Trying to relax and enjoy a little peace and quiet in the comfort of your own home can often seem impossible as engine noise, chatter, and noisy neighbors seem inescapable.
It’s enough to drive you to distraction and search for all manner of weird and wonderful ways to mute the endless clatter and find a little well-deserved silence.
But there are easier ways than completely gutting, redesigning, and relocating your home to shut the world out.
And the simplest, and most effective way to increase the peace and quiet inside your home is with soundproof curtains. But, do they really work?
What Are Soundproof Curtains?
Before we go any further, we should probably clear the air and talk about the elephant in the room.
Technically, there is no such thing as soundproof curtains, so if you were swept up in the idea that there was a miraculous way to cut all of the sound emanating from the inside and coming from outside of a room and your home by hanging a pair of curtains, then it’s time to put your feet back on the ground, as there is no magical solution to noise pollution.
You’re not alone though, as most people who hear the term “soundproof curtains” think that they’ll be the answer to their prayers and that they’re an easy way to completely eliminate and eradicate any obtrusive and intrusive noise.
Don’t get us wrong, the best soundproof curtains will reduce the amount of noise pollution coming into your home from the outside world, and the amount of noise that leaves it, but the curtains aren’t completely soundproof.
A more appropriate description of them would probably be by sound deadening or dampening curtains, but the populist name stuck, so they’ve become known as soundproof curtains.
Now that we’ve cleared that issue up and you’re aware that you can’t totally wipe out out the noise from the world outside your home with some soft furnishings, we should probably look at the way that sound works and how it makes its way into your home before we explain how to soundproof, or sound dampening curtains work.
The Speed And Progress Of Sound
You can’t see or touch sound, but you can feel it. If you’ve ever been relatively close to a fighter plane when it roars overhead and breaks through the sound barrier, you’ll have felt the moment that it broke it as the “sonic boom” washes over you.
Or you may have felt the bass from a subwoofer in a car or a home stereo rolls over you when the volume has been turned up.
That’s because sound travels in waves, and if there’s nothing to stop the progress of those waves and their movement isn’t impeded in any way, you’ll not only be able to hear the sound, but in some instances, if it’s loud enough, you’ll also be able to feel it.
When sounds enter your home, the waves that it’s carried on are significantly slowed down and their energy dampened by the walls, windows, and doors (which act as physical barriers) of your house.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to hear the noise, you will, but its energy and volume will have been greatly reduced by having passed through the solid matter before it reaches you.
And the thicker that matter is, the less energy the sound waves will have when they reach you, and the less energy they possess, the quieter the waves, or the noise that they’re conveying, will be.
That means that walls are more effective at blocking out noise than doors are, and doors are more effective at reducing outside noise than windows are.
It is possible to reduce the sound deadening impact that windows can have by ensuring that the windows in your home are double glazed (which also makes them more energy efficient) or are made from thicker glass, but as they’re the primary source of sound actually making it into your home, it makes more sense to attempt cut the sound off and minimize it, at the point of entrance than anywhere else.
And that’s what makes soundproof curtains such an invaluable, and much sought after, soft furnishing resource.
How Do Soundproof Curtains Work?
It’s all to do with the way that they’re designed and made.
Remember we told you how sound waves travel and that the thicker the object or matter that they came with, the more resistance they’d encounter, and how that resistance (the more solid or thicker something is, the more resistance a sound wave would encounter, so the less energy it would have when it eventually passed through it and the quieter it would be when it eventually reached you) could reduce the volume of the noise that reached you?
That’s the principle that soundproof curtains work on, and adhere to.
The Bigger, The Better - Soundproof curtains are much bigger than normal curtains and the bigger they are the better they are at doing what they were made to do.
Their drop length is usually much longer than that of a standard curtain, and more often than not a soundproof curtain will reach all the way to the floor, rather than halfway down a wall.
They’re also much wider than standard curtains, as soundproof curtains are made to cover the entire volume of a window without leaving any gaps, and the best way to do that is to have a degree of overlap where the curtains meet in the middle.
The smallest gap in a curtain can let in a surprising amount of sound, with some scientists claiming that even a one percent crack in the area covered by a curtain could be responsible for letting in up to forty percent of the ambient noise from outside.
The bigger the overlap, and the greater the drop length of a curtain, the more effective it is at deadening and dampening sound.
