Welding sleeves are a great protective option during the warmer months of the year. When it is too hot out to wear a jacket, we can throw welding sleeves over a long sleeve shirt and still achieve flame resistant protection.
Although they are relatively safe, it should be noted that welding sleeves don’t offer the same protection as a proper jacket. We recommend only using them for light duty applications in the shop. Light amperage TIG, smaller MIG projects, and 3/32 stick processes are the safest when only using sleeves.
The heavier sleeves that are made of leather can hold up to heavier duty processes, but they shouldn’t be your only form of protection.
It ultimately comes down to comfort vs. protection. If you’re willing to have slightly less protection in exchange for a breathable protective product for your arms, then sleeves are a great choice.
This article will cover the top rated welding sleeves on the market. We will give our honest opinion on these offerings in hopes that you will find the best pick for your personal needs.
Lincoln Electric Black FR Welding Sleeves
These are by far the best selling welding sleeves on the market. They have over 1,000 amazon reviews with many pleased buyers who are enjoying these sleeves. It comes as no surprise that Lincoln would produce the most widely used set of sleeves – Lincoln has always made quality PPE in addition to their welding machines.
This set of sleeves are made of 9 ounce flame resistant cotton material. It is heavier duty cloth, but the cotton is still breathable for those burner days out on the job site. They feature elastic bands on both ends of the sleeve which helps them stay fitted on your arm.
The total length of these sleeves is 21″, which is a nice length that will fit most arms.
It is important to know that flame resistant properties tend to wear off after repeated washings. Limit your machine washings as much as possible, and you will find that your sleeves will last much longer. Generally 25 machine washes is the limit; after that the FR properties will start to diminish.
Tillman Goat Skin FR Welding Sleeves
Tillman took a different approach when designing these sleeves. Instead of only sticking with the flame resistant cotton components found on other models, they went heavy duty and used premium goat skin for the lower portion of the sleeves.
This leather addition will allow you to perform heavier duty processes while remaining protected. You can feel confident wearing these sleeves for heavy flux core MIG, Stick and TIG applications.
The upper portion of the sleeves are constructed of a royal blue 9 ounce flame resistant cotton. Since the upper portion of your forearms are further away from the arc, it makes sense to put a lighter material in that area.
In addition to the leather/cotton combo, the leather seams are sewn with a high quality kevlar thread. As mentioned in our articles on welding gloves, kevlar thread is highly flame resistant and won’t fray nearly as easily as other threads when exposed to sparks.
Due to the white leather on the majority of the sleeve, we found that these get dirty pretty fast. The black Lincolns mentioned above won’t show dirt as easily – and we wish Tillman could have gone with a darker leather to match the aesthetics of the competing models.
The wide elastic bands will keep these nice and secure on your arms. The total length of these sleeves is 22″ (one inch longer than the Lincolns).
Hobart FR Welding Sleeves
These are the best “budget pick” out of the bunch. Hobart went bare bones and designed these for the budget conscious welder who still wants solid protection. The cotton is high quality – and we also found that the elastic bands hold up quite well after repeated use.
The downside to these is that they are only 19″ long. Taller folks will tend to find that these don’t cover their arms as well as other models. However, if your arms are on the shorter side, then these may be a good pick for you.
These are also a great entry level option if you want to try sleeves to see if you like them. If you end up preferring to stick with a jacket, then at least you didn’t spend a lot on a set of sleeves.
Miller Electric Combo Welding Sleeves
Relatively similar to the Tillman models, Miller decided to make a leather/cotton combo sleeve as well. The cotton is the “Indura” type which is a very flame resistant material. Miller tends to use the Indura cottons on their PPE quite a bit – it is much more breathable than traditional FR cottons.
The black pigskin leather is extremely flame retardant, and we love the classic Miller logo on the elbow. The elastic bands could be a bit more heavy duty, but we haven’t had any issues with them so far.
It would be great if more brands could adopt the wide band style that Tillman used on their combo sleeves. We found that the wide, flat profile is way more comfortable than traditional bands.
Overall, these Millers are a long lasting, quality pick. They tend to be the most expensive out of all the other models, but that tends to be the case with Miller Electric products.
