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Lawn & Garden

"Rubber" Mulch V.S. "Regular" Mulch

Gaughand Asks: 


What is your opinion of rubber mulch compared to regular mulch, with the advantages and disadvantages of both.  How high should the rubber mulch be piled to keep the weeds from growing through?  Because it is rubber will it make the ground sweat too much or cause any other problems?  How often does rubber mulch have to be replaced?


I also have allergy concerns and was wondering if the red rubber mulch has any cedar in it or if is it just the coloring?  The brown rubber mulch has less of an odor and I was wondering why.  Is there such a thing as a rubber mulch that is natural in color and has no color added?  Is there something else better for allergies?


Thank you very much.


The Home Depot Community Answer: 

Hi Gaughand,

Thank you for your question and welcome to our community.


As with all things, there are pluses and minuses and the same thing applies to the Rubber Mulch and regular mulch. 


One of the advantages of the Rubber Mulch is that it does not biodegrade or breakdown into an organic matter as the regular mulch will. The color can last up to 12 years and the rubber mulch does not attract insects.


When used correctly in conjunction with a weed mat, the rubber mulch can prevent weeds.  The use of weed mat will prevent any perspective weed seeds from establishing a tap root.  The rubber mulch alone will also help to prevent weeds providing the rubber mulch is layered 2-3 inches thick.

Red Rubber Mulch by Virgoro

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Rubber Mulch by Beauty Scapes


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The Rubber Mulch does have a slight odor of “Tires” since it is made from recycled automobile tires.  There is currently no evidence available that shows that the dye used in the rubber mulch is hazardous in any form nor has there been any information showing that cedar is used in the manufacture of the rubber mulch.  


There have been concerns raised about the higher levels of zinc and other contaminants that are in the rubber mulch which comes from the recycled tires.  The Scientists that study these things have raised some concerns about these contaminants in playgrounds around children and that these contaminants could leach into the soil and then into plants.


As far as any health issues with the rubber mulch, there is one study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that did find higher normal levels of particulate matter and metals at a playground site which used the rubber mulch, but other tests that were done did not show any volatile compounds and lead did not show up any higher than the normal background levels. The EPA has recommended that more comprehensive research be conducted on the rubber mulch. 


The rubber mulch does not "seal" the ground so there should not be an issue of the area where the rubber mulch has been laid suffering from any excess moisture. The use of any mulch will help reduce moisture loss providing it is layered at least 2-3 inches deep.  


Due to the processing of the rubber mulch, color must be added to make the product appealing.


Regular Organic Mulch


As the name applies, any organic mulch/Ground Cover Bark will breakdown into its natural components and will have to be replaced.  As with the rubber mulch, weed mat should be used to help prevent any weeds from establishing a tap root. The spread of weed seeds is inevitable.  In addition to spreading the organic mulch at least 2- 3 inches thick and using the weed mat, a Pre-Emergent can be used to help prevent the germination of any weed seeds for up to 3 months. Weed seeds can be blown in by the wind, dropped by birds, dogs, cats or any furry or feathered creature that crosses your yard.


The use of an organic ground cover will help to reduce the ability of the weed to propagate.  By using a thick, 2-3 inch layer mulch with an underlayment of the weed mat, the ability of the weed seed to reach a fertile growing area is greatly reduced and with the use of a pre-emergent, you can interrupt the germination cycle of the weed seed and be weed free for 3 months as well.


Personally, I like the regular mulch.  It has a more natural scent and texture to it.  I have used the Red Nature Scapes as well as the Ground Cover Bark in my flower bed and I have been very happy with the results. 


Red Nature Scapes


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   Ground Cover Bark

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Allergies can always compound the issue and make the selection of a product more challenging especially if it is pollen related but, keep in mind that pollen can be on almost any item whether it is a rubber mulch or a natural type of ground cover.  


Please let us know if you have any further questions.

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Posted 2013-08-06T19:01:00+0000  by Rick_HD_OC Rick_HD_OC

Thank you very much for your prompt answers.  I appreciate your promptness and your advice.  Have a pleasant day.



Posted 2013-08-07T03:56:17+0000  by gaughand
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