If you are new to beekeeping you may not realize how messy it can get, so you should ideally learn how to clean beekeeping gloves as a starting point.
The actual method relies on the type of gloves that you are using.
There are basically three different kinds of beekeeping gloves for you to choose from: leather, synthetic, and fabric. Let’s jump into the guide to learn how to clean your beekeeping gloves depending on the type of material.
Many beekeepers choose leather beekeeping gloves due to their protective characteristics- if you are stung wearing leather, it may not even penetrate and contact your skin. Plus, leather gloves last a lot longer than other materials and hold up well over time. Since they typically cost more than synthetic or fabric gloves do, this is good news.
One issue with wearing leather gloves could be related to their tough durability- when stung, the stinger can become stuck in the glove. This releases pheromones that will send other bees flying to the rescue, riled up and ready to attack.
Genuine leather is porous, like skin. This means that stains, substances, and soil can stick to and become embedded into the leather.
For this reason, you may need to start the cleaning process by scraping the surface of the leather with a knife or tool to remove whatever you can. Don’t worry- leather is extremely tough and can withstand the rigors of this, as well as the cleaning yet to come.
Here’s what you can do to clean your leather beekeeping gloves:
- Fill a vessel or bucket with cold water, enough so you can submerge your gloves. Add a couple good squirts of dishwashing detergent and mix well.
- Put the gloves on your hands and scrub another squirt of dish soap between your gloved fingers and hands. Rub well and work at the spots that are soiled to loosen the dirt.
- Remove the gloves and submerge them in soapy water to soak overnight.
- Remove from the bucket and rinse very well.
- When you are confident that you have rinsed the leather gloves thoroughly, lay them out in the sun or on a line to dry completely. It typically takes a day or two to dry. Expect them to be a bit stiff after drying, but they will break in with wear.
If you are struggling to remove the debris from the leather, you should know that alcohol dissolves propolis. Both ethanol and methanol can dissolve this residue away but use them carefully and gingerly as they can also dry out and discolor the leather. If you do use alcohol to treat stains on your gloves, make sure to oil the leather well after.
Okay, the easiest answer to beekeeping gloves is synthetic. There is a slew of different types of synthetic gloves on the market- some common materials include:
Nitrile, neoprene, and latex are all easily cleaned using soap and warm water. This makes them an obvious choice for beekeepers who want minimal clean-up in regard to their gloves. This kind of glove also brings the convenience of being able to quickly rinse off when tending hives- without any involved cleaning process- so beekeepers can quickly return to work. For ease and convenience, synthetic seems to stand out.
While tossing your synthetic gloves in the washing machine is fine, do not put them in your dryer. This will likely melt and ruin them, as well as possibly destroy the rest of the laundry and the inside of the machine.
This doesn’t seem to be a huge issue or barrier to using synthetic beekeeping gloves, however, because most buyers intend to wear them once- maybe twice- and then throw them away.
Synthetic gloves are inexpensive, so this is feasible, and they don’t have the longest life among leather or fabric options. If you oppose the carbon footprint left behind when regularly disposing of synthetic gloves, this may not be the best beekeeping glove choice for you. Plus, in terms of sting protection, synthetic probably offers the least of these available options.
Fabric gloves are something that many people already have on hand, for other tasks and chores like working in the yard or garden. These are usually made from materials like cotton, polyester, and polyester blends, which typically offer a bit more sting protection than thin synthetic gloves do.
The problem with wearing fabric gloves when beekeeping is cleaning them after. They become stiff and dirty with the sticky propolis, wax, and honey that gets on them- even after just one hive! Trying to wipe or remove this residue can make it worse, rubbing it into the fibers of the glove and rendering it impossible to clean later.
Some DIY treatments show signs of success. Try bleaching the gloves with acidic solutions of diluted vinegar or lemon juice.
Dry the gloves in the sun to gain the optimal cleansing benefits of these products. You may also use hydrogen peroxide for stubborn stains on fabric gloves, but it may impact the bees if trace amounts are left behind. Also, remember that all these solutions may discolor or fade the fabric of the gloves afterwards.
Here’s another way to remove residue from fabric beekeeping gloves:
- Use a butter knife or a kitchen spatula to scrape away any loose or flaky honey and bee debris.
- Use the same tool to loosen wax or propolis.
- Soak the gloves in hot water, then wash using regular laundry detergent and bleach to sanitize.
These tips may or may not work in completely removing the residue and dirt from fabric gloves, which is why some buyers prefer other types of beekeeping gloves for such messy work.
What kind of beekeeping gloves do you wear?
Whether you choose leather, synthetic, or fabric, wearing clean gloves each time you enter or handle the hive is imperative. Use this guide for cleaning your gloves- whatever kind you wear- and for maintaining a healthy, happy apiary.