Fast, cheap, good, and hypoallergenic. Oh, and noise-reducing. That too.
August 1, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Give me your best machine-washable sound-dampening technologies. Curtains, mostly.

I've got a dust mite allergy and a street noise problem* in a rental house with single-pane windows circa 1910. I have an apartment sized (read: small) front-loading washer & dryer and the ability to install curtain rods. I seek your suggestions on a) textiles and b) hardware that will make it reasonably easy take the curtains down, wash them, and put them back up again frequently.

For bonus points, I also really prefer to wake up to some amount of natural light... but I recognize that there's a trade-off between translucency and noise insulation. (And cost, I'm sure.) I'm hoping someone out there might have the perfect solution, but expecting this will end up being more of a good enough compromise. Regardless, all thoughts welcome.

*2 parts drunk homeless dudes to 1 part backfiring engines, if it matters
posted by deludingmyself to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Are earplugs not an option?
posted by brainmouse at 3:51 PM on August 1, 2011

Curtains won't do anything for noise. Put them up if you want them for light filtering/blocking if you want, but for sound, you need to seal up the windows. Any small gap where air can get in is where sound can get in. You can get a tube of removable caulk at the hardware store to glue up the edges; it's made for semi-temporary weatherproofing. I've found it can sometimes damage trim if the trim's already not in great shape, so be careful.

If you want noise insulation without closing the window, earplugs are your only option.
posted by echo target at 4:23 PM on August 1, 2011

A white noise machine. Single pane windows facing the street on the first floor. Curtains baffle sound a bit but it is negligible when the window is open. With the white noise machine (really an ipod and speaker with the SimplyNoise app) I actually sleep through the night now.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:17 PM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Earplugs aren't off the table, but I'm also hoping to address the heat loss/draft issue we experienced last winter, without making the windows unopenable, since we have no AC.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:23 PM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: That said, I don't expect them to block sound from an open window, just a closed one.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:26 PM on August 1, 2011

Best answer: I see a version of this solution in your linked question, but IMHO mine is a bit better, albeit more time consuming. If you're a little bit handy you can use cheap heat-shrink insulating window film and wood to create a removable interior storm windows/double pane. This solution isn't machine washable, but it doesn't collect dust/particles either, and the window film is transparent and nearly invisible when stretched properly. It will significantly reduce sound transmission, as well as reducing heat/cooling loss. You could combine it with the aforementioned curtains for an even better solution.

I've found that most window frames are nearly impossible to get the tape used with window film to stick properly because of uneven/rough attachment surfaces, and when removed it can leave hard-to-remove residue, so here's my solution to that problem.

Build a frame that fits just inside your existing window opening. Take your measurements then cut (or have cut at the hardware store) some 1.5x0.75 or 2x0.75 pine. Use screws to attach two brackets on each corner. One bracket in the middle of each joint isn't enough and the plastic window film will warp the frame when it is heat-shrunk. If your windows are severely warped just bend the brackets to match. Once your frame is assembled attach foam weather stripping to the outer edges of the frame so that it fits snugly in the existing window frame. If your existing window is very old you'll probably need thicker foam to fill in the "character" of the frame. Then apply the tape to one side, then plastic, then hair dryer to plastic. Insert the new storm window with the plastic side facing the window so that you have something to grip when removing them. A helper will make the assembly much, much easier unless you set up a jig.

It's possible to make this attractive with stain/paint and brass brackets, but I didn't bother.

Use this sort of film readily available at hardware stores in the cooler months, or by mailorder from and others.
posted by kgbrion at 2:21 AM on August 2, 2011

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