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Looking to treat my room, but I want it to be safe for health. From just breathing it (even if uncovered), handling it and in case my dog accidently eats some of it.
What kind of material would be what I am looking for. Safe and non-toxic, yet a great sound absorber.

I found out about UltraTouch Natural Cotton. It is supposed to be very safe, but I came across a comment from someone on another forum who said this stuff is heavily treated with borates, which is supposedly unsafe. I have no idea if the borates still are a health concern or if that stuff is barely existent within the insulation any longer to pose a danger.
Someone with more knowledge able to determine if this stuff is safe for health?
Or suggest any other safe acoustic treatment?


kmetal Fri, 03/22/2013 - 23:30

safe also means 'doesn't burn' when your talking treatment. your most reputable bets are Owens & Corning rigid fiberglass (703), covered w/ fabric that has been 'fire treated by you (comes in a spray bottle), or by the manufacturer. Or just get some reputable foam like aurelex, to kill your basic slap echos. i can't say how safe any of it would be if a dog ate it, or a baby, for that matter, but you don't have to worry about inhale-ing partcles of them. or them burning. there are tons of possible reasons of how a studio could catch fire, from hot running equipment, to smoking, to faulty wiring.

bass traping is the hardest thing to accomplish. search 'superchunk bass trap' around here for the most efficient solution.

mids/highs, if your bare budget just fire-treat some moving blankets and space them a couple inches off the wall. those all will keep ya safe, anything beyond that requires some serious detail on all our parts, so that's my modest general opinion.

DonnyThompson Sat, 03/23/2013 - 04:31

What type of treatment are you looking to do? Are you looking at acoustical balancing? Or are you looking at sound proofing? There's a big difference.

I think it's safe to say, as Kmetal mentioned, that if you stick with Auralex or Sonex, or another reputable brand, that you won't end up with mesothelioma.

I wouldn't grind it up and snort it - LOL - but I think it's safe to assume that it's safe to install and work around, from a health and safety standpoint.

And, as far as I know, that professionally made material has already been flame retarded, so you won't end up as a repeat of the Great White show.

Do NOT use mattress padding. Much of this stuff can go up in a flash when presented with any heat or ignition source.

Now, that 1" acoustical material will only effect freq's of around 1K and up.. your basic flutter echo and if you are needing to also tame mids and low freq ranges, look into what Kmetal posted above.


RemyRAD Sun, 03/24/2013 - 13:03

The safest thing you could possibly use would be a bunch of old moving blankets you get used from the local U-Haul. Stick them in a large industrial washing machine first. Unfortunately those and whatever foam, doesn't do much to control low-end problems. Which is usually the biggest problem to begin with. The rest needs more diffusion than it needs absorbing. And diffusion does not come from foam or blankets. It comes from whatever you can put on your walls to defuse reflections with. Which can mean all sorts of junk can be creatively utilized to do the job without any health hazards since it doesn't involve any fiberglass to be exposed.

One of the least healthiest studios I've ever witnessed or been in, was George Massenburg's, ITI Studios, in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Raw exposed pink fiberglass, floor to ceiling on all the walls and ceiling. OMG! But that was 1972 and things have changed a bit since then, I hope? Now he's got his wooden infinite diffuser, which looks like the biggest dust catcher I've ever seen in a control room or studio before. I'm sure it works pretty well? Just don't get a breeze near it after it's been installed for a couple of months LOL. Why he did not put it behind a black piece of burlap, I do not know? I guess because it looks much cooler than black burlap? And where he doesn't mind looking at Speaker drivers anymore when he originally owned JBL, L-100's with the grills on. Go figure? I have black burlap grills in front of my speakers because I don't like looking at speakers. I don't give a crap if you can see the aberrations in a test equipment run. So I like monitors with grills. Oh but then the waveguide doesn't work right. Too bad. Big deal. That doesn't keep me from mixing. It's never kept a hit from being made that's for sure. Ask any of those engineers with a mixed their hits on. They were all mixed on JBL 4311/4310/4312/L-100's all of which were the same speaker/speakers. I don't care what they use today. I still use the same thing I've always used, 4311's and their other variations.

