Should You Wear Gloves To Handle Compost?

Compost is a great way to recycle natural materials into an affordable, nutrient-dense fertilizer. But the benefits of using compost in your garden do not come without risks. So, is it necessary to wear gloves when working with compost?

You should wear gloves to handle compost. Gloves can help protect you from chemicals, heavy metals, and animals found in compost. Your gardening habits determine the best type of glove for you—but you should aim for flexibility and protection. 

This article will discuss the risks of handling compost, the safety measures you should take in the garden, and what type of gardening gloves are best for your needs. It will also go over the global safety standards for compost manufacturers. 

The Dangers of Compost and Vermicompost Without Gloves

Compost piles can be a breeding ground for pathogens, bacteria, and fungi. Although handling compost with care and taking precautions such as regularly turning over the pile will help minimize the risk.

There are three primary risks of making and working with compost:

Compost Can Contain Chemicals and Heavy Metals

Chemicals and heavy metals are one of the risks of compost piles. Many different materials can introduce chemicals and heavy metals into a compost pile. 

Compost can contain many different heavy metals, including the following: 

  • Arsenic
  • Boron
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

These metals are not a significant concern in small quantities, but extended exposure can pose a severe health risk. You are at risk of inhaling and absorbing these chemicals through your skin. Wearing gloves while handling compost can eliminate the risk of absorbing them through the skin.

Compost Piles Can Release Dangerous Gas

As its materials decompose, compost piles release gas. This gas is primarily carbon dioxide but may also include methane. Methane has no smell, making it difficult to detect, and it can be dangerous if you experience prolonged exposure.

Thus, it’s best to be aware of early symptoms, including nausea and lightheadedness.

While it seems as though keeping a lid on your compost pile would reduce the release of gasses, the opposite is true. Covering the compost pile will cause methane levels to rise faster and makes removing the lid more dangerous. Your compost pile needs good airflow and regular turning.

Compost Piles Can Attract and Shelter Pests and Animals

When mishandled, compost can attract various pests and animals, from flies to snakes.

Animals pose several different risks to compost piles:

  • Disease: Wild animals can carry many different pathogens. When they spend time in or around your compost, they can transfer their germs to the compost, leading to exposure when you handle the compost.
  • Waste: Animal waste also contains bacteria and pathogens that cause human disease.
  • Habitation: Compost piles attract animals because they sometimes provide a dark, dry environment. Having wild animals living in your compost pile can be dangerous.

Vermicompost May Present Health Hazards

Vermicompost begins like traditional compost, with a collection of natural waste. However, vermicompost uses worms to digest biological waste instead of leaving the decomposition process to time and heat. The worms excrete castings, which become vermicompost.

Vermicompost can pose more health hazards than traditional compost. Since the temperature of a vermicompost bin is not as high as a conventional compost bin, it does not reach the necessary temperature to kill off germs and bacteria.

You can also make vermicompost from animal waste, like cows. It’s best to cautiously handle vermicompost made from animal waste—since the decomposition process will not kill additional pathogens and bacteria.

Selecting Gardening Gloves for Composting

There are many gardening glove options, and it may seem like your choice doesn’t matter much. However, not all gardening gloves are created equal. Between sizes, materials, colors, and special features, there is a pair out there that will meet all of your needs!

You don’t need super fancy gloves to protect you from infection and bacteria in your garden. However, investing in a well-made and reusable pair of gloves gives you a longer life and reduces waste. 

Gloves for the Casual Gardener

An essential gardening glove is sufficient for short gardening stretches, although disposable gloves are not the best option. Disposable latex or vinyl gloves are the cheapest options for hand protection, but they are not reusable, tear very quickly, and are bad for the environment.

Polyester and nylon are often inexpensive and will keep your hands from coming in contact with the compost. However, they are a thin material, so they will not deter thorns or sharp objects. Evaluate the risks of the area you work in to determine if you need thicker gloves.

