How to care for a baseball or softball glove

Did you know that baseball was first played barehanded? In 1870, injured player Doug Allison wore a buckskin mitten to protect his injured hand, and in 1875 player Charles Waite sheepishly wore an unpadded glove to protect his very battered hand. Few followed the lead until, in 1883, baseball star John Montgomery Ward wore one to protect his broken finger. Apparently Ward was quite the influencer!

The baseball glove is a good example of something that gets better as you use it. And once broken in, it’s one piece of sporting equipment that athletes (both pros and amateurs) get pretty attached to. It also gets a heck of a workout. But a glove that’s well taken care of can last for many seasons – long enough to hand down to a younger sibling or even, in some cases, parent to child. Here’s what you need to know to take care of your glove. 

a baseball glove and baseball on a wood bench with chipped blue paint

Keeping your glove in good shape

  • Brush or wipe off any dirt on your glove after playing with it. It only takes a minute, and it can make a big difference! Use a scrub brush or an old toothbrush. A damp cloth is fine — but don’t soak your glove. 
  • Occasionally wipe your glove with leather cleaner and follow with a little leather conditioner. 
  • Use products that are safe for baseball glove leather (there are many made specifically for it). Some oils will build up in the pores of a baseball mitt’s leather and ruin it over time. Don’t use cleaner made for shoes, for example. It will leave a residue that can accumulate on the surface of your glove. 
  • Don’t use too much product (even the right product) on your glove, or it will weigh it down over time. It can also attract dirt and debris. 
  • Apply conditioner to a cloth, then rub into the leather rather than putting the conditioner directly on the glove. Apply it to every surface, inside and out, including between the fingers. Let the glove absorb the conditioning oil for 24 hours in a warm area before using it. 
  • Wear a light batting glove inside your mitt to keep the dirt and sweat on your hands from damaging the inside of the glove. Ideally, keep a separate, clean glove for this purpose. 
  • Don’t spit on your glove. Your saliva is not good for the leather!

My baseball mitt got wet. How should I dry it?

Every glove will get caught in a rainy game or practice now and then. As soon as you can, pat the glove well with a dry towel. Then set your glove out to air dry. Don’t use a blow dryer or heat vent to speed the process, because they can cause the leather to crack. 

Once the glove is dry, apply a little leather conditioner to keep it from getting too stiff. 

a baseball glove with a baseball in it lying on the grass

What’s the best place to keep my baseball glove?

Not in your equipment bag. Take your glove out and store it someplace dry and cool, or room temperature. Keep it away from heat sources, like a furnace. And don’t leave it in the hot trunk of your car for long periods. Avoid the other extreme, too — in the off season, don’t store it in a cold garage. 

What’s the best way to break in a baseball glove?

A glove that’s broken in is soft and flexible. It fits your hand well and is more fun to play with. 

First the don’ts: Don’t soak your mitt or beat it. Definitely don’t put it in the oven or microwave. These methods might soften your glove up, but they will also break it down and cause major deterioration. Most experts agree that the best way to break in your glove is to play with it! 

Some glove manufacturers will steam a glove for you to soften it up so that you can more quickly break it in. But steaming does reduce the life of your glove. Any steam or water can cause the leather to become dry and even crack. You might decide this is a tradeoff you’re willing to make – if you really want to break in a new glove in a hurry, for example.

How can I reshape my baseball mitt?

It’s a good idea to reshape your mitt at least every season. (Some players do this much more often, even daily.) Tighten any laces in the fingers and the web of your glove, then tuck an 11-inch softball in the pocket of the glove. Wrap it with a rubber band or strip of cloth to hold it closed. Let it sit overnight, or, in off-season, until you break it out again.  

closeup of a red leather baseball mitt holding a baseball

Baseball glove repair

Have any damage to your glove repaired asap. Loose or broken laces, torn seams, and split leather can quickly worsen and cause problems — or even injuries — when playing. Check the glove off season, because this is the best time to take care of needed repairs. 

Search online for a repairperson near you. There are also places you can send your glove for repairs. If you’re interested in DIY, here’s a good tutorial for relacing baseball or softball gloves

The future of baseball and softball mitts

Baseball and softball gloves aren’t going anyplace — we’re not going to revert to those barehanded games!  But more and more gloves are being made of material other than leather. Synthetic mesh backs are popular now, and some experts — like craftsman and entrepreneur Scott Carpenter — believe that completely synthetic gloves will eventually be an industry-wide standard. Synthetics are lighter, stronger, hold their shape, and last longer than leather gloves. If you already have a synthetic glove, all of the above tips will work well for taking care of it, too!

Is there a baseball glove in your life? Share its story with us!

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