasant to use. All that baggy, excess fabric got in the way not only of the blade, but of our hands themselves, limiting our dexterity and making it harder to get a secure grip on smaller or more slippery objects, like carrots or avocados. So, too, did gloves that were thicker; testers generally preferred gloves that were made with fabric that was 1.0 millimeter or less in thickness, and our winner was the thinnest, with fabric 0.8 mm thick.

As for fit, we preferred gloves that came in different sizes, as these accommodated different hand sizes and shapes better. Almost all manufacturers provide guides to help you find the size that is most likely to fit your hands, usually by providing palm and/or finger measurements. Our previous winner is only available in one size, so while it was great for people with smaller hands, those with larger hands were out of luck.

Ultimately, the best glove is the one that fits your hand the most closely. While hand sizes and shapes vary significantly from person to person, our favorite glove did the best job of accommodating different hands in all the various sizes that were offered.

Cleaning the Gloves

One last point: we also preferred gloves that were machine-washable. In part, this was because the machine did a better job of getting rid of the stains that marked every glove after we grated carrots or peeled potatoes. But also, we liked machine-washable gloves due to concerns about food safety—these gloves come into direct contact with any food we might process, so we prefer to be able to clean them more thoroughly. One glove fit most users’ hands nicely, but was covered in a rubbery substance that prohibited it from going in the washing machine, a deal breaker for most users.

Our Winning Cut-Resistant Glove is the Mercer Culinary MercerGuard Cut Glove

Our favorite cut-resistant glove is the Mercer Culinary MercerGuard Cut Glove. The thinnest glove we tested, it allows for superior dexterity and grip while still protecting our hands from harm—even after we used it to peel, grate, and mandoline an additional 20 pounds of cheese, fruit, and vegetables. It comes in lots of sizes, and did the best job of fitting different hands, though the bigger sizes run small, so medium- and large-handed testers might want to size up. And it’s machine-washable, so while it did stain somewhat over the course of testing, most of the marks faded after a few wash cycles.

Equipment Review Cut-Resistant Gloves

Cut-resistant gloves promise to protect your hands against injuries. Do they actually work? And which brand is best?