In my endless quest for the ultimate soundproofing materials I’ve tried plenty, both cheap and expensive, but one that was suggested to me was using bubble wrap as an inexpensive soundproofing solution.
So, can bubble wrap be used for soundproofing? Bubble wrap is not a good idea for soundproofing a room, mainly because it doesn’t have enough mass. The air pockets in bubble wrap might offer the tiniest amount of sound reduction, but the upkeep and replacement make it not worth the hassle.
When it comes to soundproofing, there are plenty of inexpensive options you can try that’ll offer some level of noise reduction. If you want to know about which inexpensive soundproofing techniques work, read this article.
However, none will be as effective as custom designed products. In this article I cover some of the best inexpensive (but temporary) soundproofing solutions, along with why expensive alternatives are generally better.
Bubble Wrap for Soundproofing
On the surface, bubble wrap might seem like the ideal soundproofing material. After all, it’s inexpensive, easily available, and its design seems like it would do a good job because it’s filled with pockets of air. So why is it such a bad idea?
The first reason why bubble wrap is useless is because of its lack of mass. Mass is the most useful tool in a soundproofer’s inventory, as the right kind of mass can absorb, deflect, and dissipate sound waves, thereby offering the most effective soundproofing.
As we’ve established, bubble wrap has none of these things. It’s incredibly thin plastic sheeting filled with air, which is almost the complete opposite of what we need in a soundproofing project.
The second thing worth noting is that the plastic itself can help sound waves bounce. The structure of the plastic provides a very flat surface that has no sound absorption qualities, meaning the sound waves can bounce off it, usually in many different directions. This is again the opposite of what you want from a soundproofing material.
Then, most importantly when it comes to an at-home soundproofing project, is installation. Considering it’s likely you’ll be doing this work yourself, you want something that’s easy to install with minimal effort and materials. Realistically, bubble wrap is none of these things.
Imagine trying to stick bubble wrap to a surface. You’d need to apply pressure to bond it to the surface, which in turn will inevitably pop some, if not many, of the air pockets, which would render it essentially useless before you’ve even finished installation.
Finally is the upkeep of the bubble wrap. The product isn’t designed for permanent use, and the bubbles lose their air after a while. How long this takes can depend on a range of things, including heat, and means that you’d have to replace the bubble wrap every few weeks. Not only is this unsustainable, it’s a lot of work for minimal results.
So to recap, bubble wrap is useless for soundproofing because:
- Bubble wrap has little to no mass, which is not what you need for soundproofing.
- It’ll be a pain to install and will need to be replaced every few weeks.
- If anything, bubble wrap could make things worse because of the sound reflection qualities of the plastic.
It’s understandable that some people look for soundproofing on a budget, because it can become incredibly expensive if you have a big space and want to use the best materials.
There are some things you can use to cut costs, but you should also understand that soundproofing is never going to be cheap. If it was then all houses would already be soundproof.
What are the Best Inexpensive Soundproofing Materials?
When it comes to soundproofing on a budget, there are plenty of options you can try, but some will be much more effective than others.
Below is a list of some of the best options if you’re looking to save a bit of money. But first, it’s worth knowing the golden rules of soundproofing because they’ll help you make a good decision on what products will work for you.
- Mass is key. The most useful thing you can do is add mass. While this can be anything, the best kind of mass is something that’s heavy, but has a level of flexibility, which will help absorb sound waves.
- Fill gaps. Much like heating insulation, the key to effective soundproofing is filling gaps. Sound can travel through even the tiniest holes, so pay attention to details.
- Planning is crucial. If you’re serious about soundproofing a space, regardless of how big it is, you need to plan. This will help you decide a budget, your options, and whether you need professional help for the more complicated tasks.
Now that you know the golden rules of soundproofing, we can move on with the list of inexpensive options. These are listed in order of effectiveness, although this is hard to gauge properly because it will depend on the individual setting and project. Also, it’s worth using one or more of these options because they cover different areas of a room.
1. Car sound deadener
There are plenty of products designed to reduce ambient noise in a vehicle’s cabin, and some also offer heat insulation and vibration reduction. Some examples of these products include Dynamat, Noico, and Hushmat (Amazon links).
I’ve written a lot of articles about these sound deadeners in my car soundproofing section. Go check them out.
The reason these products are effective is because they’re made from butyl rubber, which is a synthetic material that has excellent sound absorption and dissipation properties.
What’s more, each mat has a self-adhesive backing that makes installation a breeze. While they’re not necessarily designed for use around the home, some companies, like Dynamat, claim their product is very versatile and can be used in household soundproofing projects.
If you were considering bubble wrap for your project because it’s thin and light, then car sound deadeners will be a good option for you. You could easily cover a whole room in the mats in under a day, and they’ll offer decent noise reduction.
2. Soundproof curtains
Soundproof curtains are easily available online, and are designed to offer plenty of mass, which allows them to deflect and absorb sound. However, the very nature of a curtain doesn’t work amazingly when it comes to soundproofing, but these can make a difference.
I’d recommend using soundproof curtains on the weakest areas of the room, which will usually be doors and windows. These are the hardest areas to soundproof because you can’t usually use a permanent solution, so curtains work well.
Installing a curtain rail above your door won’t be too difficult, and this allows you to reduce noise pollution while the door is shut. If you can’t afford dedicated soundproof curtains then try heavy drapes, although these won’t be as effective.
Read my guide on what to look for while buying soundproofing curtains. I highly recommend you read it before you make purchases.
Weatherstripping is a product designed to improve insulation on doors and windows while also eliminating drafts. Luckily, it’s also pretty good at reducing noise pollution in these areas too.
All weatherstripping does is reduce the gaps around a door or window. It’s really cheap and easy to buy almost anywhere, so even if it doesn’t give the best results it’s definitely worth throwing in there.
If your door has a large gap under it then buy a door sweep designed for heating installation. These are easy to install, and some fancy models pop up while the door is opening, which puts less wear on the product.
4. Acoustic caulking/sealant
Again, this addresses the issue of gaps around doors and windows. Rather than using a normal sealant, which dries and can crack, use an acoustic sealant.
The product retains some amount of elasticity, which not only reflects sound waves to an extent, but also means the sealant doesn’t crack if the building moves.
The best one to buy is Green Glue (Amazon link) because this is specifically designed for soundproofing and turns sound waves into heat energy, meaning it’s even more effective at sound reduction. This is also a really useful thing to have lying around if you’re building things because it works pretty well as glue.
Why is Expensive Better?
The main thing with these options is that they do help, but they’re not great. My 2 go-to products for soundproofing a room are mass loaded vinyl or drywall, combined with things like decoupling. These are easily the best products, but they’re not cheap.
The reason they’re so good (well, mass loaded vinyl at least) is because they have mass and are designed to help with soundproofing. While some people might not have the budget to afford these products, they’re worth it if you can. After all, what’s the point in starting a soundproofing project at all if you’re not going to do it seriously?
The most important thing to take away from this article is that things like bubble wrap and egg boxes do nothing to soundproof a room.
What you need is mass, and lots of it. Luckily, there are things that help if you’re on a budget, but it’s also worth remembering that soundproofing is never going to be cheap. However, if you’re serious about it then you won’t mind spending the money.