Rubber is a popular material used in everything from boots and scuba fins to hot water bottles and faucet seal rings. It's durable, but that doesn't make it indestructible. Years of exposure to air and light can make rubber more brittle, increasing the chance of tearing. Fortunately, you can repair some torn or cracked rubber with rubber repair adhesive, waterproof patching tape, or superglue.
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How to Know If Your Rubber Can Be Repaired
It's easy to find rubber repair glue, rubber repair tape, and even rubber repair kits online or at your local hardware store. However, not all rubber can be restored for safe use. A small rip in a boot is not the same as a gaping tear in an inflatable life raft.
You're the best judge of whether your rubber product has enough flexibility and surface area left to be repaired. If your rubber has a tear with a well-defined border that will not affect your ability to use the product safely, follow the repair steps below.
Choose your repair material based on the severity of the tear and the item's intended use. For instance, use waterproof rubber repair tape to repair gaps or torn holes in rubber. Use rubber repair glue or shoe repair adhesive for small tears in shoes or cracks in a tube or other item designed to flex.
How to Repair Torn Rubber With a Patch or Tape
You can quickly fix torn rubber with a waterproof patch and seal tape or with a rubber repair kit that includes patches and rubber cement. The process is similar for both methods, but using a patch kit includes the additional step of brushing on the rubber cement before applying the patch. Repairing rubber with tape is faster and more efficient as long as the tape is wider than the gap in the rubber.
- Use sandpaper or a metal scuffer to lightly buff the repair area.
- Cut the tape or patch (with the liner still on) so that it is slightly larger than the tear or gap.
- If you are using a patch kit, squeeze or brush a line of rubber cement along the tear and spread it onto the area.
- Remove the backing from your precut patch or tape and place it over the torn rubber.
- Rub your finger over the tape or patch, ensuring that it has completely adhered to the surface. Continue applying pressure for at least two minutes.
- If possible, use a heavy object or clamp to apply pressure to the bond for up to 24 hours.
How to Repair Torn Rubber With Adhesives
You can repair split, cracked, or torn rubber by covering the damage with cyanoacrylate-based adhesive. The liquid or gel will seep into cracks and tears and then dry to form a rubberlike seal.
- Use sandpaper to lightly buff the repair area.
- Apply the repair adhesive to the tear and half an inch beyond the damaged area. This ensures a full seal and helps keep the tear or crack from growing.
- Let the adhesive dry according to the time specified on the label. Most rubber glues quickly dry to the touch, but they need additional time to cure.
Wear gloves when using rubber cement or rubber repair glues. Cyanoacrylate-based adhesives, such as superglue, dry very quickly, increasing the risk of skin irritation.