Latex gloves, whether natural or synthetic, can only last so long. Lengthen their lifespan with some creative reuse techniques.

Greener Latex GlovesIn my younger days, I never thought that slipping my hands inside waterproof gloves while engaging in any type of domestic chore was a necessity, and it’s not something that anyone in my family ever did, but lo and behold, I slowly but surely became a believer. Now, when I look back on the past 10 years, I realize that my diligent rubber glove habit has resulted in a lot of castoffs. I’ve tried at least seven different major brands, and what I’ve realized is that regardless of the material and construction, sooner or later, they all end up reaching the point of no return thanks to pointy knife tips, chemical deterioration or simple wear and tear.

What I didn’t realize is that synthetically processed (as opposed to naturally derived) latex is the norm among conventional brands and that even when it’s the latter, in some cases, the material is taken without regard toward maintaining the fragile balance of forested areas such as Brazil’s Amazon region. It’s possible to green up my kitchen habit by specifically seeking out Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified natural latex options that ensure that rubber tappers are compensated with fair trade wages when they responsibly utilize forest resources. So many natives live in poverty and are forced by their circumstances to profit in any way they can from the diminishing resources they can extract from the Amazon, but there is a better way. Native Hevea brasilliensis trees can actually be tapped of their rubbery goodness by superficially cutting into their bark and extracting the rubbery sap, allowing old wounds to heal by tapping into new areas with each successive effort. Organizations like Sky Rainforest Rescue work on behalf of local rubber tappers to locate companies willing to support sustainably sourced latex, ideally paving the way for a more eco-responsible approach. The bad news is that truly eco-friendly waterproof household gloves are very challenging to find. There are just a few manufacturers right now that offer reasonable options, such as:
  • If You Care Household Gloves: These cotton-lined, naturally biodegradable lime green gloves, dipped in FSC-certified latex, are packaged in a fully recyclable cardboard box printed with nontoxic ink and sealed with equally planet-friendly glue.
  • Green Tips Fair Trade Latex Household Gloves: Described as flock-lined, ethically sourced 100% latex gloves, this FSC-certified option is also bright green in color and packaged in a fully recyclable/equally compostable container.
Even though there are slim pickins in the eco-latex glove department, all is not lost. You can still indulge your desire for pristine hands while scrubbing your heart away. Just make a point of purchasing a well-made pair of natural latex gloves that will ideally stand the test of time. Once they’re truly ready to retire, try a few of these super-green recycling ideas:
  • Slip two cut glove tips on the open jaws of a pair of pliers in order to grip fragile items that are easily marred (such as soft metals or plastics).
  • Make rubber bands that can easily bind books, craft items or even gifts together. Or, make tiny bands using the fingertips that can be used to tie hair back or beat junk drawer clutter.
  • Cut a glove in half, place a mug on top of it, trace the outline of the open end (aka “circle”) with a pen and then you have your own flexible jar opener! Oh wait, you also have a protective waterproof coaster or a houseplant mat.
  • When cut and laid flat, old latex gloves can also morph into handmade reusable window decorations that herald in the changing seasons. Just sketch your design on the inside and carefully trim away the excess. While you’re at it, cut a few knee patch appliqués for your kiddies (the neon-colored versions will work especially well for this upcycling effort).
  • Create an ice pack to soothe unexpected injuries by filling the open end with water and propping it up in your freezer.
  • Unlined rubber gloves can be cut in half, placed directly on your countertop and then used as a nonslip cushion for cutting boards.
  • Slip a glove finger tip over the end of a mop, broom handle or other work tool to enhance your grip, prevent them from marking up walls and ensure that they won’t fall over. Create a makeshift door-stopper solution. Sew several glove tips onto a tool belt to ramp up the amount of doodads that you can tote around with you. Use glove tips as waterproof finger wound protectors.
  • Ugly old gloves are perfectly ideal for gardening tasks, offering just enough protection to keep the soil out from under your nails.
  • Breathe new life into hole-punctured gloves courtesy of a bicycle tire repair kit, or if you want to have a little fun, pour cold water inside the hole and wage a surprise battle with a loved one who has gotten on your last nerve!