Fabric gloves are often machine washable, which can help them last longer. If there is a coating on the gloves, double-check to ensure they are safe to wash.

Heavy-Duty Gloves

If you do a lot of gardening, sturdier gloves may be worth the investment. You should look for a breathable material to keep your hands from becoming too sweaty. Gloves with extra grip material are helpful if you use many tools. 

If your work in the garden is involved, forearm gloves may be an excellent choice to provide additional protection for your arms.

Waterproof Gloves

In most cases, waterproof gloves are not necessary. With waterproof gloves, there is a trade-off for breathability.

These gloves become hot and sweaty more quickly than most. Often the material or coating on waterproof gloves prevents you from putting them in the washing machine.

Most people are not out long enough in wet weather to need truly waterproof gloves. Remember that no matter the material, storing your gloves indoors is always a good idea to help them last longer. However, gloves that keep your hands dry are an excellent choice if you like to work through rainy weather.

Compost With Safe Materials to Protect Your Hands

If you manage your own compost bin, you can follow several important guidelines to ensure safety. You can’t compost all waste. When you introduce non-compostable material into your compost bin, the risk of bacteria and pests increases drastically.

To avoid attracting animals to your compost pile, do not add:

  • Dairy
  • Fats
  • Fish
  • Meat

To keep harmful substances out of your compost pile, do not add: 

  • Black walnut (any part of the tree)
  • Coal or charcoal
  • Pet waste
  • Plants or grass with chemicals

Government and Industry Compost Safety Standards

Backyard composting is very easy and affordable, but the quality can vary. Manufacturers must meet specific safety standards if they retail compost in bags or bulk.

While the criteria can vary from country to country, there are many commonly regulated measurements:

  • The levels of heavy metals in compost must fall under the country’s limits. These metals include lead, zinc, copper, and arsenic.
  • You may measure foreign matter by percentage. This matter is primarily plastic and glass, though some countries also count the stones in the compost samples.
  • Governmental agencies also regulate the temperature of compost. The average requirement is 131-140 °F (55-60 °C) for 3-7 days to ensure that you have killed the harmful bacteria.
  • PTEs (potentially toxic elements) are a broad range of harmful chemicals restricted to low levels.
  • Most compost sold commercially needs to be cured or completely decomposed. Once you completely decompose the compost—it no longer releases nitrogen, and all or most toxins have died out.
  • Most countries have rules about how often compost needs to be tested by manufacturers. This frequency is either per year or by volume produced.

Some countries have unique seals that companies put on their bags of compost after meeting specific quality criteria. 

Total Safety Measures When Handling Compost

Safety is always essential, and the garden is no exception. Nature poses many inherent risks, from bacteria and rust to wild animals.

You can take several simple steps to keep yourself safe in the garden:

Always Wear Gloves in the Garden

Regardless of the compost materials you are working with, wearing gloves while gardening is always the best choice.

Gloves can help limit your exposure to the following:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Germs
  • Animals
  • Thorns
  • Dangerous chemicals

It can also help keep you from getting cuts that, in addition to causing pain, put you at risk for infection.

Masks Are Essential When Working With Compost

In addition to gloves, a face mask is also an important safety measure when handling compost. You are at risk of inhaling many gasses and fungi spores in compost.

You don’t need anything fancy. As long as there is a barrier between your mouth and the compost, you are good to go!

Don’t Touch Your Face

The most common areas for germs to enter the body are the eyes, nose, and mouth. It’s best never to touch your face, even if you take off your gloves. Wait until you have washed your hands to be safe.

You can also wear goggles in case anything were to fly up at your face, although it is not essential, like gloves and masks.


Wearing gloves is essential to handling compost safely. 

Compost can contain:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Heavy Metals
  • Chemicals
  • Animals

At home, controlling what goes into your compost bin will help reduce these risks. Look for your country’s seal on the bags at the store to ensure it has been tested and passed safety evaluations.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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