Rubber Mulch Vs. Wood Mulch: Which Is Best?

Rubber and wood mulch are great choices for your landscaping needs, given the right circumstances. Rubber mulch is suitable for gardens in moderate to cold climates because there are minimal chances of getting washed or blown away. Accordingly, wood mulch best fits edible gardens because it’s toxic-free with a low fire risk.

So, rubber mulch vs wood mulch, which is best?

Both rubber and wood mulch bear great qualities. Wood mulch decomposes fast, therefore, adding nutrients to your plants. On the other hand, rubber mulch is non-organic and doesn’t add any value to your soil, and is readily available. Also, it doesn’t attract pests easily.

Let’s analyze which is the best mulch between rubber and wood mulch:

Also Check: Rubber Mulch vs rock.

Rubber Mulch vs Wood Mulch: Which is Best?

The best mulching material between the two depends on your needs. Both rubber and wood mulch have advantages and disadvantages. If you want to use cost as a determining factor, wood has a lower price but is suitable for short-term use because it decomposes.

Consequently, rubber mulch has a higher price but lasts long because it’s non-organic and doesn’t disintegrate. Accordingly, wood mulch is a great choice if you wish to use a natural option. Rubber is also a good choice for landscaping, but there’s a risk of transferring toxins from the rubber to the soil. 

Overall, wood mulch is a better option, although it might lead to nitrogen deficiency in the soil. The nitrogen deficiency occurs because the wood mulch uses up a lot of nitrogen when decomposing.

Is Wood Mulch More Expensive than Rubber Mulch?

We need to evaluate the initial and recurrent costs to determine the cheaper option. When you purchase wood mulch in bulk, it can cost you a few dollars for a cubic foot. Rubber mulch costs from $10 per cu ft. 

However, you’ll need to replace wood mulch every one to two years, whereas you need to replace rubber mulch after a long time. Overall, rubber mulch is “cheaper” because it requires minimal maintenance, lowering recurrent costs. But, this only makes sense if you wish to keep the rubber mulch for a long time. 

Judging by the upfront price of rubber mulch, it’s not the best option if you’re on a constrained budget. But, people opt for it because of its advantages, including holding moisture better and suppressing weeds. 

Advantages of Wood Mulch

There are several advantages of using wood mulch:

  • It’s a naturally occurring byproduct of wood.
  • Wood mulch offers a more natural appearance to your garden.
  • You can mix the wood mulch with the soil as you weed rather than manually removing the weeds.
  • Wood mulch suppresses weeds effectively and is great when you need low-maintenance landscaping.
  • It decomposes and produces nutrients that are absorbed by the soil, which aids in plant growth. 

Disadvantages of Wood Mulch

Wood mulch has a few disadvantages:

  • Wood mulch provides food for pests such as carpenter ants or termites. These insects wreak havoc if they move from the wood mulch and invade your other property, including your house.
  • Because wood mulch removes nitrogen from the soil, most gardeners are against its use in vegetable gardens and other plant beds that need nitrogen.
  • When decaying, wood mulch requires lots of nitrogen from the soil. Therefore, it’ll cost you extra cash to replace the nitrogen lost.
  • You’ll need to replace the mulch every one to two years, or even more often, making it cumbersome to maintain.

A Side-By-Side Comparison Between Rubber Mulch and Wood Mulch

Here’s how to identify the similarities and differences between rubber mulch and wood mulch:


  • Wood mulch: Because of its organic nature, wood mulch breaks down after a short time. Therefore, to keep its strength and appearance, you need to replace it every one to two years. 
  • Rubber mulch: Rubber mulch doesn’t disintegrate. Once you lay it on your landscape, the chances are that you’ll take it off when you’re bored of it and need something new. In other words, you only spread rubber mulch once.

Rubber mulch, in this case, offers more longevity because it doesn’t get carried away by strong winds. It also won’t get washed away by heavy rainfall. Thus, for a long-term solution, consider rubber mulch.

Soil Health

  • Wood mulch: Wood mulch adds to the topsoil beneficial and important nutrients. Furthermore, it adds natural fertilizer to your soil while it disintegrates.
  • Rubber mulch: Because rubber mulch is from recycled tires, it doesn’t add any nutritional value to soil or your garden.

According to the above illustration, wood mulch is the best pick because it ensures enough nutrients for your garden.

Lasting Color

  • Wood mulch: The natural color of wood mulch is a no match. However, over time it becomes dull and fades away. Therefore, the color changes negatively impacting the feel and look of the garden.
  • Rubber mulch: There are different color varieties available for rubber mulch. And the best part is that they don’t fade and there’s up to 12 years guarantee on color lock.

Both wood and rubber mulch give you options for bright colors. Therefore, the need is to find mulch with long-lasting color. Rubber mulch offers you colors that endure. If you desire a bright garden that looks great for years, choose rubber mulch.

Ease of Use

  • Wood mulch: Because it disintegrates with time, you can mix it into the soil. Hence, adding more or changing the wood mulch each season is easier.
  • Rubber mulch: This synthetic product isn’t the best to mix with your soil when working on your garden. 

Mixing your wood mulch with soil makes weeding easy and add more plants to the garden. On the other hand, you have to remove rubber mulch and place it back atop the soil. Thus, if you love to keep changing up your garden’s appearance, then wood mulch it is.

Pest Control

  • Wood mulch: Insects such as termites love to live in different types of wood mulch. That said, there’s a need for extra precaution to keep the insects away from your garden.
  • Rubber mulch: Because of its synthetic nature, pests aren’t attracted to rubber mulch. They’d find the environment not conducive to their survival if they tried it.

