Soundproofing Paint and Other Myths

Soundproofing paint and other common soundproofing suggestions that simply don't work. Skip these, and save yourself time and money.

How wonderful it would be if effective soundproofing came in the form of a paint! It would be a true dream product, easily solving many noise problems. But alas, such a product is (for now, at least) just a dream.

The idea of "soundproofing paint" is not the only myth you might encounter. Whenever a student, hobbyist, or aspiring musician asks for ideas about cheap ways to soundproof a room, someone will suggest egg crates — you can count on it! Others will swear by mattresses, thick curtains, foam panels, or carpet on the walls. While some of these might indeed be cheap, they will do next to nothing to block noise.

When you're planning a soundproofing project, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort if you know the things that won't work.

Materials That Are NOT Good at Blocking Sound:

  • Egg crates or egg cartons
  • Ordinary curtains, drapes, or blankets
  • Mattresses
  • Carpet on the walls
  • Foam panels
  • Foam insulation
  • Mineral wool
  • Paint
  • House plants

Some of these materials can be great for other purposes. Although foam insulation is a poor sound blocking material, it's excellent for thermal insulation. House plants add aesthetic beauty and may contribute to indoor air quality.

However, some of these materials are not just ineffective at soundproofing but may be undesirable or even hazardous. Egg cartons are highly flammable. Mattresses and carpet on the walls can accumulate moisture, leading to mold and causing bad odors.

Why the Confusion?

If these don't work, then why are they so often suggested as soundproofing solutions? Part of the reason is that these materials, or materials similar to these, often do make good sound absorbers, and many people don't realize that sound blocking and sound absorption are two quite different things — what works well for one purpose may be useless for the other purpose.

So, what's the difference? Read more: Noise blocking vs noise absorption

Another source of confusion is that there are some materials and techniques similar to those on the list above that ARE effective for soundproofing.

Similar Materials and Techniques That DO Work for Soundproofing:

  • Carpet and padding on the floor are highly effective at reducing the transmission of impact noise to the room below, great for soundproofing.
  • Foam or neoprene padding can be put under bass speakers or under a computer case to isolate them from the floor, reducing the transmission of sound and vibration through the building structure.
  • Standard fiberglass insulation plays a minor role in overall soundproofing when it is used to loosely fill the space between wall panels.
  • Noise control curtains are industrial soundproof curtain products specially designed to block sound by incorporating a very heavy layer inside.
  • Straw bales, while not practical to use in most situations, are effective sound blockers. They have a sound transmission class (STC) of about 55.

Read more: Effective soundproofing materials

See also:
Basic Principles of Soundproofing

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