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Jake Goodwin - Sept 09 2020

Material Warehouse - Phone (800) 567-5358
 Email: support @ mymaterialwarehouse.com 

The Truth About Rubber Mulch: Does it Smell?

Does Rubber Mulch Smell?

Rubber mulch has so much to offer as landscape ground cover and playground surface, but there is one thing that often holds people back: concerns about the smell. Well, thankfully, we’re here to alleviate those concerns.

Rubber mulch will smell for two to three days after installation. It smells like a brand new pair of sneakers on the first day of school. After the two-three days, the scent goes away.

There is a lot of misinformation about the smell of rubber mulch. In this article, we’re going to address some of the most common scent-related concerns about rubber mulch, and by the end of it, you’ll know the the not so smelly about rubber mulch.

"Rubber Mulch smells like that brand new pair of
New Balance sneakers on your first day of school"

Does Rubber Mulch Smell?

Like many products that are fresh from the package, rubber mulch will smell for a couple of days after the product is opened. It might be hard to imagine that rubber wouldn’t have a long-lasting, strong scent, but it doesn’t. In fact many products around your house may contain rubber, and they don’t stink!

Here are some examples of household items that may contain rubber:

  • Backing on a rug
  • Door stoppers
  • Your mattress
  • Bicycle tires
  • Rain-boots
  •  Toys

Now, when you first take these items out of the package they probably have an odor, but when left to air out the scent is gone.

A faint trace of rubber smell if you press your nose against the mulch, but you won’t smell anything otherwise. And once time has passed, you’ll forget it ever existed. Remember that new car smell? It doesn’t last forever, and many enjoy the scent.  Rubber mulch is no different. 

What does Rubber Mulch Smell Like?

Rubber mulch nuggets and shredded mulch are both made of end of life recycled automobile and semi-truck tires. After processing and color treatment Recycled Rubber Mulch smells like that brand new pair of New Balance sneakers on your first day of school.

So, rubber mulch will smell like a new rubber tires for about two days after it is opened and spread out on your landscaping.
If, for some reason, you picked up a piece, held it close to your nose, and sniffed it, you might pick up a faint rubbery smell, but you’d really have to be trying.

Does Rubber Mulch Rot and Stink?

One of the great benefits of rubber mulch is that it doesn’t  rot. It will eventually breakdown but this process takes a long time making mulch a perfect long term landscape solution.  

As it breaks down, it doesn’t rot the way wood mulches might, so you have no need to fear any nasty smells coming from your mulch because it is aging.

Rubber mulch also doesn’t attract mold, mildew, fungi, or pests, so you don’t need to worry about mold smells or your neighbor’s cat using it as a bathroom.

Does Rubber Mulch Smell in the Heat?

One of the myths out there about rubber mulch is that it starts to smell when the temperatures rise into the 100s. From our research this is a myth, and for as many people as you hear on the internet complaining about a rubber smell in the summer, you’ll find many more saying they never have any issue with it.

We’ve never noticed any rubbery smell during summer months, or periods of high temperatures coming from out rubber mulch, and we’ve never had anyone complain to us personally.

Have you ever got a scent off your bicycle or car tires on a hot summer day? Probably not. The temperatures needed to get a “burning rubber” burning/vapor is far higher (1000* F) than a sunny summer day.  Thermally rubber will be hotter than the surrounded area, but it actually retains less heat than either cement or asphalt.

Does Rubber Mulch Smell when it Gets Wet?

Rubber mulch itself doesn’t retain water, although it is good at preventing water from evaporating and keeping your soil moist and your plants happy.

Getting rubber mulch wet does not make any difference to its scent. You won’t notice an increase in smell after a rainstorm or after watering your plants.

Will Rubber Mulch Make My Kids Smell like Rubber?

Rubber mulch is one of the safest materials to put on a playground or under a playset, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Because of this, many families choose to use rubber mulch under their playsets, and many communities are switching to rubber mulch under their playgrounds.

But will it leave your children smelling like tires? No, it shouldn’t. We can’t say that playing outdoors at a playground will leave your children smelling like roses, but they won’t smell like rubber after playing on rubber mulch.

Rubber mulch today is far superior to when it was initially released back in the 70s and 80s. Previously untreated playground rubber would dirty clothes permanently. Rubber Mulch Nuggets are now specifically meant for use on playgrounds and are dyed and sealed so that the color does rub off on to children’s clothing. This sealant has no scent, so your children could roll around in the mulch without smelling like it.

Undyed and unsealed mulch can leave a black residue on clothing and may leave some scent if excessively handled. It will be similar to the smell your child’s hands might smell like after changing the tire on their bike. However, this is only the case if the rubber mulch you selected is unsealed.

We don't recommend purchasing untreated mulch as it can easily stain clothes.

Is the Smell of Rubber Mulch Toxic?

The smell that comes out of rubber mulch is no different than the smell you might pick up at a tire shop, or you might smell coming out of a mattress. It may not be your favorite smell, but it won’t hurt you.

If the smell bothers you, avoid the area where you put the mulch for a couple of days until the smell dissipates. Some people do this with other products. For example, if you get a new mattress, you might leave it to air out for a couple of days before sleeping on it.

Other Ground Covers Have Their Own Scent

Rubber mulch is not completely odorless.  The odor is not strong enough to be noticeable. Other ground covers have their own scent issues.

  • Wood mulch: At first, you might enjoy the smell of cedar, but wood mulch does rot, and it can stay wet for prolonged periods of time. Within a season, that fresh cedar scent will disappear, and you’ll be left with soggy wood. Sour mulch is a real problem and can smell like vinegar and ammonia.
  • Sand: Sand might seem like a good idea for under a playset, but it can attract local cats who like to use it as a bathroom. This order is much more challenging to combat and many times have to remove all the contaminated sand.
  • Pea gravel: Pea gravel has the same issues as sand. Some pets see it as a great place to do their business, and it can be tough to eliminate a distinct odor once set in.

No matter what landscaping surface material you decide to use there can be smells. Compared to the scents of organic wood mulch, sand, and pea gravel, rubber mulch is less odoriferous.  

The Truth About Rubber Mulch

The truth about rubber mulch is that it doesn’t create noticeable smells, not even in the heat, not even when your children are rolling around in it. It is a safe and effective alternative to wood mulch, and it is maintenance-free.

If you aren’t sure whether rubber mulch is right for you, then get a sample from us!  you can see see and sniff if its the right choice for your project.
Check on it 2-3 days later to see if you notice a smell when you’re standing near it. You won’t!

Jake Goodwin - Phone (800) 567-5358
Email: support @mymaterialwarehouse.com 

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