Wood Playground Mulch Vs. Rubber Playground Mulch: Which is Better?

Wood Playground Mulch Vs. Rubber Playground Mulch: Which is Better?

Keaton Winter

Wood-chips have been used on playgrounds for years for the safety of children. It absorbs liquids, provides a more cushioned landing against falls, and gives more traction against slipping. But in recent years, rubber playground mulch has grown in popularity as an alternative to actual wood, which has sparked debate over which option is the better.

Wood And Rubber: A Side-By-Side Comparison

When deciding whether to use wood or rubber playground mulch, there are a few important points to consider. There has been some debate recently over which material is not only better quality, but also safer for both people as well as the environment.

Which Mulch Is The Most Cost-Effective?

When it comes down to overall cost, wood mulches are generally much more inexpensive, averaging around $30-$140 per cubic yard.

Meanwhile rubber mulches usually average around anywhere between $200 - $400 per cubic yard.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that neither of these averages are factoring in installation or delivery.

Which Is More Environmentally-Safe?

Many people have been making a conscientious effort to be more environmentally friendly in many, if not all, aspects of their lives and therefore would want to take into account the impact that either rubber or wood mulch would have.

When weighing the pros and cons, however, the most earth-friendly option falls in wood’s favor.

In the case of rubber mulch:

  • Rubber mulch has the advantage of recycling used tires out of landfills, but it potentially contains high levels of heavy metals that were used in the manufacturing of the original tires (zinc, for example)
  • As the material eventually starts to break down, those chemicals and metals do seep into the soil, which can have noticeably negative effects on nearby plants (especially if those nearby plants are edible).
  • Using rubber mulch near water can also have very negative consequences. Because the tires which the mulch is made from were made with aluminum, copper, manganese, among other things, it can possibly contaminate water sources, affecting aquatic life.

Meanwhile, with wood:

  • Wood is all natural. While some wood chips are treated and dyed, which can possibly contaminate the soil, you can easily buy untreated wood, which holds no danger of contamination.
  • Wooden chips and mulch help the soil as it breaks down, giving nutrients to plants and helps nourish the soil.

Is Wood Or Rubber More Healthy And Safe?

Rubber playground mulch has often been promoted as a safer alternative to classic wooden mulch. People have praised it for being more shock-absorbant against falls and for not giving splinters. But when doing research to decide if it is the best option for play area ground covering, it is more than fair to still ask, “Is it safe?”

Playgroundresource.com summed it up best when they said that it can be hard to get a straight answer. According to them, the people who adamantly insist that rubber playground mulch is safe are the ones that sell it.

  • Recently, concern has arisen over the chemicals and contaminants possibly carried within, as well as heavy metals like lead and manganese.
  • Homeadvisor.com, in their in-depth examination, mentions twice the potential of the chemicals in rubber releasing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can cause “significant” health issues.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has maintained an ongoing study into the potential health risks of using tire crumb in rubber mulch, claiming that “Limited studies have not shown an elevated health risk” but also that “existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks.”

Another concern has been that rubber playground mulch is made from ground up used-tires, the metal inside having been removed and run over a couple of times with a very powerful magnet. Given that the amount of metal in a tire makes up about 15% of the tire’s entire weight, it might be worrying to some over whether those magnets get everything. No one wants their child to get a cut or scratch from a bit of metal that didn’t get picked up.

A way to help gain some peace of mind is to make sure that your playground material, regardless of whether it is rubber or wood, is certified by the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA). This organization holds these manufacturers to an incredibly high standard. Even playground wood chips are held to much the same standards.

Overall, untreated wooden mulch does not come with the danger of chemicals that rubber mulch does, nor does metal need to be removed with a magnet during the manufacturing process.

Which Mulch Is Better For Areas Of High Fire-Risk?

This might surprise you, but when it comes to fire safety, wood mulch is the best option.

When it comes to fire, wood:

  • Requires a higher temperature in order to ignite
  • Burns at a lower temperature
  • Spreads more slowly
  • Has the ability to hold moisture, making burning more difficult

Rubber, on the other hand:

  • Ignites at lower temperatures
  • Burns at a higher temperature
  • Is much more toxic when it burns
  • Is more difficult to put out

While not something that everyone thinks about, it is worth taking into consideration the fire reactiveness of each.

Give Your Children A Safe Place To Play With Haul-4-U

When you’re ready to furnish your playground with high quality wood chips, then Haul-4-U is ready to deliver. Our playground mulch is IPEMA and ADA certified, meaning that it strictly follows the guidelines set in place to give your kids the safest possible play area ground covering that we can.

Get started today. Browse our selection of  play area materials and find what will best suit your needs. From there you’ll be able to schedule a time for one of our hauling experts to get your product delivered wherever you need it. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We want you to have peace of mind about your landscape materials.

Give your children a place where they can have the best memories of playtime with Haul-4-U’s playground materials.