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What to Use on Rubber Mats to Take the Smell Out

Be Patient and Plan Ahead for Rubber Odor Elimination


By Paige Cerulli

There are countless benefits to using rubber mats. They're versatile, highly durable, and incredibly strong. These mats can withstand significant weight, and also offer excellent protection to your subfloor. But there's often one problem: The rubber mat smell.

When you install rubber mats indoors, you may quickly start to notice a rubber flooring odor. While some rubber materials have a stronger smell than others, that rubber odor can be overwhelming, especially if you've installed many mats in a smaller space, like a weight room or a garage. That smell can give people headaches, and if you're running a business then it could potentially drive people away.

But don't worry. We have a number of rubber odor elimination tips to help.

First, let's take a look at why the problem occurs.

Why Rubber Mats Smell

Rubber mats naturally give off an odor because they're made of rubber. Some people are highly bothered by rubber odors, while others don't mind them so much - especially if they choose a low odor option.

Rubber mats, particularly those made from vulcanized recycled rubber, can smell strongly, especially when they're brand new. Some mats made of vulcanized rubber are treated to help minimize the odor. Other mats, such as those intended for outdoor use on playgrounds or barns, carry a significant odor.

When you smell the rubber from a mat, you're actually smelling the mat giving off volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Nearly all scents and odors derive from VOCs. These compounds have been trapped in the rubber, but as the mat is exposed to the air and let in place for a while, the release of VOCs will slow down and the odor will fade.

Here are a few tips on how to get rid of rubber smell.

Choose Appropriate Mats

If you haven't yet purchased your rubber mats, then make sure you read this section. Avoiding a rubber odor in the first place is far easier than rubber odor removal after the fact, so it's important to realize that some rubber mats have stronger odors than others.

At Greatmats, we make sure to identify when a rubber mat has a particularly strong odor, so you can tell whether it's the right choice for your intended use. These mats may be just fine for use in large gyms or outdoor spaces, but you wouldn't want to use them in a smaller basement or garage.

As you choose your rubber mats, keep potential odor issues in mind.

Use a Neutral pH Cleaner

Cleaning your new rubber mats immediately can help to minimize the odor. Use a neutral pH cleaner such as Simple Green, and thoroughly clean both sides of the mat. It's ideal if you can do this outdoors, rather than bringing the mat inside first. Allow the mat to thoroughly dry before you install it.

If you have a stack of mats, be sure to pull the mats out and clean each mat individually. Allowing the mats to remain stacked will cause them to retain their odor, rather than prompting that odor to dissipate.

Maximize Ventilation

Proper ventilation is key to eliminating rubber smell. If you have your mats installed in a space with poor ventilation, you'll quickly find that the rubber odor will build up and only get stronger.

Start by opening all of the windows in the space, then work on establishing a breeze through the room. You may need to run fans to help circulate the air and push the air out of the building in the early stages of installation. When working in a large space like a gym, then bringing in industrial-sized fans can help to give you the power and air movement that you need. Position fans so that they carry the air across the room and out of a window or door. If you can get a strong cross-ventilation going, this can help to quickly air out the room.

Ventilation can help significantly, especially during the first few days and weeks after you've installed the mats. Make sure that you have the windows open and fans going as often as possible until the smell has dissipated to an acceptable level.

Outgas With Sunning

Earlier we explained that the rubber odor you smell is the rubber releasing VOCs. You can speed up the process of the rubber releasing VOCs by using the natural power of the sun. Solar heat causes rubber to release (also referred to as outgassing) VOCs, and it doesn't cost you a thing to put this method to use.

If you're going to sun your rubber mats, it's best to do it during the summer, when the sun is strongest. However, the method is still effective during other times of the year, too. Depending on the specific rubber mat you're working with, you may need to sun it for a few hours up to a few weeks before the process of outgassing is complete.

To sun your mat, follow these directions on how to get rid of rubber smell:

1. Lay your mats outside and put them in a sunny location - ideally before you've installed them. Look for a spot where your mats will be exposed to direct sunlight for as many hours as possible. If feasible, you may want to move the mats throughout your yard to keep them in the sunniest, hottest locations during the day - this will speed up the process.

2. Strategically position your mats. It's important to position the mats in a way so that they have air circulation beneath them. Consider propping them up against a fence or a shed. You will also need to rotate the mats throughout the periodically so that both sides and all areas of the mats receive adequate sunlight. To avoid additional labor, avoid sunning the mats over lawns or dirty, muddy areas. If left for extended periods of time, the mats will kill the grass underneath them. If sunned in a dirt area, your mats may require additional scrubbing before installing them indoors.

3. Check by smelling your mats. After sunning the mats for a day, check them by smelling them. If you can still smell a strong odor, then your mats will need more sunning. It can take hours, days, or weeks to outgas a rubber mat.

Most rubber mats are durable enough to withstand limited sunning, but if you ever try this strategy with another type of flooring or another product, realize that other materials may be more sensitive to sunlight. Excessive sun can bleach or fade products, and you should never sun a foam or latex product.

Make sure that your mats are thoroughly dry and odor-free before you bring them indoors and install them.

Store Mats Strategically

If you're working through the above suggestions, you may not want to immediately bring your rubber mats indoors. Eliminating rubber smell can be more difficult in a small space, especially if you're living in that space during the process.

If you have a garage or shed, this might make an ideal storage space as you work on eliminating rubber smell in the mats. Storing the mats elsewhere will help to minimize the odor that you have to deal with.

Be Patient

When you first install your rubber, the smell will be at its strongest, probably leaving you wondering how to get rid of rubber smell. However, as a little time passes, the smell will dissipate. After a few weeks, you likely won't notice the smell at all, especially if you use some of the rubber odor elimination techniques listed above.

When it comes to eliminating rubber smell, a bit of patience is often necessary. Make sure that you start with a low-odor product, which will make the overall process easier. If you need to have your mats installed by a particular date, order them well ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to work on rubber odor elimination.

Tips for Businesses

If you'll be bringing rubber mats into your business, like a gym, then you probably won't have the luxury of being able to take your time in airing out a space and installing the mats gradually. In this situation, it's wise to advise your clients ahead of time that the installation will be taking space. Anyone who is highly sensitive to smells will have some notice to find an alternative situation for a few days.

When you notify clients, be sure to highlight the steps you'll be taking in eliminating rubber smell. Remind the clients of the benefits that the new mats will offer, and explain that you're aware that the odor may be a problem and that you have a rubber odor elimination plan in place.

Your New Rubber Mats

Rubber mats offer countless benefits, and they can make a space more versatile, safer, and even more comfortable. The smell won't last forever, and the above steps can help to get rid of the rubber smell so you can get back to enjoying the space even sooner.

For more on this topic please review our Rubber Mats product page.