Rubber Mulch vs. Wood Mulch Playground Benefits

Researching mulch materials is an important step in playground design, whether for a school, daycare center, park, home playground, or other location. Upon learning about the variety of ground covering materials available, people often wonder, is rubber mulch better than wood mulch? Take a look at these comparisons of their features and decide which is best for you. 

Is Rubber Mulch Better than Wood Mulch?

The Best Wood Mulch Available

EWF mulch (engineered wood fibers) is a specialized type of wood mulch that is created using only the pulpy interior wood fibers of a tree. Because this is less abrasive than traditional wood mulch with bark included, it’s the ideal wood mulch choice for playgrounds and other outdoor ground covering purposes. 

Cost of Rubber Mulch vs. Wood Mulch 

Engineered wood fibers are an organic substance, meaning that they are an affordable, abundant resource. In comparison to synthetic playground fill like rubber mulch, EWF mulch doesn’t cost as much. PIP rubber mulch, crumb rubber mulch, and other synthetic turf materials will have a higher upfront cost, whether the material is new or recycled. This is because the process of rubber creation is much more involved than sourcing organic wood fibers. 

Environmental Impact 

As an artificial substance, rubber can take many years to break down. Recycled rubber mulch that has been created from other rubber products is a better alternative for the environment than new rubber, but it still won’t blend in with the natural ecosystem. Bits of rubber mulch may be found buried in soil years after the playground is removed.

A professional should be hired to remove the top layer of soil and get rid of all rubber particles after rubber mulch removal. Rubber mulch is often made from old tires, which can contain chemical pollutants and contaminate soil. Plants can be harmed by rubber mulch because heavy metals like zinc are released into the soil, which causes chlorosis. This is a condition in which leaves don’t produce enough chlorophyll, leaving them with discoloration and pale pigmentation.

EWF playground mulch blends into the surrounding ecosystem. This wood mulch replenishes soil when breaking down into fibrous particles, which can add valuable nutrients to your topsoil. It can also strengthen the structure of soil, making it easy to till. Nearby plants benefit from EWF mulch because the mulch prevents the loss of moisture in soil, and the increased soil quality allows vegetation to thrive. Wood mulch also absorbs rainwater, reducing the severity of playground flooding. 


Rubber mulch can last up to 20 years or more, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. The inability to break down in the environment is a signifier of unnatural materials that are disruptive to surrounding ecosystems. The longevity of wood playground mulch is a few years shorter than rubber mulch, but it decomposes at a decent rate. Maintenance heavily impacts how long EWF mulch will last.


The appearance of playground mulch is a significant feature for some when choosing between rubber mulch or wood mulch. Rubber mulch can come in a variety of artificial colors, but EWF playground mulch is a beautiful, natural brown designed to blend into the surrounding environment.


To maintain a healthy layer of mulch, EWF mulch should be replenished or topped off every couple of years, if not annually. Rubber mulch does not require any significant maintenance unless it is somehow damaged by spilled substances or if it develops mold. Mulch is a low-maintenance ground covering overall. 


Natural is always safer, and safety should be prioritized when considering the well-being of children. Recycled rubber mulch releases gaseous volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs. The release of these gases is accelerated by heat, so it is especially dangerous in the summer. VOCs can lead to health issues, such as nausea, liver and kidney damage, sinus irritation, and more. It is also suspected that they can be considered a carcinogen. 

Wood playground mulch, on the other hand, is a safe choice that will considerably reduce the impact of a fall without releasing harmful chemicals. EWF playground mulch offers more cushion than sand or gravel, minimizing injuries and providing superior shock absorption. 

EWF Mulch Installation Process

Get a Free Quote

Customers can contact our team at Superior Groundcover for a free estimate on their project. We can answer any questions you may have about EWF playground mulch and its maintenance. 

Choose Your Mulch Material

We have new and recycled EWF mulch. You can choose which you’d like to have in their playground. 

Enjoy One-Day Installation

Playground mulch installation won’t shut down your playground for more than a few hours. With the efficiency of our specialized Express Blower® trucks, we can install the mulch and let kids resume playing on your playground within the same day. 

Superior Groundcover’s EWF Playground Mulch Installation

When deciding between rubber vs. wood mulch playground installation, the best choice should be clear. Though rubber mulch might last long and come in different colors, EWF mulch is the most beneficial form of wood mulch. It is a sound solution for environmental protection and the safety of children. Your playground’s wood mulch will cushion kids if they fall and result in a neat, presentable atmosphere for children to play in. Reach out to us for speedy EWF mulch installation services today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Mix Rubber Mulch with Wood Mulch?

When considering a rubber vs. wood mulch playground, some consider implementing a mixture of the two. If you plan on using rubber mulch, including a layer of EWF mulch over it is beneficial. This prevents the rubber from reaching high temperatures and minimizes the release of VOCs. 

Is Rubber Mulch a Fire Hazard?

Rubber mulch can be considered a fire hazard. A Consumer Reports test found that rubber mulch for playgrounds burns faster and is harder to put out than wood mulch. This is because rubber mulch often contains petroleum byproducts.

How Are Rubber Mulch and EWF Playground Mulch Made?

EWF mulch is created from the fibers inside a tree, not including its bark. This fiber is softer and provides a better cushion. Rubber mulch for playgrounds is most commonly created by shredding tires after removing metal and then dyeing the shredded bits. Other rubber materials can also be used to create rubber mulch.