Pros and cons of rubber mulch for playgrounds (Must Read)

Every kid loves to go to the playground, but not every parent wants to drive there all the time. By bringing the playground to your yard you can make a perfect win-win situation. Your kids or grandkids can play to their hearts’ delight and you can sit and relax instead of having to organize a whole trip to your local park.

When building or buying a playground, one decision you have to make is what kind of flooring to use. There are many different options for this, and one of the most popular ones right now is rubber mulch. In this post we’ll go over some of the pros and cons of rubber mulch for playground flooring so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.

Pros of rubber mulch

One thing that makes rubber mulch such a popular choice for playgrounds nowadays is the excellent safety from slips and falls that it provides. Rubber mulch gives more cushion and bounce than sand, gravel, wood mulch, or any other common playground ground material. It is considered safe to protect children from falls of up to 12 feet. In addition to this, rubber mulch has rounded, soft edges with nothing sharp to potentially cause cuts and scrapes for children who fall down. Because of these things, most experts agree that rubber flooring is the safest material to keep children from getting hurt on a playground.

Rubber mulch is also commonly used by people who are concerned about sustainability and the environment. Most rubber mulch is recycled from tires or other rubber products. Using rubber mulch as playground flooring can give it a second life and keep tires and things from being added to landfills. This sounds great but also poses a few problems, which we’ll go over later.

Rubber mulch is also denser and heavier than wood chips or sand, which means it won’t blow away and has less of a chance of getting out of where you want it to be. In addition, pieces of rubber mulch won’t be compacted by people stepping on them repeatedly like wood chip flooring might, which makes for a much more aesthetic area in general.

Cons of rubber mulch

The biggest concern held by those who are against rubber mulch is typically the possibility of harmful chemicals or gases being present on or released by the mulch. Some people claim that when certain kinds of rubber mulch heat up they can release toxic gases into the air which could potentially be a health hazard to children who are at the playground regularly.

Another potential danger of using rubber mulch is that cheap recycled rubber mulch could contain pieces of wire. Steel wire is used to keep tires attached to the rims of a car and keep the tire seal airtight, but when pieces find their way into recycled tire products like rubber mulch it poses a safety hazard. Kids can put the mulch in their mouths, slip, and scrape their legs or even hurt their feet running around barefoot. You can usually get rubber mulch from a reputable source that won’t have these problems, but it’s definitely something to be careful about.

While it isn’t always necessarily harmful for humans, rubber mulch can harm plants that might be growing in or near it. Rubber tends to have a very high concentration of zinc, which can be toxic to plants and keep them from growing. If you choose to use rubber mulch for your playground, be sure to give some space between the playground and your garden, and don’t necessarily expect to have success growing trees or bushes on your playground floor.

Toxic rubber

If by now you’ve settled on using rubber mulch as the base for your playground, the most important decision is which kind to use. There are many different options out there, and certain types of rubber mulch are said to be toxic. Especially on a playground, where it can be hard to keep young children from putting things in their mouth or rolling around on the ground, it’s important to be sure you know exactly what you’re putting out.

The most common rubber mulch option is recycled mulch, but a lot of this is recycled from car tires which can contain dangerous chemicals that could cause brain damage or even cancer! To avoid this, choose rubber mulch from a company that uses new rubber, guaranteed to be free of the chemical accelerators and plasticizers in recycled tire mulch, not to mention metal wires or other hazards commonly found in recycled tire mulch. One good company like this is Rainbow Mulch, an American company which produces rubber mulch that is guaranteed safe.

Alternatives to rubber mulch

If you decide not to go with rubber mulch for your playground, there are a few other viable options. One of the most popular is wood mulch. With wood mulch you don’t have to worry about chemicals or wires or anything of that sort, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks. Wood mulch will fade and lose its color over time. It also has a nasty way of attracting insects and animals which isn’t what you want on a playground.

Another decent option if you don’t want to worry as much about bugs or fading is sand or gravel. The only issue with using sand or gravel is it isn’t nearly as soft and won’t protect against falls from the same heights, but it is typically a very cheap option and one that is aesthetically pleasing. Just make sure that your kids wear shoes.

Gravel can be sharp and painful to walk on and sand tends to get really hot when it’s sunny out, so these aren’t great options if the kiddos are going to be barefoot.


In the end, whether you use rubber mulch or something else as a playground flooring isn’t what’s going to make or break your playground. Hopefully this information will help you make a more informed decision for your family. Building or buying a play area for the kids can add charm and fun to your backyard for everyone.