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Rubber Mulch vs Wood Mulch – Differences? Similarities?

These are black, red and yellow wood chip mulch mounds.

When people are sorting out your garden landscape, they will generally come to a point where they need a mulch of some kind. This can be quite an overwhelming decision as there are so many different mulches to choose from, including rubber mulch and wood mulch. But what exactly is the difference between wood mulch and rubber mulch?

Rubber mulch is an in-organic mulch that is made from removing the metal from old rubber tires and then shredding the tires, whereas wood mulch is an organic mulch that is made from cutting wood matter, like tree bark, leaves, trimmed branches, and reconstituted wooden pallets into small wood chips.

Do these two mulches have similarities, or are they completely different from each other? What are the benefits of using each mulch? Do they have any disadvantages?

And what is the price difference between these two mulches? Let us find out.

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What Is Rubber Mulch?

This is a close look at a bunch of black rubber mulch.

Rubber mulch is made from recycled old rubber products, most typically old rubber tires. This recycled rubber used to be used to create a soft, springy surface for children’s playgrounds, but the recycled rubber was then discovered to be a good mulching material.

Now using rubber mulch in gardens has begun to grow in popularity as the process of recycling rubber into rubber mulch has become more streamlined and more manageable.

Creating recycled rubber mulch is a better use of the rubber than just letting it sit in landfills, as it will not decompose for at least 50 years. So, it is better to find other uses for this rubber to help the environment, which is where rubber mulch is a perfect solution.  

What Is Wood Mulch?

This is a close look at a gardener putting wood chip mulch on the garden soil.

Wood mulch is a mulch that is made from different kinds of recycled wood matter. This wood matter is then chopped up into fine wood chips that are then spread over an area of the garden to help in various aspects.

Wood mulch is typically made from tree bark, reconstituted wooden pallets, trimmed branches, and leaves. Wood mulch is an organic mulch that is generally readily available at a local store or timber yard.

This mulch is typically sold by the bag, so if you have a large area to cover in your garden, then you may not need to buy as much as you think.

How Are These Mulches Different?

A close look at a gardener holding a handful of pine bark wood mulch.

Even though both of these materials are mulches, they are pretty different from each other. Rubber mulch is an inorganic product made from artificial material, whereas wood mulch is an organic material made up of varying plant matter. 

They each have their different benefits as well as disadvantages that you should be aware of before you pick which one is the best for you and your garden. Some of these factors can be highly beneficial and may outweigh their disadvantages depending on what you are looking for.

So, let us go through what these two mulches have to offer so you can better gauge which mulch will work better for you.

Pros And Cons Of Rubber Mulch

This is a close look at a mason applying rubber coating on the concrete floor.

Rubber mulch has quite a few benefits that may make it more appealing to some people. Rubber mulch tends to last longer in your garden as it breaks down at a slower rate and is not absorbed into the soil.

Rubber mulch requires little to no daily maintenance, and it is also a bit heavier than wood mulch. This means that it is less likely to disintegrate in the rain or blow away if a strong wind comes through your garden.

Rubber mulch is easy to install, and it is inedible, which means that it will not attract pests and termites to your garden. Landscaping rubber mulch also offers better water retention as it does not absorb water that is trying to get to the soil, and it provides better insulation when compared to wood mulch.

Rubber mulch does come in multiple colors, so if you have a particular preference or need a specific color for your garden landscape, you have options.

This is a close look at the colorful rubber mulch spread on the ground.

There are disadvantages to using rubber mulch in your garden; for instance, rubber mulch is a bit more expensive than wood mulch as more work needs to go into making it. As rubber mulch is made from old tires, they have some chemicals that can leach into the soil after a while.

These chemicals can be slightly toxic to humans, which is why it is not advisable to use rubber mulch in a veggie garden where people will consume what is grown. Rubber mulch is also highly flammable, and if it is somehow set alight, it will release toxic fumes as it burns.

Rubber mulch should not be tilled into the soil; this means that any work that needs to be done with it needs to be done by hand.

Pros And Cons Of Wood Mulch

Wood mulch also has its benefits that are quite useful to gardeners; for example, wood mulch is biodegradable. When it decomposes, it is absorbed into the soil, adding nutrients to it that aid in plant growth.

Wood mulch can be tilled into the soil when you need to weed. So, instead of you painstakingly pulling out stubborn weeds one at a time by hand, you can just till them back into the soil.

This also means that wood mulch is perfect for low-maintenance landscaping, and it is an excellent weed suppressant. This organic mulch gives your garden a more natural look as it is made from natural materials that would usually be found in a garden.

This is a well-maintained garden with mulch.

As wood mulch is a natural by-product, it does not contain any chemicals and can therefore be used in veggie gardens and with other plants that humans may consume.

Wood mulch does have some disadvantages, however. For example, wood mulch does offer a food source for certain pests like termites, meaning it could attract them to your garden. As wood mulch is biodegradable, it will decompose over time, so it will need to be replaced every two years or so.

When the wood mulch starts to decompose, it will absorb a large amount of nitrogen from the soil as it needs it to decompose properly. When this happens, you will need to add extra nitrogen into the soil, which means there is an extra cost.

Price Differences Between The Mulches

A bunch of wooden mulch being dumped from a wheelbarrow to the garden soil.

Even though these mulches both have their uses depending on what you want to do in your garden, where the real difference lies is in the cost of each mulch. Let us have a look at the average prices of these two mulches.

Wood mulch will generally cost between $4 and $12 per 2 cubic feet, depending on the wood and other wood products used to make the mulch.

Rubber mulch, on the other hand, can be quite expensive. This can even itself out as you do not need to replace it for a long time. The average cost for rubber mulch can be between $12 to $30 per 2 cubic feet.


The best mulch to use for your garden landscape will depend on your needs, as both of these mulches are highly effective, and they both have their benefits and disadvantages. If the cost of the mulch is what you are going to base your decision on, then wood mulch is cheaper but only for the short-term, and rubber mulch is cheaper in the long term.

If looks it what you are going for, then wood mulch may be your best option as it gives you a nice natural look, whereas rubber mulch can look messy as it is cut into bigger chunks. If you want to keep things natural and help keep your soil safe from toxins, then use the natural wood mulch as the rubber mulch can leach some chemicals into the soil. 

Rubber is a potential pollutant that can potentially harm the environment and the plants it is meant to protect. My preference would be to go for the organic, natural option, which is the wood mulch.