The Art of Defense: Protecting Your Glove from Red Rot

Posted by alex kim on

To revisit the old analogy, the baseball pitch is like a battlefield. In the name of simplicity, let’s say this battlefield is one that existed before firearms were invented. What would you carry with you? A sword, for one. But more importantly, a shield. As any historical warrior will tell you (or at least anyone who has seen the movie 300), the best offense is a good defense: the shield becomes the basis for any attack. On the pitch it is no different.  On the diamond, the glove becomes your shield.

As such, red rot on your leather glove is rather like rust on your shield. The integrity of the material becomes compromised, and will easily break apart at the slightest impact. Not good, for both a sword tip or a 90 mph fastball. But we know what rust is, kind of. What is red rot?


Red rot is the degrading of vegetable tanned leather, due to high humidity, or high temperature, or both. You know the red dust you find on really old gloves lining the bottom of your closet? Red rot. Left alone, the whole thing can crumble into dust.

Most glovemakers today utilize a combination of chrome and vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning is cheaper and faster, but uses chemicals that may be harmful to the environment. Vegetable tanning is slower and more expensive, but is more eco-friendly and creates a thicker leather that requires a longer break-in period. Unfortunately, vegetable-tanned leather is much more susceptible to red rot than its chrome-tanned counterpart.


To avoid the fearsome, irreversible process known as red rot, it is good to familiarize yourself with the two main culprits: pollutants and visible light. Specifically, sulfuric dioxide and UV light. But you don't need a chemistry degree to take care of your glove: simply avoid high heat, humidity, and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Basically, don't leave your glove outside (especially when it rains, or when the sun is blazing, or worse—both). Keep your glove indoors, preferably in a bag, in a cool and dry spot—simple, right? As a battlefield comrade might tell you: take care of you shield, and it will take care of you. What they might not tell you: a little love goes a long way.

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