Mass Loaded Vinyl: Uses, Safety and Alternatives

Noise is everywhere around us! We find some sounds to be pleasant while the others really play with our nerves! Like that annoying neighbor playing loud music in the middle of the night! It's not that I don't like music, but sometimes I wish it wasn't so distracting!

A bit of creativity and exploring can offer you various solutions for problems with undesired noise. There are really many ways how to soundproof a place! The choice depends on your budget and, of course, the amount of noise you would like to reduce.

In today's article, I shall introduce you to Mass Loaded Vinyl, your new best friend in reducing unwanted sounds all around.

Mass Loaded Vinyl

What is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Ever since the 1960s, this material has been the most popular when it comes to soundproofing places. Today it's still one of the favorite choices among all those having troubles with various nerve-wrecking noises.

Mass Loaded Vinyl is a limp and heavy sheeting material impregnated with metal particles, whose purpose is to increase its mass. This sound blocking and flexible material is also known as "Limp Mass Barrier“.

What is Mass Loaded Vinyl made from?

Mass Loaded Vinyl (or MLV for short) is a combination of two ingredients, calcium carbonate or barium sulfate and polyvinylchloride (AKA as vinyl or PVC).

It's a viscoelastic material, which means that when the deformation happens, MLV exhibits both elastic and viscous characteristics. When stretched it returns in the previous shape once the stress stops. Viscous materials, take water for example, when the stress is applied, have the power to strain linearly and resist shear flow.

All the formulas and definitions sound so complicated, but what is their purpose if not to terrify you! Just kidding! The explanation is more than simple and practical.

When confronted with vibrations, Mass Loaded Vinyl absorbs them and retains its shape. The exactly balanced amount of elasticity makes it work just the way it does- absolutely perfectly!

Is Mass Loaded Vinyl Safe?

The question of safety is always among the most important ones. If you find MLV to be an attractive solution to your problems, you surely wonder is it safe?

Well, having in mind that either barium sulfate or calcium carbonate is used as inert materials, you will hear many opposed opinions. Exposure to high levels of elemental barium indeed can be toxic, but in this case, it does not represent the danger because it is insoluble in water and therefore inert! So, no health hazards on the way!

Knowing that this issue causes lots of troubles, some manufacturers have their own tricks on how to advertise a product with Mass Loaded Vinyl. They mostly label it as barium-free, but even if that's not the case, as I said, no hazards can happen.

The next concern is flammability! Have no worries, it is designed for higher temperatures! It is true that it can catch fire because of the plasticizers inside if it comes to that situation. But let's be honest, comparing to foam panels, for example, MLV is much safer.

So be at ease, as long as you follow everyday safety instructions, MLV will bring no troubles to your life!

Can you paint Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Whereas some people have safety concerns to be first, the others rather question the aesthetic! Since Mass Loaded Vinyl comes in black or gray color only, not all the people are happy about that. But, again, you can change the color easily! Just take latex paint in the desired color, and voila! The MLV instantly looks more vibrant! Besides black and gray, it is also available as transparent or translucent.

But have in mind that there are many different products with MLV, so read the instruction manual carefully. Not all of them will react the same when painted, so if you have any questions and doubts, the best is to contact the manufacturer.

Uses of Mass Loaded Vinyl

Now that you know the fantastic powers of MLV and when you have no reasons to worry about its safety or color, you can only imagine how vast the field of its usage is.

Mass Loaded Vinyl is often sandwiched between other materials. You can install it everywhere, on floors (even works for the concrete ones!), ceiling, and walls. It is even used to reduce unwanted and improve wanted sounds in cars! This sounds silly, but just waits for the explanation!

Here I shall give you a few cool practical tips on where and how to use it!

Doors and Windows

Problem number one usually comes from doors and windows, especially the cheap ones. Noise can't stop leaking all around! You can choose between special blankets or drapes. Once hung, they will drastically reduce the sounds which go from your place to the outside, and will surely minimize the outside ones impacting your home. They are available in different sizes.

So, all of you who are eager to practice violin or singing all day (or night) long in your beloved home studio, have no doubts that this will keep both you and your family/ neighbors happy.  Yes, having those heavy MLV curtains may not be the prettiest scene to be seen, but the effect is excellent!

After all, it's the noise you are trying to deal with, whatever comes to be the best "fighter“ will suit. And yeah, I already mentioned that MLV can be painted, so if you are still bothered by heavy black MLV curtains, you have no excuses! Take the paint and change them!

Machinery & Appliances 

Dishwasher or washing machine is also one of the most common noise making enemies. You have surely encountered lots of articles on how tranquilizing white noise can be, but it's not always like that. Yes, babies find it pleasant, but an adult's brain works differently.

Once you hear some sound that goes on your nerves, you can't get it out of your head! You are familiar with earworms, aren't you? Even if you have the world's most silent washing machine, it instantly becomes a screaming monster. It happens to me all the times, and I am sure that many of you share my opinion!

Since the original use of MLV is to soundproof noisy machinery, be sure that it will help you with these ones used every day. Thermo Tec is "an easy to trim and fit“ solution which can help you silence the noise! Works fine as a heat suppressor as well!

