You’ve probably heard that Vaseline is used by top level goalkeepers on their NEW gloves, to improve grip. We’ve heard it, too. It’s true, and it works.
Yes, putting Vaseline on your new and older goalkeeper gloves will definitely and immediately improve their holding power. In fact, so will honey, bearing grease, maple syrup, and freshly chewed gum, but that doesn’t mean that it is actually good for the latex – or even your skin, for that matter.
To understand why Vaseline is not good for your gloves, you have to first understand foam latex… and then Vaseline.
Put on your learning caps.
What is foam latex made of?
Foam latex is liquid latex, mixed with various additives, whipped into a foam and then mold-dried into shape.
*NOTE: THIS IS IMPORTANT.*Before it is converted to foam however, latex is a natural liquid polymer (a mixed bag of molecules) found in 10% of all flowering plants.
Latex is considered a rubber, as it contains rubber and is harvested primarily from rubber trees. However, more than 12,000 plant species actually yield latex that contains rubber – much of which is used to make many different products, including mattresses, gloves, swim caps, condoms, catheters and balloons.
REAL latex is 100% natural – and relatively UNREFINED.
Latex Foam for Goalkeeper Gloves
The majority of latex used to make the foam latex found in high quality goalkeeper gloves is harvested as a thick, milky-white liquid, from rubber trees. It’s collected in buckets and delivered directly to the processing plant, in it’s natural state. The only “processing” is the removal of impurities, like bark and dirt.
Below is a video showing the the production of latex foam, from RAW extraction, to finished product. The latex in this video is being used for mattresses (the most common use of latex foam), but it’s still the same stuff –
What is Vaseline?
Vaseline is petroleum jelly – a highly refined by-product of oil extraction.
The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States, on some of the country’s first oil rigs. A waxy substance, workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs, because it caused their equipment to bind and malfunction. However, the drillers used it on cuts and burns, because they believed that it hastened healing.
Robert Chesebrough, a chemist, took the unrefined, black “rod wax” (what the drillers called it) back to his laboratory to refine it and explore potential uses. He discovered that by distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the rod wax, he could isolate the single molecule, that resulted into a light-colored gel.
Why Vaseline is Detrimental to Goalkeeper Gloves
Ok, so this is going to get technical, but if you can get through these next few sentences, everything should make perfect sense.
Vaseline is an oligomer.
WAIT! Don’t go anywhere, yet! It sounds worse than it is.
Stay with me.
Vaseline is an oligomer, while latex is a polymer. An oligomer is a molecular complex of chemicals that consists of a few monomer units, in contrast to a polymer, where the number of monomers is, in principle, unlimited.
Basically, these guys are as different as broccoli and bacon.
You see, petroleum jelly is made up of lone molecules, that really want to be with other molecules. Then, some keeper smears them on their latex palms, which is a polymer, made up of bunches of different molecules, who are… very accommodating.
Those latex polymers are a very accepting bunch and they let nearly anyone into their group. Once applied, the petroleum jelly molecules attach themselves to the latex polymers, and gradually modify the molecular structure of the latex – essentially creating a completely different material altogether.
The (eventual) result is a harder, slicker, drier material.
Why Use Keeper Balm?
Keeper Balm, on the other had, is a recipe of all natural polymers (oils and waxes), very much like real latex. Basically, they’re open-minded molecules, but they aren’t… uhhh… psycho, like Vaseline. Since they’re their own group, they adhere to the latex, without modifying the molecular structure.
Think of Keeper Balm like a confident girlfriend who likes hanging out with you, but won’t try to turn you into something you don’t want to be.
The end result is a goalkeeper glove that maintains it’s natural moisture and pliability, while enhancing the grip – FOREVER.