There’s a great chance that once you’ve spread your rubber mulch, insects and pests won’t be interested in it. Accordingly, if you intend to keep the pests at bay, rubber is your choice mulch.

Versatility in Use

  • Wood mulch: Interlock stone paves, walkways, tree beds, flower gardens, and vegetable gardens are areas where you can use wood mulch without limitation. 
  • Rubber mulch: Inorganic mulch is more decorative than beneficial to your garden. Although it may not be common, rubber mulch may leak toxic chemicals such as zinc into the soil. That is why you’d need to exercise caution, especially when using it in vegetable gardens. 

Wood mulch is extremely versatile compared to rubber mulch. You can use it without worrying much. It’s your mulch of choice if you want to use it anywhere.


  • Wood mulch: Requires you to keep sweeping it in place. Additionally, it harbors insects, mold, and fungi. It requires you to inspect it regularly.
  • Rubber mulch: It doesn’t need special care and isn’t blown away much by the wind, so you don’t keep sweeping it back to the right place.

Ideally, rubber mulch requires minimal attention if you need the kind of mulch that doesn’t need ongoing attention and care.


Wood mulch has the lowest cost compared to rubber mulch. Whether you’re interested in a few sq ft of mulch, or several hundreds of cy, the cost of mulch determines what you’ll settle on.

Factors That Influence the Cost of Mulch

Several factors determine the cost of mulch:

  • Delivery costs
  • Installation costs
  • Rubber quality
  • Wood species
  • Untreated wood chips cost more
  • Rubber mulch that is wire-free costs more 
  • Mulch depth
  • The surface area where mulch is required


Is Rubber or Wood Mulch Better?

Rubber mulch is better than wood mulch because, if installed properly, rubber mulch requires little to no maintenance. Rubber mulch lasts up to 10 years or more, while you need to replace wood mulch annually. In addition, unlike wood mulch, rubber mulch doesn’t attract insects, therefore, protecting your home, plants, and flowers.

What are the Benefits of Wood Mulch?

One crucial benefit of wood mulch is that it rots and feeds the soil necessary nutrients, which in return feeds your plants. Other benefits of wood mulch include:

  • It regulates the soil temperatures.
  • Wood mulch regulates soil moisture content.
  • Because wood mulch is a byproduct of tree pruning and removal, reusing it for landscaping purposes reduces waste.
  • You can find wood mulch easily because it’s readily available.
  • A wood mulch layer prevents light from getting to the ground surface, suppressing weed growth.
  • Wood mulch eliminates the need to use chemical fertilizers because it rots, feeding the soil.

Is Wood Mulch Bad for Plants?

Over the years, no research has confirmed the negative effects of wood mulch on plants. Therefore, wood mulch is suitable around trees, natural areas, and shrub beds. You can also use it around flower beds.

What is the Difference Between Wood Chips and Mulch?

Wood mulch is when wood chips are laid on the soil’s surface as the soil’s protective top-dressing. On the other hand, wood chips refer to ground-up, chipped, and shredded pieces of wood. Wood chips may sometimes include leaves, branches, and bark. 

Is It Ok to Use Wood Chips for Mulch?

Wood chips for mulch are especially great for shrubs and trees. However, they aren’t the best option for growing vegetables. Also, wood chips are better at water absorption compared to other mulches. The water absorbed helps cool the soil as it slowly gets released to the vegetation. 

Do Wood Chips Help Drainage?

Yes, wood chips help with the proper drainage of water because they don’t mat when in contact with water. Remember that mixing wood chips with the soil helps improve the availability of nitrogen.

Can You Put New Mulch Over Old Mulch?

Wood mulch allows you to add new mulch to the older mulch comfortably. The best part about this is that both mulches improve water filtration, nutrient availability, and soil structure. All those benefits are courtesy of the mulch breaking down over time.

Should You Mulch Every Year?

As soon as you start seeing signs of decomposition, you need to replace your mulch. Other factors determining whether you need to replace your mulch are discoloration or soil erosion. You should remove all the wood mulch and replace it afresh every 5-6 years.

Should I Water Mulch After Putting It Down?

When you’ve laid your wood mulch, you can water it as the final step to help settle it into place. Remember that weeds will find their way to the surface of the mulch that appears too thin. Also, it acts as a barrier and stops the water from getting to the soil surface if it’s too thick. 

Is Rubber Mulch Heavier Than Wood Mulch?

Rubber mulch is, by all means, heavier than wood mulch. Therefore, rubber mulch has more longevity than wood mulch. If you’re in a high wind area or heavy rains, wood mulch blows away compared to rubber mulch. 

Does Rubber Mulch Get Hotter Than Wood Mulch?

Rubber mulch burns faster and much hotter than wood chips. Also, it’s more difficult to put out. Wood mulch is harder to ignite, and fire spreads at slow speeds due to the lower carbon and nitrogen ratio.

The Bottom Line

Both rubber mulch and wood mulch are processing byproducts. They’re considered sustainable mulching materials because they don’t require additional materials from the universe. 

But before you settle on your best choice of mulch, you need to make a few critical decisions. Do you desire a long-lasting material that won’t need changing in several years? Do you want the mulch to return naturally back to earth? How appealing is the mulch once the landscaping work is done?

From rubber mulch to wood mulch – and everything in between – you’ll pick the best mulch for your landscaping and gardening needs. 

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