How to make your gloves touchscreen capable

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Since winter has officially gone from “Awwww, snow!” to “Dear Lord, will I ever be warm again?” it’s time to break out every little trick you have to keep yourself warm: thermal everything everywhere, hot tea, hot coffee, hot chocolate, and never taking your gloves off.

That’s where we come in. You’re probably taking your gloves off every five minutes to check a transit schedule or to respond to a text message—unless you’re rocking some stellar touchscreen gloves.

You can, of course, buy touchscreen-capable gloves (they come in a wide variety of colors and styles), but you can also turn almost any plain pair of gloves that you have lying around into a touchscreen-capable pair. The bonus of doing it yourself? A couple of the following techniques can make several pairs of gloves touchscreen friendly, so for the cost of the materials you can trick out multiple sets. Here are three methods we tested out.

Thermal paste

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The messiest possible option: thermal paste.

Also known as CPU compound, thermal compound, thermal grease, or CPU paste, thermal paste has conductive properties. As it’s commonly used in the building of computers, it’s pretty easy to find in electronics stores or online for about $4 a tube.

The how-to portion of this glove-treatment method is simple: Smear thermal paste into the fingers of the gloves, work it into the fabric pretty well, and allow it to dry. The conductive properties of the paste should then, in theory, allow your fingers to communicate with your touchscreen phone or tablet.

In reality, however, thermal paste is thick, sticky, and difficult to work with. It will get everywhere—all over your hands, possibly on your clothes, and almost certainly on portions of the glove you don’t intend for it to be. You’ll have to be exceptionally careful during the application phase.

Another thing to consider: Thermal paste doesn’t really set, so it will never be entirely dry. This means every time you touch your phone, or tablet, or wallet, or coffee cup, or coat, you’re going to get thermal paste everywhere. That drawback is pretty much a deal breaker for me—a solution that creates its own problems is no solution.

Plus, this method doesn’t really work. Of the dozens upon dozens of times I tried to unlock my phone with my gloves covered in thermal paste, it worked perhaps twice. That’s not worth smearing thermal paste over my entire life.

Conductive thread

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Conductive thread works great...if you can sew.

But wait, there has to be a better way! And there is: conductive thread.

The most popular method of making touchscreen gloves, conductive thread, aka conductive bobbin, doesn’t create a mess, won’t rub off, and requires only the most basic ability with a needle and thread.

And I am talking basic here. Despite attending a home-ec class too many years ago to count, I am mighty clumsy with a needle and thread, but even my meager attempts to create some sort of cohesive pattern resulted in success. You just thread a needle and poke it through the finger of a glove enough times so that the thread registers on a touchscreen—it’s not rocket science. (It’s probably also not difficult to make the results look less like a total mess, but moving on…)

A drawback to conductive thread is that it is somewhat wiry in nature, so it isn’t the easiest kind to work with. The other problem is that it’s difficult to come across—I had to visit three craft stores in San Francisco before I tracked down a small bobbin for about $10. If you’re in a smaller locale, you may want to order online. (For more advice, see this helpful guide.)

Any Glove liquid solution


Applying Any Glove.

Our favorite method, however, is also the easiest, as it involves using a product made specifically for this job, Any Glove. A liquid material that you squeeze out onto your glove and let dry, Any Glove works on most materials, including fleece, knits, and synthetic suede. A separate solution is available for leather. And it doesn’t wash off when you wash your gloves.

Any Glove has also earned approval for use on combat gloves by the U.S. Armed Services, so, you know, it’s got that going for it. A single application can last for weeks, and if your treated gloves stop working, you can easily reapply it. A $15 bottle contains 550 drops, which should be enough for five pairs of gloves.

In practice, Any Glove is simple to apply because it’s in a squeeze bottle with a narrow nozzle. There’s really nothing to it. However, the Any Glove solution takes a looong time to dry. So. Long. OMG, a freakin’ long time.

Although the instructions recommend using a hair dryer for a few minutes to help the solution dry, I still had to wait a few days (yes, days) before I could touch the fingertips of the gloves without picking up a filmy residue. That said, once the solution dried completely, the gloves were ready to go. It was really nice, actually—I had a $2 pair of gloves that worked easily with my phone and were comfortable to wear.

Note, though, that the Any Glove solution discolors the fabric you apply it to, so you can expect the fingertips of your gloves to wind up several shades darker than the rest of the fabric. This isn’t a problem if you’re testing $2 gloves, but it may ruin your day if you’re using a favorite pair.

Overall, the Any Glove method was the easiest approach and worked the best, but the thread tutorial will probably go much smoother for you if you have any sewing skills whatsoever. We strongly recommend avoiding the thermal-paste method—the fact that it worked once or twice is neat enough, but it isn’t worth the crazy, sticky mess.

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