Many people know that placing a shaggy rug with a carpet pad on a hardwood floor and some thick drapes on the windows can absorb everyday echoes and change the acoustics of a room for the better. But then what? If you want to bring the rest of your house to a more generalized state of peace and quiet, CR’s experts have several other sound-silencing secrets.

Laundry Room

Insulate around appliances. If you’re constructing a laundry room close to your bedrooms, ask your contractor to add acoustic insulation to the interior walls to reduce the laundry ruckus.

More on Noise

Drop the hammer. If your washing machine is rattling your pipes, you may have a problem known as “water hammer,” where the opening and closing of the machine’s water valves vibrate your plumbing. “It’s not only annoying, it’s bad for the pipes,” says Jim Nanni, CR’s associate director of large-appliance testing. His suggestion: Install a water hammer arrester on the hot and cold connections.

Cool it on the alerts. Don’t care when your dryer’s done with a load? Certain laundry machines have settings that let you turn down—or turn off—their end-of-cycle alerts, although that may cause you to miss out on “fresh from the dryer” jammies.

Kitchen

Clean it later. Don’t let your dishwasher’s gurgling compete with after-dinner conversation around the kitchen island. Instead of running your dishwasher right away, load it up with detergent and dishes when you clean up after a meal, then use the delay start function to schedule a cleaning cycle for after you’ve gone to bed.

Don’t be alarmed. Tired of hearing your smoke alarm go off every time you burn toast? Don Huber, CR’s director of product safety, recommends placing your smoke detector at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances to cut down on nuisance alarms. Don’t have that kind of space in your kitchen? Move it to a nearby wall or a ceiling in an adjacent room.


This article is part of a series on noise in everyday consumer products. Learn more by reading "The Science of Sound: How the Products You Use Everyday Are Engineered for Your Ears."
 

Gadgets

Use “Do Not Disturb.” Most phones and laptops come with a “just leave me alone” setting. “The Do Not Disturb setting keeps your devices from bothering you when you’re winding down for bed,” says Maria Rerecich, Consumer Reports’ senior director of product testing. For Android phones and iPhones, look under Settings. On a Mac, Do Not Disturb is in the Notifications section of System Preferences. On Windows 10, the feature is called Focus Assist. You’ll find it under System in the Settings menu.

Hush your smart speaker. If you enable “whisper mode” on Amazon Alexa-powered smart devices, when you whisper to Alexa, she’ll whisper back to you. No need to twist the volume dial. Similarly, Google Home devices have a “night mode” that lowers LED brightness and automatically turns down the volume of spoken responses.

Television

Even out the sound. Are you constantly adjusting the sound on your set? Certain TVs can do that for you. “They can automatically lower the TV’s volume during louder scenes or limit the volume differences when commercials come on, or as you switch between channels,” says Claudio Ciacci, who heads TV testing at Consumer Reports. Look for this control in the audio settings; it’s sometimes called Auto Volume or Dynamic Range Compression.

Put on some headphones. Spouse trying to fall asleep while you watch Colbert’s monologue? Many TVs now have built-in Bluetooth—that means you can turn off the TV’s speakers and beam sound to a pair of wireless headphones.


Podcast: Product Noise Testing and Design



Which Products Are Damaging Your Hearing?

Some outdoor yard equipment is so noisy it can damage your hearing within 15 minutes. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert Eric Hagerman explains how CR tests to find out how loud—and dangerous—these products can be to your hearing.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.