Is it 100% safe to handle the soil by bare hands? Would any toxic insect hide inside the soils?


4 Answers 4


Q. Is it 100% safe to handle the soil by bare hands?

No, nothing is 100% safe.

That said, I've always done gardening (from the earliest age), also when working indoors or outdoors, with bare-hands. I don't like wearing gloves, just a personal preference.

Though the above statement is not quite true, as I have worn gloves (and other safety equipment) when:

  • Working down manholes, etc.

  • Pulling thorny plants from a area to clear that space.

But "generally" speaking I do not wear gloves when gardening, I find they get in the way, I like to feel what I'm doing...

While out in the garden I will rinse my dirty-hands with cold water from the hose, as and when I feel they need a slight clean.

As soon as I go inside (to have a drink, something to eat, etc), I will wash my hands with warm, soapy water.

Q. Would any toxic insect hide inside the soils?

Yes, example:

  • Some ants can be very toxic and can cause a lot of pain if they bite a human.

  • Yellow Jacket wasps live under ground, and believe me you wouldn't want to go sticking your hand down into their nest. I did once (didn't know what Yellow Jacket wasps were back then), and 3 very! painful stings later I was running like a mad-man back into the house.

Of more concern in the garden would be things like:

  • Bacteria.
  • Microbes.
  • Animal urine and feces.

Personally in my own garden or a well maintained garden, I really wouldn't worry about such things, as long as common sense and good judgment prevails.

  • 1
    +1. Furthermore, if you annoyed wasps, gloves won't help long. If you have a wound you should never touch anything foreign. See ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001624
    – johnny
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 7:34
  • Hmm, what sort of garden do you have down a manhole?
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 15:12

It depends on where you live. Toxic (poisonous / venomous) insects are more prevalent in some places than others.

Where I garden there's only one kind (that I can identify) of biting ant, ground wasps are not common, and there aren't any poisonous spiders or snakes.

In places like the southern US, fire ants are more common. Though I'm not sure how much protection gloves would provide against these or wasps -- the ants will climb right up your arm (or inside the glove) and bite you, and the wasps will fly up and get you where they can (or bite you through your clothes).

Is it 100% safe to handle the soil by bare hands?

No. But it's not 100% safe to walk out your front door in the morning either: there could be a rabid dog in your driveway. Neither is it 100% safe to stay in the house: a large meteorite could fall from the sky, crash through the roof, and crush you as you lounge on the couch.

I garden with bare hands, except when I know I'm going to be doing enough digging to give myself blisters, or when I have to pull out thorny blackberries.


Insects are rarely a problem. The only one I can think of that might bite in soil, would be ants. Also avoid the blatantly obvious like digging into wasp/hornet/etc nests!

I think you are probably thinking of bacteria and other microbes. Generally you will be fine, no problems; but beware of animal (and human) urine and faces contaminating the soil. Also use gloves if you have cuts - this is how tetanus (a virus) spreads. Or just have your tetanus vaccination.

  • 1
    late-breaking minor nitpick (FYI): tetanus caused by bacteria, not virus
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 15:39

Harvest mites attack in the late summer in the UK. I learned this while trying to grade land. the garden was all soil and stone, and I ended up with welts on my legs and arms, they where super itchy and lasted for weeks. Turns out they sometimes infest gardens in the UK. They're part of the spider family Trombicula autumnalis.

So just watch out if it's late summer and you are digging a large amount of soil, wear socks tucked into trousers and not shorts like me, and don't sit on the bare soil. You can't see them.

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