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How to restore your damaged rubber seals

Restoring damaged rubber sealsUnder the right circumstances and having the right tools to hand, you can restore rubber gasket seals and have them working as good as new in no time. 

Rubber gasket seals provide a seal between two separate mechanisms, providing airtight seals to keep liquids and gases in place. 

However, rubber is susceptible to drying and cracking over time; hence, the reason that eventually seals will need to be replaced. 

Seals can also become damaged in a number of situations. 

For example, heavy usage, incorrect specifications, and even the design of the actual applications and the effect of particular weather conditions can all play a role in a seal’s deterioration. 

The rubber itself has a definite shelf life, and over time, deterioration does happen, leading to complete failure on behalf of the seal, which can then have extremely detrimental effects on the overall application. 

Allowing damaged seals to deteriorate more can lead to leaks with fluids and gases, affecting pressure and even leading to structural failure when used in applications such as vehicles. 

Helping to save money, as well as avoid some of the issues mentioned above, is what restoring rubber seals can offer, especially when the alternative is to replace them with new ones. 

Restoring your rubber seals to greater functionality 

Having the right and most suitable tools for the job is the first step in any process. Luckily there is a wide variety of rubber restoring tools available. Excellent when it comes to helping with a range of different types of seals and applications, but having such a variety also makes it difficult, as it can make it harder to choose the right tool for the job. 

At Specialist Sealing Products, we recommend the use of rubber restoring tools combined with the use of everyday household cleaning products. 

Products that may come in handy for your restoration job include: 

  • Abrasive file 
  • Dry, cotton cloth 
  • Diluted bleach (or mild soap) 
  • Small bristle brush 
  • Emery or Aluminium Oxide sanding cloth 
  • Protective floor covers 
  • Protective wear, especially gloves 
  • Almond oil 
  • Rubber conditioner and solvent 
  • Cooking pot/saucepan (an old one that you no longer plan on using), and  
  • Tongs 

Of course, not all of these items will be required, but being prepared helps to keep any job simple and effective. 

The products mentioned above are ideally suited to natural rubber grades. For those that are manufactured with Nitrile, Silicone, Neoprene, and Viton may require more specific cleaning requirements. Make sure to speak to the team at SSP if you’re unsure. 

Steps to restoring your rubber seals 

  1. Prepare the rubber seal. Ensure all dirt/debris is cleaned from the rubber seal itself and the application. Dirt and grime are bad for rubber seals and causes them to deteriorate much faster. It’s important to clean off any paraffin wax, too, that may have come from the rubber itself after some time. This can be achieved by using a rubber solvent, available from most hardware stores. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to scrub. Scrubbing the rubber seal will not only remove all dirt attached to the rubber, but it also helps restore the overall appearance of the seal itself. The less dirt on a rubber seal, the less likely wear and tear will occur. If the seal is only slightly dirty, warm water and soap will work perfectly. For more stubborn dirt and grime, and if mould and mildew are present, then you will need a stronger solution, and in this instance, we’d recommend diluted bleach, drying thoroughly with a cotton cloth afterwards. 
  3. Apply a suitable conditioner. There is a range of rubber conditioners on the market for you to choose from. Choosing the right one is all down to personal preference, as well as the availability of the product. Make sure to rub the conditioner thoroughly into the seal, ensuring that the entire seal is saturated. Wipe off any excess conditioner. 
  4. Remove excessive damage. Even when following the most stringent of rubber restoring techniques, some parts of the seal may be too far gone to be repaired. If this is the case and there are parts of the seal that simply can’t be repaired, using the tools mentioned above, remove these areas completely. (Of course, it’s important not to remove too much, as you don’t want to render the seal entirely useless). Once the damaged areas have been removed, using a file or abrasive emery, buff the remainder parts to create a smooth gasket seal. Once the buffing has been carried out, you will then need to reapply the rubber conditioner to help restore the seals level of protection. 
  5. Help to increase the seals’ shelf life. Depending on the circumstances, repairs with certain adhesives and super glue may also keep the part alive for a little longer.  

Quick Restoration 

For those seals that are slightly weathered, a more straightforward method of submerging the seal in boiling water and soap will work fine. 

Using the tongs, you should look to remove the seal every 5 minutes to test its flexibility and overall condition. 

Restoration time will vary from seal to seal, but this method is a lot less labour intensive and still very effective. 

Cleaning smaller seals with Almond oil also helps to restore those seals which have lost their flexibility, cleaning away any dirt and grime in the process too. 

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