Rubber Imports: How Cheap Gets Expensive

By Flor Howell

How “Made in the USA” Translates into Dollars and Cents

The following are answers to frequently asked questions regarding imported rubber products.

Question 1: Why are imported sheet rubber products so inexpensive?

—Answer: Most imported sheet rubber products are heavily loaded with fillers and regrind ingredients, which are low cost ingredients that significantly degrade the material’s performance characteristics.

Question 2: Do low priced imports meet any specifications?

—Answer: It is difficult for any product to meet a specification that contains a high percentage of regrind and filler materials, which is the case with most low priced imported sheet materials

Question 3: Do any import sheet suppliers offer products that meet specifications?

—Answer: Yes, BUT they generally cost much more than their low priced import counterparts and offer little or no price incentive over a similar grade of domestic sheet. When you factor in the extensive lead times to get import sheet products to the USA, it would be hard to find any benefit.

Question 4: How can a potential buyer of import sheet rubber be assured of consistent product quality from one purchase to the next?

—Answer: They CANNOT! Unless there is a way of consistently measuring product quality, there is no way to guarantee product uniformity. This is the function of the specification.

Question 5: How can I be assured that imported product will offer acceptable service in applications?

—Answer: Without a product specification, which at a minimum tests rubber for heat aging, compression set recovery and possibly oil resistance, there is no way to be sure that a product will perform satisfactorily in an application. It might be acceptable one time and not the other.

Question 6: Why is low priced import rubber sheet heavier than their domestic sheet rubber counterparts?

—Answer: The specific gravity of fillers and regrind is much higher than the polymer content the products are supposed to contain. The more fillers you use, the heavier the product becomes, resulting in a higher actual price paid per lineal foot when buying by the pound, as most imported product is sold by the pound.

Question 7: Why do most import sheet rubber products have such a strong odor?

—Answer: The use of high levels of regrind rubber is generally the reason for the strong odor. High levels of regrind material significantly degrade the physical properties and performance of the material.

Flor Howell is the Marketing Manager at WARCO.

If you have any specific questions that you would like us to answer, email your questions to or you may contact us directly at (714) 532-3355