Tillman Green FR Welding Sleeves
These are my personal pair of sleeves – and they’ve actually held up for almost 3 years now. These are pretty similar to the cotton Lincolns listed above. The 9 ounce cotton is the perfect weight, and the flame retardant properties are stellar.
This specific cotton is very resistant to machine washings, and i’ve actually lost count of how many washes i’ve put these through. The 23″ inch length is perfect for taller people – these sleeves have tons of room. I like the baggy fit a lot, and often forget that I have them on.
The elastic bands are alright, but not great. They can leave a red mark on my arms after awhile since the bands are quite skinny. I would love to see this model with the wide bands introduced instead; that would be a much more comfortable fit.
Overall, these Tillmans are a solid pick, and we recommend them to any shop welder who doesn’t want to spend a lot on a pair of sleeves. If you’ve read our other PPE articles, you’ll notice that you can’t really go wrong with any Tillman products.
QeeLink Leather Welding Sleeves
This set of leather sleeves is the most protective option out of the bunch. Having a full leather garment simply offers way more protection than cotton can. When you are fabricating projects that require higher amperage/voltage, you’re going to want a sleeve that can repel the worst of sparks.
The split cowhide is extremely heat resistant; it makes up the entirety of this set of sleeves. This pair of sleeves is double layered as well – the inside has a soft cotton lining which provides ultimate comfort. Having bare leather on your skin can lead to bad discomfort and rashes, so QeeLink added the cotton liners to avoid this.
Similar to the Tillman combo sleeves, these Qeelinks are also sewn with a high quality kevlar thread. This will ensure that all of the seams resist heavy sparks for longer periods.
The bottom of the sleeves feature an elastic band similar to the other models listed above – but the top of the sleeves have a velcro adjustment that will form to any arm size. So far, we have enjoyed having the velcro option – and found that it secures the sleeve to your arm very well.
If you’re looking for ultimate arm protection for a reasonable price, look no further than the full leather sleeves from QeeLink.
Lincoln Electric Combo Welding Sleeves
If the combo sleeves interest you, these are another great option to consider. 75% of the sleeve is constructed of a high quality black died leather. Since the lower portion of your forearms is closest to the sparks, the design makes a lot of sense.
The upper remaining portion is constructed of 9 ounce flame resistant cotton. This cotton is branded with the Lincoln Electric logo and makes up 25% of the sleeve. Although the thread seams aren’t listed as kevlar, they are still stitched with a heavy duty thread for maximum spark resistance.
We wish the sleeves were a bit longer, but they’re an alright length. Coming in at 21″, they’re a good length for small to medium arms.
If the 100% FR cotton model from Lincoln isn’t enough bulk for your heavy duty welding applications, these are a great option to look into. Lincoln makes great PPE and we have always trusted their clothing products.
Although they are often overlooked, a good pair of welding sleeves can be a great addition to your arsenal. If you tend to weld year round, you’re going to want a welding wardrobe that can provide comfort and protection during the different seasons. When the weather starts to warm up in the spring, we tend to ditch the jackets for more breathable clothing items.
Welding clothing largely comes down to personal preference. Some welders will only feel safe if they are wearing a leather jacket, while others will feel ok with an FR cloth jacket or welding sleeves.
TIG welders don’t have to deal with sparks and spatter from their arc, so a long sleeve shirt will usually suffice. As long as you are protecting your skin from the harmful UV rays, you should be fine as far as TIG goes.
The only time a TIG arc will cause sparks is when the metal is dirty or the tungsten is contaminated. Extremely high TIG amperages can also cause minor sparks, but you generally won’t see this unless you are going upwards of 250 amps.
For pipe welders and structural welders, heavier protective clothing is often needed. Stick welding and MIG welding produce more violent arcs, and getting burned performing these processes will almost always be a 3rd degree burn. Heavier weighted jackets are generally the choice for full time MIG and stick welders.
Although they are a useful piece of equipment, sleeves don’t interest everybody. We have an article on the best welding jackets that gives an overview of the most popular jacket models today.
Thanks for reading!
Featured image credit : Miller Electric Sleeves (Amazon Images)