Rubber Mulch for Playgrounds

Should I use rubber mulch for my playground?

Yes, absolutely!  Our rubber mulch is considered an excellent surface for playgrounds and we'll explain why below.  We're going to look at:

  • Safety
  • Sustainability
  • Cost
  • Cleanliness
  • Maintenance
  • Durability
  • Colors and Color Longevity

Safety

One of the most important considerations in selecting playground surfacing is safety.  Top manufacturers send their rubber mulch out to 3rd party professional testing labs to test safety characteristics like fall height rating.  The professional testing laboratory will determine whether the mulch meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM - see astm.org) standards and then the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA - see ipema.org) will provide certification when these standards and other criteria are met, meaning it is safe for use as a playground safety surface under and around playground equipment.

Image
Playground rubber mulch fall height rating chart showing that it has 2x the fall height rating as wood mulch.

With safety, there are several things to look at.  First, there is fall height rating.  Our selection of rubber mulch has almost twice the fall height rating as other surfacing products such as wood chips and more than twice the fall height rating of products like playground sand.  In specific, it is tested to have a fall height rating of at least 12' for 6" of mulch depth!  When it comes to standards and certifications look for ASTM F1292‐18 (Section 4.2) and/or ASTM F3351-19 being met or exceeded and that ASTM F3012 is validated - meaning safe for use as a playground surface.

What about if my infant puts mulch in his or her mouth?  Rubber mulch is non-toxic and even our colored rubber mulch is coated with non-toxic paints. If accidentally swallowed, the rubber mulch will just pass through the digestive tract of humans and animals.  

But is the rubber really safe?  Yes, not only is it non-hazardous and non-toxic and non-toxic but as a recycled product, rubber mulch goes through a rigorous cleaning process.  As part of that process it is filtered through high strength magnets and other processes to remove virtually all metals.  And in terms of the composition of the rubber, it is also lab tested to ensure that it doesn't contain harmful metals such as lead.  In fact when tested it meets CPSIA standards tested using ASTM3012-14.  In plain English, the CPSIA is The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which is designed to allow the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to better regulate the safety of products made for sale in the U.S.  The CPSIA contains regulations that make products for children under the age of 12 safer by requiring manufacturers to show that the product does not have harmful levels of lead and phthalates.  

Additional safety characteristics of our selection of rubber mulch is that it is non-flammable, in accordance with the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, 16 CFR 1500.44, and also ADA Compliant.  ADA compliance (handicap accessible per ASTM F1951-08) requires that the rubber mulch be installed at a non-compacted depth of 6” / 14 pounds per sq ft.

Suggested application amounts:

  • Residential: 3" min
  • Commercial: 3-6" min
  • Government and schools: 6" min
  • Fall height rating protection: 4" min

Sustainability

Image
Rubber mulch is a recycled green product that is friendly for our Earth.

 

The mulch we sell is sustainable and environmentally friendly.  It is composed of 100% recycled shredded rubber.  Our rubber comes from passenger car tires so instead of going in to landfills we recycle the tires in to rubber mulch.  Recycled passenger car tire rubber is used in numerous consumer applications and proven safe.  

Purchasing rubber mulch as a playground surface helps the environment because it reduces landfills and repurposes a very durable material that would otherwise needlessly go to waste.  Our rubber mulch goes through a rigorous cleaning process and our colored rubber mulch is further coated with a safe, non-toxic paint.  Loose fiber and foreign materials are also systematically removed, making it 99.9% free of steel content.  You should definitely feel good about purchasing our rubber mulch because of its environmental benefits and safety characteristics.

Cost

Rubber mulch can easily last more than 10 years, which is more than most outdoor safety surfaces will last through changing seasons.  There are many factors to cost-comparison calculations with the main one being what material it is being compared to (e.g. wood mulch, sand, rubber tiles, etc).  When looking at surfacing your playground with wood mulch vs rubber mulch, rubber mulch has a higher initial investment but will pay itself off after 1.5 to 2 years depending on how many applications of wood mulch you apply annually.  Not to mention, rubber mulch doesn't attract pests, stays cleaner, is easier to maintain, has more than a 2x fall height rating, etc.  When compared to sand, rubber mulch conservatively will cost less than half of sand and provide almost 3x the fall height rating.   Let's even look at the playground rubber tiles we sell...if we take the medium 2" high rubber tiles and compare them to a very generous 6" of rubber mulch rubber mulch cost significantly less, probably last longer, and will have a better fall height rating. 

