The short answer is initially ‘yes’. The longer, more practical answer? Rubber has a distinctive odor, and so would its mulching by-product. However, to write rubber mulch off altogether because it doesn’t smell like cedar and roses probably isn’t a good idea, especially given its unique benefits.
Think back on all those times that you’ve played on rubber tire swings or ridden your bike over strips of rubber acting as safety bumps. These were ingenious ways to recycle an unwanted product, and encouraged children to play outdoors and have fun at the same time. Rubber mulch has become their descendant, and generations of kids who’ve played with discarded tires did not let a little rubbery smell dampen their playtime.
Now think of all the shiny and new practical items you’ve introduced to your home. Your new shower curtain. A leather couch. EVA foam mats. Bed mattresses. Even your new pair of sneakers. They all have a distinct smell at first, but the odor disappears over time. Rubber mulch is pretty much the same.
This is why going to a reputable rubber mulch manufacturer is a must. They’ve done their homework in the recycling process, and always think of consumer safety as per industry standards. Even treated, colored rubber mulch use non-toxic colors because kids at playgrounds will be treading all over it.
A skin sensitization study conducted by California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment shed light on the concerns over rubber mulch’s smell. Many consumers seem to interpret this odor as something threatening to kids’ health. The Office found nothing to suggest that recycled tires used for playground surfaces cause skin sensitization among children, even those already allergic to latex.
Rubber mulch’s springiness makes it a great playground surface (it is DEP-endorsed). For pathways and gardens. rubber mulch keeps slipperiness to a minimum because it doesn’t retain water. And because it discourages bacterial, fungal, insect, and weed growth, rubber mulch actually helps those allergic to them. A rubbery smell may initially be there, but its long-term benefits and low-maintenance quality will stay with you far longer.