Rubber Restoration: Breathing New Life Into Elastomer Washers

How many rubber washers and seals have you thrown out just because they degraded? Be it the fault of heavy use, improper application, or bad design, not all rubber washers last for decades.

Unlike stainless steel washers, their elastomer counterparts have a definite shelf life, the length of which depends on numerous factors, such as the type of elastomer used as well as the environment to which it’s exposed. The deterioration of a washer can lead to unexpected breakdowns of the equipment and costly downtime.

Ideally, these components should be updated before deterioration becomes a critical issue. For example, you would promptly update your superior steel flat washers if you noticed any rust or wear forming around a fastener assembly. The situation is no different with the breakdown of rubber seals and gaskets.  

If you don’t have an opportunity to replace the rubber part in a timely manner, it’s possible to restore it. Restoring a rubber seal can help your equipment last long enough until you can find the right replacement. With proper restoration techniques, maintenance, and care, numerous rubber types can be restored to excellent functionality.

Experts from the U.S.’s leading steel washer manufacturer shared several simple rubber washer restoration steps, which you can use in an emergency. 

Buy High-Quality Elastomer Restoration Products

You can find a wide variety of rubber restoration products on the market today, however, the majority of them are not required. You can get the job done with the right set of simple household cleaning products and a few special tools. Here is what you’ll need.

  • Cotton cloth
  • Bristled brush
  • Abrasive file
  • Emery sanding cloth 
  • Mild soap
  • Rubber solvent
  • Rubber conditioner
  • Saucepan
  • Tongs

You also need to wear gloves to keep your hands safe and protect surrounding surfaces with newspapers or pieces of cloth. 

The above-mentioned products deal mostly with natural rubber washers. Neoprene and silicone may require a more complicated approach. 

Get Started

The steps to rubber restoration are quite simple.

  • Clean the rubber washer from dirt, grease, and debris. Give the washer a good scrub. After removing the top layer of dirt with soap and water, apply the rubber solvent. Rinse the rubber part off with warm water and dry with a cloth. Make sure the washer is completely dry. 
  • Apply the rubber conditioner, which you can find at hardware stores or auto parts shops. Rub it into the washer with a cloth. As soon as complete saturation is achieved, remove the excess conditioner from the surface.
  • If the rubber washer is damaged so badly that the above steps didn’t help restore it to a satisfactory condition, you may want to remove the damaged surface by using an Emery cloth. You need to be very careful to avoid taking off too much, so start gently. Once the damaged parts are safely removed, repeat the previous step until the rubber washer or seal is clean and can be securely fitted in place.

Do not rely solely on this method to maintain your equipment. It’s necessary to replace rubber washers and gaskets from time to time. Consider this approach a temporary step if you cannot get a replacement washer in a timely manner. 

Use An Alternative Method

If the rubber seal or washer you are dealing with is not heavily damaged, you can use a lighter method. Take a saucepan, add some mild soap and water. Boil it and put the washer inside. By using tongs, remove the part from the water every five minutes to check its condition. With time, it may be fully restored.  While the above methods won’t make your rubber washers last as long as steel flat washers, they could help you avoid unexpected issues and give you a little extra time to purchase new components. …