Does cardboard absorb sound? And how to maximize their effectiveness?​

Does cardboard absorb sound? And how to maximize their effectiveness?

Many people who face with noise issues prefer to first deal with it themselves, experimenting with different materials to soundproof their surroundings. In this post, we take a closer look and find out does cardboard absorb sound? Is cardboard good for soundproofing?

It is important to know that cardboard does not absorb sound, but it does help in soundproofing by reducing echo and the transmission of sound in any given space, especially when placed along walls and ceilings. This is more so when using corrugated cardboards, which can be folded and turned into a makeshift soundproof panel. 

Although it is not the best material to use for soundproofing, those who are on a budget will find some benefits to using them. 

Read on to find out more!

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Dampening Sound With Cardboard

Making use of cardboards for soundproofing is not something new. In fact, even engineers and teachers have been using them as a temporary soundproofing solution, using them to control vibration and rattling.

If you are in need of a quick and easy way to reduce noise from transferring from one place to another, stacking a few cardboards together can do the trick. However, be careful where you use them as cardboards are easily flammable. Do not use them near a heat or fire source!

Is Cardboard Good for Soundproofing?

The answer to this question depends on your individual situation. For most people, using cardboards for soundproofing can be a very effective solution. Cardboards are cheap and readily available, and it is a good way to teach your kids about recycling!

Knowing a bit more about how sound travels is useful when you are embarking on a soundproofing project. Firstly, you should know that sounds travel through air. Which is why, there is actually no sound in space, since it exists in a vacuum. With this knowledge, we are able to make more effective soundproofing products or tools to cut down noise.

If you are using cardboard for soundproofing, be sure to use corrugated cardboards. They typically come in 4 different types, with C and E fluting (grooves) being the most common:

  • A fluting – 1/4 inch thick
  • B fluting – 1/8 inch thick
  • C fluting – 3/32 inch thick
  • E fluting – 1/16 inch thick

corrugated cardboard flute sizes

(sorry about the low resolution image)

Based on studies conducted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), it is shown that corrugated cardboards are up to 40% more effective than standard gypsum drywall panels at dampening sounds in the mid to high range.

Corrugated cardboards have hollow squares in between layers and that is the secret to noise dampening. These spaces will contain the sound and prevent echoing. 

The study have also shown that E fluting cardboard is the most effective, so now you know which is the best to use!

Hey, quick one. If you intend to start a soundproofing project soon, check out our Best Materials for Soundproofing post to get a headstart. Most projects require similar materials, so this post will save you a ton of time researching.

Does Cardboard have Sound Absorption or Sound Dampening Properties?

As discussed above, corrugated cardboard does not actually absorb sounds. They work by dampening sounds instead due to the air pockets in between the flutes. And because of that, they can be relied on to effectively reduce the transfer of sounds, and the effect is enhanced when you stack multiple layers on each other. 

Does Cardboard Reflect Sound?

Most of the sound directed on a cardboard cannot be reflected, only a small amount. If you wish to use it to reflect sound, you can add a layer of aluminium foil, but take note that they might mess up cellphone and wifi signals though. 

Can Corrugated Cardboard Help with Soundproofing?

To some extent, yes it does. Since corrugated cardboard is good at sound dampening, combining a few cardboards together can make a good sound partition, which can be used in the corner of a room or in a study room to reduce noise.

As echo is greatly reduce, so does the amount of noise transmission.

Making your own cardboard acoustic panels

Investing in a set of acoustic panels is highly recommended when it comes to soundproofing a room. They look great and are highly effective at tuning out noises. The only thing is that the cost can quickly add up especially when the room is large. 

By making your own cardboard acoustic panels, you can significantly reduce the amount of money that you spend. What’s more, it is a fun way to teach the kids about soundproofing and you can turn it into an arts and craft project by decorating the panels with colorful craft paper or drawing on them.

To get this project done, all you need are some corrugated cardboards, preferably the ones with E-fluting, a utility knife, glue, and tape. If you are sticking them on your walls, I would recommend using Command Strips as they won’t damage the surface when you remove them (adds to your cost though). 

Sticking at least 2 or more layers of cardboard together will form a great defense against sounds and echo. When assembled, you can stick them on the walls and ceilings in a checkered arrangement for maximum effectiveness. It will look something like a chess board:

how to mount acoustic sound panels

This is one project that is inexpensive, quick to make, and works very well.

Cardboard Box Soundproofing School Project

I remember back in school, we used to have this fun science project where we had to make a soundproof cardboard box. Did you learn this in school too?

The goal was to make a box that can effectively block out noise coming from an object placed inside the box. It was either a metronome or something similar. We had to line the cardboard box with materials and see whose box was the best at soundproofing. 

Looking back at it now, I can imagine that this kind of box would be a good fix for a loud device such as a sump pump or a blender. In fact, cardboards can also be used as a base for such devices to reduce vibrations. I’m not sure if you have seen this before, but I vividly recall contractors using cardboards during construction in order to reduce floor vibrations too.

Alternative soundproofing materials

Some homeowners might find that using cardboards as a soundproofing solution does not gel well with their home decor, rightly so I would say. It is not easy to turn your homemade acoustic panels into something that looks like a professional solution. Or you might not have enough cardboard to go around. 

Here are two of my favourite soundproofing materials that can be used almost everywhere in the house.

Acoustic panels

Learn more

Learn more

Soundproof curtains

Learn more

Learn more

Learn more about sound deadening curtains.

Conclusion: Does cardboard absorb sound?

Not only are cardboards cheap and easily available, they have to be one of the most value for money ways to reduce noise. While they are not as effective as purpose built tools such as acoustic panels, they can be a decent alternative that does not require much effort to make at all.

Just remember, try to use corrugated cardboards with E-fluting and use multiple layers whenever possible. This will enhance its effectiveness.

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Bryant Littlewood is the Chief Editor behind SoundproofingHacks. He shares all the lessons he has learned in turning his home and office into quiet sanctuaries across the blog posts here. Bryant is also a part-time audiophile, and some of the posts here will reflect that passion of his too. Connect with him on LinkedIn or read more on the about page.