Cleanliness

Kids get dirty and many playground surfaces will contribute to the dirty hands and stained clothing.  Rubber mulch does a great job at staying clean due to its unique characteristics.  For starters, its nugget shaped form factor is key to keeping it cleaner than other surfaces.  When washing a flat surface dirt is spread around.  With rubber mulch nuggets, dirt travels to the bottom and eventually in to the ground when it rains or is sprayed with a hose.  To assist, as kids run over the mulch or during raking, the mulch nuggets rub against each literally shedding off dirt particles and unwanted debris.  

When looking at cleanliness, we need to also consider insects and their byproducts.  It's not a pretty thought but the good news is that rubber mulch does not attract insects.  For example, ants can be a big problem with some other surfaces and a real nuisance for kids play.  Rubber mulch is not a hospitable home for the typical pests in our regions.

Rubber mulch doesn't build up dirt and reduces risk from insects and other pests.  Thus it is another reason why it makes for such a great playground surface option.

Maintenance

In general rubber mulch requires almost no maintenance.  However, we have a few suggestions to get the most out of your rubber mulch, maintain its safety qualities, and extend its longevity.  

Immediately following installation, the level of rubber mulch should be marked off on the playground equipment, using a permanent marker or the like. Especially in high traffic areas, periodically perform some light raking of the rubber mulch to restore the material to its safe and proper depth.  

Rotating rubber mulch can mitigate color fading over many many years.  You can do this by simply lightly raking your rubber mulch from the bottom to the surface to the top.

Last, if you have trees near the rubber mulch you may have leaves that fall on it.  Simply clear the leaves, twigs, and any other debris using a rake or leaf blower.

Durability

Rubber mulch can easily last for more than 10+ years.  That is why rubber mulch is not only suitable for residential use but is also widely applied in commercial use.  Commercial applications include public, church, and school playgrounds that experience high volume usage.   Our selection of rubber mulch is made from vulcanized rubber from passenger car tires which means it is almost indestructible but still flexible.  Rubber from sneakers and other inferior sources can get slippery when wet, break down, and rot.  

Does it stand up to the elements? Yes, our rubber mulch can withstand harsh winter climates and also hot dessert climates year after year.  Additionally, rubber mulch is great because it won't freeze, crack, or get too hot in climate extremes.  Surfaces that have a continuous solid surface like tiles and cement are sensitive to seasonal shrinkage and expansion, contributing to premature breakdown.  Rubber mulch are nuggets so this problem is eliminated. Additionally, its nugget form factor is great for drainage, meaning its surfaces are much less prone to water based issues such as mold and rot.  Likewise, your playground as a whole will not have puddles as long as there is proper drainage under the rubber mulch.  As it relates to water, rubber mulch will not wash away in storms.  In heavy wind, rubber mulch will also stay in place.  

To maintain longevity, its suggested to lightly rake rubber mulch every once in a while to vary the exposure to the elements of different pieces or different sides of the same piece.  The ability to change up the exposure to the elements, also greatly increases its durability and longevity unlike many other surfaces.  From a durability perspective rubber mulch rates high and is an excellent investment. 

Colors and Color Longevity

We offer rubber mulch in seven colors: black, brown, red, blue, green, cypress, and uncoated black.  Our 7 base colors have been thoughtfully formulated to look extremely natural in any setting.  Upon request, we can also paint rubber mulch in custom colors.  This is a great option to match your specific landscaping, playground colors, school colors, team colors, etc...

While wood mulch will literally fade a week after application, rubber mulch will maintain its vibrant color for years. Rubber mulch is painted with a highly durable non-toxic paint that can withstand UV and other weather elements. Manufacturers of high quality rubber mulch back this up with a 12 year color warranty.  These warranties vary slightly by manufacturers but you can be confident that your rubber mulch will look fresh for years.  Compare that to how playground equipment looks after a year or 2 in the sun and the fresh color of the rubber mulch becomes even more evident. 

So great, on paper it checks all the boxes. But is it right for my family?

Yes, kids love playing on it.  They love touching it as it has high sensory appeal.  It has a fun give to it but at the same time is a dense enough surface that kids can run and jump around on it with ease without having to worry about injury.   From a parents perspective, aside from all the safety and smart investment factors, it just looks great and will complement any backyard.  

Shop Playground Rubber Mulch by State