There are two reasons that rubber items may become sticky. The first reason is the most obvious one – these items are used for or around food, drink, or dirt, and the substances get stuck to the rubber, causing it to feel sticky and gummy. The second reason is less obvious, but will happen to all rubber items eventually – rubber is a natural material, made from plant matter, and as such, is a biodegradable material. In time, all rubber items will start to break down, and this process is known as sticky rubber syndrome.
Read on to discover how to clean sticky rubber, whether from dirt or age.
How to Clean an Old & Sticky Rubber
When you buy a new product that contains or is made from rubber, that rubber has been through a process known as vulcanizing, which is essentially the hardening of the natural material. This will make your rubber products last longer and create the stretchiness and grip feel we associate with rubber.
But being biodegradable, it will eventually start to break down.
Once this starts to happen, you will notice that it has a sticky and uneven surface. There is nothing you can do once the process has begun, but you may be able to make the item feel better in your hands, at least temporarily.
The only option for cleaning rubber that has started to degrade is to use chemicals to remove the deteriorating top layer, revealing a fresh, vulcanized layer underneath. This process will have to be repeated until the rubber is all gone, and the item is no longer usable.
There are two ways you can remove the deteriorating rubber from your items, and which one you should use depends on whether the item in question is electronic, or not.
For non-electronic items, you can use Windex or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball.
- Wipe away the gumminess
- Use a toothbrush to reach difficult spots
- Rinse or wipe, and enjoy the smooth, fresh feeling of the rubber
For electronic items, to avoid liquid damage, use a magic eraser.
- Use a magic eraser pad to wipe away all the stickiness
- Clean the item with a very lightly damp cloth to remove the residue
How to Prevent Rubber from Getting Sticky
The degradation of rubber occurs because it is a plant-based material, and is exacerbated by environmental factors. Although all rubber will break down eventually, there are a few small things you can do to ensure your rubber products last as long as they can.
- Store rubberized equipment in a controlled, humidified environment
- Keep all rubberized items away from direct UV rays
- Coat non-electronic products with polyurethane for an extra layer of protection
Cleaning Rubber that is Sticky from External Influences
Not all sticky rubber is like that from age and degradation. Sometimes our rubber items become sticky from exposure to food, drink, or dirt. If this is the case, then you have no problem on your hands, and the solutions are simple. Just be sure that you do not use harsh chemicals on your rubber items, as they may eat away at the surface, or cause discoloration.
For cleaning food and dirt off your rubber equipment, you should start with the gentlest method, and move on to the more intense methods, only if the previous one didn’t work. Bearing this in mind, give the below options a try, in the order in which we have presented them.
- Start by mixing dish detergent and water in a sink or bucket. Use a clean cloth to wash the rubber item, as you would your dishes. Be gentle, but thorough. You should be able to feel if your rubber items are becoming smoother and cleaner, but when you are done, rinse the item well, and check it over for areas that may not have come clean. Wash again if necessary.
- If the previous method did not yield the results you were hoping for, try making a paste from baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the areas that are still sticky or rough, and allow it to sit for a few minutes while the baking soda does its work. After the item has rested for a few minutes with the baking soda on it, use a cloth to rub the affected areas well. Rinse the item, and check the results. If you are still not happy, repeat the process, paying special attention to areas that have still not come clean.
- As a last resort, you can try using a magic eraser or some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cloth.
Now you know why rubber becomes sticky, and what to do about it, it’s time to go around your house and look for all those rubber items that have been forgotten and neglected over the years. Have fun cleaning them, and enjoy the benefits of having clean and fresh rubber items throughout your home.