It's a sad fact that welders work in a high-risk occupation and must take every precaution to protect themselves. They face hazards such as electrical shock, eye damage, and burns. Shocking figures from several OSHA studies indicate that 1 out of 250 construction workers will die from a welding accident.
Unfortunately, construction workers are not the only welders at risk here. Anyone picking up a welding gun, whether to work on a pipeline or make a minor repair in their garage, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Although welding jackets effectively prevent burns to the upper torso, they are sometimes heavy and unwieldy. In those cases, welding sleeves are an excellent alternative. Since they are easy to use and not all that expensive, they should be on every welder's shopping list for arm protection.
To help you get started, here are some tips for picking the best welding sleeves in 2022:
Are welding sleeves worth it?
The short answer is "Yes." Whether you are a full-time professional or weld on occasion, welding sleeves can protect you from the burns and scars that welding can inflict on your arms. Welding sleeves give you the best chance of avoiding painful welding burns when used with other protective equipment.
And welding sleeves could not be much easier to use. They slide over your arms and cover everything from your biceps to the wrists, protecting you from flames, excessive heat, and the possibility of burns.
Many non-welders also use the sleeves for grinding, cutting wood, gardening, and other jobs requiring arm protection.
What are the best materials for welding sleeves?
Welding sleeves are typically made from one of three materials: leather, Kevlar, or cotton. Here is a detailed look at each of these:
1. Leather welding sleeves
Leather is renowned for its flexibility, cut, fire, and heat resistance, and it's also economical and has a long life. Although leather doesn't lend itself to machine washing, you can clean leather sleeves with a damp rag, a few drops of moisturizing bath soap, and some gentle elbow grease. Leather welding sleeves are readily available, so you should have no trouble finding the right style and comfort.
2. Kevlar welding sleeves
Kevlar is a strong synthetic fiber known to give maximum heat protection. The material is lightweight, comfortable, and flexible, protecting welders from heat, cuts, and abrasions. Kevlar will not shrink when exposed to heat, and it can be machine washed.
3. Cotton welding sleeves
Cotton sleeves are light and comfortable but offer the least heat resistance. Cotton protects against sudden flames and light welding sparks and is also washing machine friendly.
What should you consider when buying welding sleeves?
Here are a few things to look for as you start shopping:
- Elastic band: Elastic makes the sleeves adjustable, but it should be strong enough to stay in place, or the sleeve will keep sliding down and become annoying.
- Thumb notch: Some welding sleeves have a thumb hole to help cover parts of your hand. You typically find this feature on Kevlar sleeves, but you can wear work gloves if there is no thumb hole.
- Sleeve length: Welding sleeves usually go from the wrist to the mid-bicep, leaving the shoulders free to move. Welders with an average 25-inch arm length will find an 18" sleeve will work well.
- Enhanced protection: Consider the type of welding you do. For example, overhead MIG or TIG welding could require thicker leather sleeves to prevent penetration.
- Attachment methods: See if the welding sleeves have snaps or elastic on the wrists and upper arms. Also, cape-style sleeves often have an upright and adjustable collar like a welding jacket.
- Comfort: Some brands will be more comfortable than others. For instance, breathable materials may be preferable for welding in a hot environment.
- Color: Welders are often aware of style, but there are other reasons to choose a unique color or design: they make it easier to distinguish and locate your equipment.
Now that you have an idea what to look for in the best welding sleeves, here are five excellent choices:
1. Lincoln Electric KH813 Black Welding Sleeves
These Lincoln Electric welding sleeves are made of 9-ounce, flame-resistant cotton that works well, protecting the arms from light sparks and spatter.
Although the cotton fabric isn't appropriate for heavy welding that creates lots of sparks and spatters, it is suitable for low-amperage TIG welding.
The sleeves are 21 inches long and have wide elastic bands at each end for a secure and comfortable arm grip. Some welders complain that these sleeves are too tight for people with large arms, but most welders indicate that they are durable for cotton construction and last a reasonably long time.
- Flame resistant
- Heavy duty wear resistance
- Breathes well
- Excellent durable
- Suitable for methods other than stick
- Too tight for large arms
- Not for overhead work
Price: $9.98 Amazon
2. Revco Black Stallion BSX BX-KK Kevlar Sleeves
The Revco Black Stallion BSX BX-KK has Kevlar to provide cut protection and protection from heat, sparks, and spatter. The sleeves breathe well, while the double-layered design keeps sparks and spatter from penetrating the sleeves.
A thumb hole in the Black Stallion BSX sleeves keeps the sleeves on your arms. They meet ANSI Level 4 Cut Protection standards but are 18 inches long, which is a bit short for some welders, causing the sleeve to end up slightly below the elbow. However, the thumb hole feature makes them comfortable to wear for long periods.
- Resists abrasion well
- Covers top of the hand
- Good thermal protection
- Breathes well
- Kevlar material
- Not enough cut protection
- Loosen up with use
Price: $25.48 Walmart
3. Tillman 9215 Goatskin/FR Leather Welding Sleeves
Tillman 9215 Goatskin/FR Leather Welding Sleeves combine goatskin on the forearms and flame retardant, 100% cotton on the upper arms. This design results in a lightweight, breathable pair of sleeves that offer excellent protection.
Wide elastic bands make for a secure and comfortable hold.
These Tilman welding sleeves are attractive and inexpensive, but they drew a few complaints about the stitching quality, such as splitting seams and the loss of elasticity. Others mentioned the tight fit some of them experienced.
All-in-all, the Tillman 9215 welding sleeves offer lightweight, breathable protection and do their job of preventing burns.
- The leather and fabric combo saves weight
- Wide elastic bands for comfort
- Fire retardant fabric
- Unrestricted movement
- Lightweight protection
- Stitching issues
- Tight fit
Price: $33.41 Amazon
4. West Chester Ironcat 7000 Welding Cape Sleeve
The West Chester Ironcat 7000 Welding Cape Sleeves are designed with a cape to cover your shoulders and full-length sleeves. The material is heat-resistant and flexible suede leather, protecting your shoulders and arms from sparks and spatter during overhead welding. They will also keep you cooler than a full jacket.
The West Chester Ironcat 7000 is reinforced with black oxide-finished rivets for extra strength at all corners and wear spots. They offer adjustable wrists and a collar to prevent sparks and spatter from finding their way down your neck or in your sleeves. The sleeves each have a pocket for carrying small tools and soapstone.
- Adjustable upright collar
- Pockets in each sleeve
- Black anodized rivets
- Reinforcement patches
- Lightweight at 2.2 pounds
- Cooler than a jacket
- Reports of snaps breaking
- Dye stains clothing
5. Miller 231096 Pigskin / Cotton Flame Resistant Welding Sleeves
Miller 231096 Combo Welding Sleeves come with pigskin leather covering the forearms and flame-resistant cotton for the upper part. Pigskin leather is one of the most protective materials available, usually requiring a direct hit of molten metal to burn through.
The flame-resistant lightweight cotton fabric protects your upper arms well away from the welding bead. Although these sleeves will not cover as thoroughly as a leather welding jacket, they will offer cooler working conditions.
The Miller Combo Sleeves are 21 inches long and should be long enough for most welders. And the wide elastic bands are comfortable and keep the sleeves in place while you work.
- Great for the TIG process
- The cloth portion is breathable
- Lightweight protection
- Keep you cooler than a full jacket
- 90-day warranty
- Somewhat expensive
- Complaints of stitches separating
Price: $45.00 Amazon