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I know that gloves (or socks, or clothing, anything) doesn't really make you warmer—instead, it makes heat loss slower, by improving insulation.

I was wondering, whether the converse is true. Let us assume I am outside and both of my hands get equally cold, and then I walk into a warm room indoors (uniform temperature in the room and outside, for simplicity's sake). Would my hands get warmer if I had gloves on, or gloves off?

I'm thinking I should take the gloves off, to maximise the heat transfer between the warm air and cold hands, but I was hoping someone else would confirm/refute this.

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  • $\begingroup$ You won't be able to put on your gloves if both hands are so cold that this becomes an issue. You'll have difficulties moving your fingers, so just using your hands to do things like like opening the door, putting your shoes off will be a huge struggle. That's why I always wear a glove on one hand when taking pictures outside in the cold when I cannot use gloves to operate the camera. Long before that hand is really cold, I'll already start to lose control of that hand, I'll then use my other hand. $\endgroup$ – Count Iblis Feb 22 '17 at 23:58
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Have you tried it? :) it's quite obviously so if you try it. Especially important for shoes, the feet can stay cold for a very long time if you do not put the shoes off.

There are two effects important here. First, your hands and feet are far below body temperature, so probably colder than any normal room in winter. And secondly the shoes (for gloves it's less important) have some heat capacity, and will keep you colder even if your skin were warmer than the room air.

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Your body temperature is still greater than the room temperature, so you would still be losing net heat from uncovered hands.

By keeping the gloves on it traps the body heat coming from you inside the gloves and warms your hands up.

If the room was above body temperature, then the gloves would slowdown your heating, but not many rooms are that warm.

As @Ilja pointed out, this isn't always true. It depends on the circumstances. I made the assumption that the gloves you have on are also room temperature.

You can assume the inverse that they are at or below the temperature of your hands. In that case wearing the gloves will be worse, as they will insulate your hands from the heat source; essentially taking away heat for themselves that could be going directly into your hands.

This reflects two situations, the first where you were outside without gloves and come inside and put gloves on that you find in the room. The second scenario is where you wear the gloves outside with you for example and your hands still drop below room temperature.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is just wrong - the difficulties of physics in reallife :) No, your hands do not have body temperature, especially when you are cold, all heat is kept inside then. So no, there would be heat transfer from room to body as long as the skin is colder than the air. $\endgroup$ – Ilja Feb 22 '17 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ilja You understand how blood circulation works, right? Unless you have some much more serious problems, the internal body heat will be warmer than the room temperature air. This is why it would be warmer to keep the insulation on your hands, even if your skin temperature is lower, it will quickly warm up. $\endgroup$ – JMac Feb 22 '17 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ no, as long as your skin temperature is lower, there will be heat flow from air to skin, at least for so long you can put them off. And yes, I know how blood circulation works: pretty complicated :) your body can inhibit the flow to the peripherals quite well, to save energy. This is the reason you can lose an arm or leg in arctic cold, without dying. $\endgroup$ – Ilja Feb 22 '17 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @ilja I guess it depends on the glove temperature as well. If the gloves are freezing as well when you start then gloves will be worse. If the gloves are room temperature when you start the insulation would help maintain the body heat. $\endgroup$ – JMac Feb 22 '17 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, if the gloves are room temperature it will be good to put them on, since heat transfer glove-hand is probably better than air-hand :) $\endgroup$ – Ilja Feb 22 '17 at 11:10

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