Increased Density - The thicker the material that a soundproof curtain is made from, the denser and heavier, and more solid it’ll be.
The denser a curtain is, the more energy it’ll absorb from sound waves as they hit it, and the more energy they absorb from that sound wave, the weaker (and thus quieter) it’ll be when it passes through them.
That’s why soundproof curtains are heavier and much thicker than normal curtains are, as they’re designed to minimize the amount of sound (energy) that can pass through them and into your, or any other, home. The thicker a curtain is, the better it is at absorbing, and deadening sound.
Pleating And Material - The material that soundproof curtains are made of, and from, is also vitally important as the more absorbent and uneven it is, the more it’ll reflect and absorb the sound waves that hit it, and believe it or not the deeper the pleats are on a curtain the more effective it’ll be at deadening any unwanted noise.
One of the most important facets of a soundproof curtain is its ability to act as an acoustic mirror.
The more effective it is at reflecting the sound wave that strikes it the less energy from that sound wave that it will have to absorb, which in turn will minimize the amount of energy or noise that can pass through the curtain.
The rougher the material that a curtain is made from, the more energy that it will be able to reflect, and the more absorbent that material is, the less sound that can pass through it.
It seems almost counter-intuitive when choosing curtains to decorate your home with, but just because they’re bigger and heavier, it doesn’t mean that soundproof curtains can’t look good AND keep your home quiet.
They can, and do. It just might take you a little longer to find the pair that’s right for you and your home.
The Unexpected Benefits Of Soundproof Curtains
As well as helping to shut out the noise of the world, soundproof curtains have a number of unexpected and welcome secondary advantages, which have helped to endear them to generations of homeowners.
Exit Light, Enter Night - Because they’re so big, dense, and heavy, they also make incredibly effective blackout curtains. Like these ones.
If you to make sure that a room stays dark, for instance, a living room or a man cave in which you’re going to be watching a lot of television or playing video games and want to prevent light streaming in through the window reflecting off the screen and ruining your enjoyment of either or both, a set of soundproof curtains could be the solution to your problem.
Light pollution can be just as disruptive to your happy home life as noise pollution is, and has been linked in numerous scientific studies to a rise in insomnia among adults.
So fitting soundproof curtains in your bedroom can improve the quality of your sleep, and the amount of it that you actually get. And the more quality sleep that you get, the healthier and better you’ll feel.
Their effectiveness at reducing the amount of sound and light that can enter any room, also makes them ideal for a new nursery.
When you bring the new addition to your family home, your baby is going to need all of the sleep that she or he can get, and as any parent knows the slightest unexpected noise or disturbance can disrupt your baby’s routine and can be the reason that they lose sleep and end up becoming cranky and disruptive.
By fitting a pair of soundproof curtains in a new nursery, you’ll be increasing the chance that your newborn will sleep through the night far more easily, and quickly than they might have done otherwise.
Less Energy, Less Cost - Then there’s the other unexpected and incredibly welcome bonus of fitting soundproof curtains in your home.
They’re big, they’re heavy and they are made to completely cover a window, which means that when they’re drawn in the middle of winter, they’ll effectively help to insulate the windows in your home and reduce the amount of heat that can be lost through an ill-fitted, or badly sealed window.
And if you lose less heat through the windows, it’ll cost you less to keep your home warm during the winter months, and anything that can help to save a few dollars in the current economic climate is always a welcome addition to any home.
It isn’t just winter that soundproof curtains and the extra insulation that they provide can help to save money in either as it works equally well during summer.
They won’t just keep the heat in, they’ll also help to keep the cold air from your air conditioner circulating and prevent it from escaping, and as they’ll also help to minimize the amount of sunshine making it into your home, you’ll also feel the impact of the added cool factor in your pocketbook and bank balance when things start to get really hot.
Even if you don't have a window in the room you can hang a soundproof curtain in front of a wall. This works especially well to soundproof existing drywalls.
Drawing Back The Curtains
Nothing in life is perfect and there are, in case you haven’t already guessed, a number of drawbacks to installing soundproof curtains in your home.
The qualities that imbue soundproof curtains with all of their monumental advantages, can also limit them and their everyday appeal.
Fitting - They’re big, bulky, and incredibly heavy which means that fitting soundproof curtains can also be an incredibly difficult task.