If you happen to have HVAC ductwork and pipes, MLV also works for them!

Vehicles

I mentioned car-related sounds. There are two types of them, those coming from the road, and those which are already in your car, music for example. As for rattling and vibrations coming from the road, a product like Noico really does the job! Comparing to Dynamat, another popular automotive sound deadener, it is a bit thinner, but if you double or triple it, the effect is the same! You will finally enjoy your ride without a noisy distraction!

Products like these can also improve the music in your car. The fact that they reduce the outside sounds directly makes the sound of the music itself a lot clearer.

And not only that! If you enjoy that killing sound of bass, these products bring the best of it! The more surfaces of car interior are covered with Mass Loaded Vinyl, the better the bass will be!

As you can see, the usage of these products is very wide. There are many different choices, and I suppose that the only budget determines which one you will get.

Soundproofing-a-Fence-with-Mass-Loaded-Vinyl

You can even use MLV to soundproof a fence.

Types of Mass Loaded Vinyl 

Having in mind the popularity of Mass Loaded Vinyl, the manufacturers have made few different types, to meet all the needs. They combine it with glass fiber insulation, mineral fiber insulation, ceramic fiber insulation or acoustical foam, all of which are excellent sound blockers.

  • MLV combined with fiberglass is a lightweight acoustic product,  which absorbs the sound waves and blocks them. It is often used for piping, ductwork, or garbage chutes.
  • MLV with foil, which can additionally be combined with fiberglass as well, is also used to reduce unwanted noises coming from pipes and ducts.
  • MLV with aluminium, which, as the previously mentioned one, can be combined with fiberglass (even with ceramic fiber or stone wool) does wonders in exposed commercial and industrial areas, due to high durability.
  • check
    MLV with foam has the open-cell design of the foam, which ensures the best acoustical absorption there is. The foam breaks and separates vibration between two materials.
  • check
    Reinforced MLV is a combination of Mass Loaded Vinyl with high strength poly fabric, which results in longer durability and hanging strength. The most frequent usage is as an acoustical curtain panel.

As you see, Mass Loaded Vinyl performs even better if combined with various materials I mentioned here. I hope that our brief introduction to each type will help you decide which one suits you the best.

The quickest way to make the right choice is to ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • What type of noise control do I need?
  • Do I need to soundproof the entire room/machine/surface?
  • Have I got more troubles with inside or outside noise?
  • Question
    etc

Only a good plan will shorten the decision-making process.

Mass Loaded Vinyl Alternatives 

Even though MLV sounds like a dream come true when it comes to soundproofing, still some people are looking for alternatives. The only reason that comes to my mind may be the price. Luckily, I can offer you some more affordable options.

Noise Reducing Curtains

One of them is acoustic curtains. Yes, I already mentioned MLV curtains, but not everybody's happy with the picture of vinyl hanging off your doors or windows.

Denser than the regular curtains, but not as dense as MLV curtains, they dampen the sound very good. Not as good as MLV, to be honest, but still satisfying. Perhaps something like this may be your choice. Comes in a variety of colors, if the aesthetic is your concern.

We have reviewed more noise reducing curtains here.

Green Glue

Green Glue and a second layer of drywall can be another option for those looking for efficient, but a bit more affordable solution than Mass Loaded Vinyl. Sandwiched flexibly between two walls, Green Glue dissipates sound waves effectively. 

It looks more natural in your home's interior because it is exactly the same as the existing wall.  Just to add, Green Glue is more convenient for filling smaller places, the ones that are harder to reach.

Hat Channel & Sound Clips

Hat channel and sound clips are amazing when trying to reduce noise transmission between floors. They are attached directly to the floor beams, with drywalls to the channels afterward. This way the vibrations and noise between rooms are significantly decreased.

Of course, these are options which are budget-friendlier than Mass Loaded Vinyl, but if you still find them pricey, have no worries, there are more solutions.

Since the question of soundproofing is something rather common for all people living in noisy places, it's no wonder that you can find many creative tips on how to deal with unwanted sounds.

Just find yourself in the middle of your apartment and look around. See what are the curtains you currently have like. Look on your ceiling and down on the floor. Can something be changed? Perhaps furniture can be differently arranged, perhaps new carpets can help.

As we said, changes are possible even if your budget is limited! Creativity is still free!

Final thoughts on Mass Loaded Vinyl

Now that you have all the key facts on Mass Loaded Vinyl, you can have your own final thought on getting it or not.

It's been an excellent helper in soundproofing for more than 50 years, and will surely remain one of the best solutions for reducing impact noise.

The fact that MLV is flexible and thin makes is applicable almost everywhere you can imagine. The only disadvantage I have found so far is the price, which is why we offered you a few more solutions.

I sincerely hope that this article will be helpful. As I already mentioned, peace has no price, so start bringing the desired silence in your home at once. Try all the tips step by step, and after a while, you will notice things have changed a lot!

One day you just realize that your home is so silent that you can even hear a tiny fly buzzing around.

I wish you nice and noise-free day!