13 Top Uses of Rubber: Understanding How Rubber Is Used

If you were asked what the most groundbreaking invention of the 19th century was, you may say lightbulbs, telephones, or blue jeans. One breakthrough that might not come to mind is vulcanized rubber.

Rubber has been in use for hundreds of years, but the uses of natural rubber are very limited. It’s vulnerable to temperature changes, growing sticky in high heat and fragile at low temperatures.

That changed in the 1830s, thanks to a man named Charles Goodyear. Goodyear invented the process of vulcanizing rubber. This process uses chemicals to counter the natural defects of leather, making it much more durable.

Today, rubber is one of the most commonly used materials on the planet. We’ll talk about some interesting uses of rubber in the paragraphs below.

1. Tires

The modern age has given birth to cars, and every car needs tires. The tires of virtually every vehicle out there are made of vulcanized rubber.

This has to do with vulcanized rubber’s durability and ease of shape. In its natural state, rubber is liquid and sticky. People have shaped it into things before, but it doesn’t retain shape nearly as well as vulcanized rubber.

2. Erasers

Erasers are older than the process of vulcanizing rubber. They were invented in 1770 by a man named Edward Naime when he discovered that rubber could be rubbed across a paper to erase pencil lines.

This process has to do with rubber’s tendency to grow sticky in response to heat.

Rubbing the eraser on paper creates friction, which dislodges the graphite and heats the eraser. The eraser becomes sticky and picks up the graphite. Bits of the rubber tend to get torn and loosened as well, which results in eraser shavings.

3. Bouncy Balls

For children, there are few things more thrilling than throwing a bouncy ball at the ground and watching it spring back several feet into the air. Most kids get their bouncy balls in stores or out of dispensers similar to gumball machines.

These bouncy balls are made of rubber, which is naturally elastic. The elasticity combined with Newton’s Third Law of Motion causes the ball to reach incredible heights.

4. Medical Gloves

Rubber medical gloves were invented in 1894 by William Stewart Halstead. This ranks as one of the most important medical discoveries of all time.

Medical gloves were originally made of latex, but hospitals have since switched to other materials, such as Vinyl, due to allergies. These materials often contain manmade rubber rather than the natural latex that people  are allergic to.

Natural or manmade, rubber makes a great material for gloves because it fits comfortably without overheating. These gloves are also waterproof, easy to make at low cost, and disposable. All of these are great qualities to have when you’re trying to prevent infection.

5. Shoe Soles

You may have noticed at some point that the soles of your shoes are made of rubber. There are a few reasons for this.

The first is that rubber is waterproof, which is why we make rain gear out of it. Rubber has the added advantage of increased traction, which makes it easier to move in. This made rubber-soled shoes the shoes of choice for athletes in years past.

EVA foam has since replaced rubber in most types of shoes. That being said, you can still find a rubber sole in some shoes if you know where to look.

6. Hoses

Hoses are another of the great uses of rubber. Rubber hoses are used in many different ways. They’re often used in machinery because they’re flexible and resistant to heat and any damage caused by the material.

It’s also used in fire hoses because it’s resistant to heat and various forms of damage.

It’s used in firefighters’ clothing for the same reason. Rubber’s heat resistance helps firefighters stay comfortable in the most dangerous situations. Trenchcoats and shirts of wool add more protection from the fire itself.

7. Electric Wires

You may have learned in a school science class that rubber does not conduct electricity. Electrical companies have also taken notice of this fact, and cover most of their wires with the material.

This innovation has helped protect untold numbers of people and pets from the dangers of exposed wires.

8. Rubber Bands

Technically, rubber bands are made to hold things in place or together. However, humanity has come up with numerous other uses, both for convenience and entertainment.

Whether you tied your hair in place with a rubber band or weaponized it by putting it on two fingers and pulling the other end back, we’ve all used rubber bands at some point.

Of course, nothing made from rubber could ever be without the process of rubber mold making. We have this process to thank for tires, hoses, shoes, and so many other items.

9. Rubber Ducks

Rubber ducks have been around since the 1940s, though in the beginning they weren’t meant to be used in the bathtub. Later models made alterations to make the ducks later so they would float.

Despite their name, rubber ducks were only made from rubber for a short time. These days, the cute little toys are vinyl, which is made partially with rubber.

The Many Uses of Rubber

Many uses of rubber have been discovered over the years. In fact, it has become one of the most useful materials in the world.

We’ve mentioned some of these uses in the paragraphs above, but there are many more out there. We encourage you to do more research on your own if you’re interested.

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