As they’re so much heavier, longer, and wider than a standard set of curtains, they need additional support when they’re hanging and a standard curtain rail won’t cut it.
If you’re going to fit soundproof curtains you’ll probably need to change your existing curtain rail for one that can take the extra weight strain.
If you’re not sure what sort of curtain rail you will need, always ask the clerk at your local hardware store as they’ll be able to point you in the right direction and make sure that you don’t leave the store with the wrong rail.
Alternately, you could always fit a heavy-duty ceiling rail that’ll easily be able to cope with, and handle the extra weight of a pair of soundproof curtains, and can make whatever room(s) you’re going to fit the curtains in look quirky and give them a real feeling, and sense of individuality.
Laundry - Cleaning soundproof curtains is the part of the deal that tends to put a lot of people off fitting them, and it’s easy to see why.
Because they’re so much heavier and larger than normal curtains, trying to clean them in a normal washing machine and dry them in a tumble is a no-go.
Their weight can burn out the motor in your washing machine, and even if they could be put in the drier, the additional weight of the water when combined with the curtain would kill your drier in under ninety seconds.
The only way to clean soundproof curtains is to either wash them by hand and let them dry on the washing line or to have them cleaned professionally.
And before you can do either, you’ll have to take them down and then rehang them when they are clean, and given how big they are, that isn’t exactly easy to do.
Choosing To Soundproof
So, now that you know soundproof curtains work, and what the advantages and drawbacks to fitting them are, we’re going to run through some of the things that you’ll need to know before you decide to invest in a pair. If you want to soundproof your room then get these steps right.
A sort of best practice buyer's guides, if you will. What do you need to know about buying soundproof curtains?
We’re glad you asked, and we’re going to tell you what you should look for and need to know, in a hand step-by-step, easy-to-follow set of soundproof curtain rules.
Sizing Up - Guessing and estimation is a fool’s errand when it comes to choosing the right soundproof curtains.
Measure the size of the window that you’ll need them to cover, and add an additional six inches on either side and take note of the size of the drop (the height) from the point that you intend to fit either a curtain rail or a ceiling rail.
You’ll need the additional inches to ensure that the curtains comfortably overlap each other in order to eliminate the possibility of there being any gaps in their coverage and an extra couple of inches on either side of the window to make sure of the same.
Remember, you’ll want your curtains to completely cover any and all windows.
The Right Material - The higher the fibre count of the material that the curtains are made of, the better they’ll be at doing what they’re supposed to do.
Velvet, suede, or polyester are ideal, and if you can find a set of curtains made from these materials, don’t think about the decision for too long, as you’re not going to find a more suitable material.
But if you’re stuck at the store, and can’t find curtains made from the previously mentioned materials, a sturdy set of thermal weave or thermal insulated curtains should work just as well.
Go Dense - The denser the material the curtain is made from, the better it’s going to be at deadening the noise from outside your home.
While it’s easy enough to gauge the thickness of a curtain by touch, there’s a guaranteed method to choosing the right thickness of curtain that never fails.
Take a handheld battery-operated torch to the store with you, and when you’ve found the curtains you like, switch the torch on and try to shine it through the curtain.
If any light comes through the other side, then the material isn’t quite dense enough to be an effective soundproof curtain. But if there isn’t even the faintest glimmer of light, you’ve found a winning soundproof curtain.
Size Is Everything - Armed with your measurements, it’s a fairly easy task to find the right curtains, but if you can, always choose soundproof curtains that are slightly larger than you need.
The overlap will help to make sure that there are no gaps in the fit of the curtains, and no gaps mean less sound can make it through them.
As we’ve already said, size is everything and the bigger your soundproof curtains are, the better they’ll be at helping to eradicate outside noise.
Don’t Forget - If you’re going to be fitting heavy-duty soundproof curtains in your home, you’re going to need to fit heavy-duty curtain rails. It’s an easy thing to forget, but if you do, you could easily come unstuck when our curtains come crashing down around you.
The Soundproof Curtain Conclusion
While their name is slightly misleading, and they won’t completely eliminate any sound and noise pollution, soundproof curtains are an effective and affordable way to minimize the amount of noise that finds its way into your home from the world outside your windows. They may not be perfect, but few things in life ever are.