I actually even pondered the thought of combining my RANE, 3 way electronic crossover to tri-Amplify my JBL's but then they wouldn't sound like the JBL's I've been working on for all of these years... so I didn't. And it's certainly not a cheap proposition to do it well. And where I'd probably want a couple more Crown DC-300/150's? Because I happen to like the way those sound into JBL's and not any of the other amplifiers in which I currently own which are also quite good. And where I look for a certain kind of consistency as opposed to " better ". I don't need or want better. Consistency is where it's at for me. And where many of us professional engineers rely upon our consistency of technique along with the consistency of the equipment in which we use, to be of primary concern. Better can actually throw you off. Then it might be just fine for someone who has not develop their own consistent technique as yet? It's fine if you're still trying to find your way. But technique and consistency, takes years to develop. And if you keep switching out your equipment, you'll never become consistent with anything. So we really work the equipment to get whatever it can deliver for us. We don't have to fight with the equipment to get what we want.

Being precise with our stuff is what we are actually after. Sometimes though, you function more as a short order cook than you do a fine chef. And that's perfectly acceptable also depending upon the job. I'm a little more exacting for network television than I am for Billy's rock 'n roll band down the street, paying $300 to record an album. They won't get those 87's & 77 DX's, no way. They'll get the 57 or/58's and some Chinese condenser microphones still all going into the API and/or Neve making it still sound like God had a hand in the recording. And that's all that's necessary for those jobs. It's a little different when you're working with the Washington National Symphony Orchestra ya know. I don't get as upset when a violin bow connects with my $3000 +, 87 but I do when a wayward drumstick hits it. I wasn't even happy when a drumstick busted one of my Sennheiser 421's that only cost $375. Which is $375 more than I currently have to replace it. At least it wasn't $3000. I really wish it had been one of my $100, 57's but it wasn't. And the cost of repair is equivalent to purchasing a good used one. So why bother? I'm only out $375 on a $250 job.

We are all practicing for diminishing returns.
Mx. Remy Ann David

kmetal Mon, 03/25/2013 - 20:48

Which is $375 more than I currently have to replace it. At least it wasn't $3000. I really wish it had been one of my $100, 57's but it wasn't.

if it had been, it still woulda worked :) You can't just fix ir yourself REMY?

Fire treatment stuff really works, when my cousin got his panels from ats acoustics, he tested it by trying to catch it on fire w/ a lighter he literally left the flame right to the fabric for like thirty seconds, and other than it turning black, it barely even smoked, and did light. biggest lesson learned was test fireproofing on the black panels, not the white ones lol.

also do not use mattresses, for the opposite reason than mattress padding. mattresses can smolder for hours before an open flame develops, so after you call it a night the mattress you didn't know was on fire breaks into open flame.

as far as diffusion from what i gathered most home studious don't have the cubic footage to achieve 'true' diffusion, which i'm guessing means you'll still kinda get some sort of direct reflections? can you shed some light on this anyone?

RemyRAD Tue, 03/26/2013 - 10:18

Given the size of the average spare basement den, bedroom, diffusion can be absolutely the most important. This can be taken care of many different ways that are both inexpensive and quite effective. The space is small so you cannot go deep. Fine. So you take a whole bunch of those wood molding, semicircular strips, you put along the baseboard of your walls, in your house. You cut them and align them and nail them to the wall in the booth. Voilà! Diffusion for $20. And it will sound less like a booth even though it will still sound less like a booth. It'll still sound like a booth but not a telephone booth which most sound like just covered in foam, yuck. So you have to think outside the box and use your creative juices to deal with working inside a box. And then one wall gets the foam. The other is flat with perhaps old planks of wood that can be nailed and cascaded over each other? And then the tilted glass window and you're done. And there is no need for any kind of health hazard oriented materials to be used. Just don't sit in the booth with the door closed for any length of time after painting the walls LOL, without a breathing filter. And don't do a session in it the next day. Wait a week or two LOL.

This is how we did studios before any of the luxury studio designers were in vogue and had written books. These guys are more architects then they are acoustic engineers while they are both. And aesthetics are very important to rich folks that want to attract other rich folks. Of course the latest movie by Dave Grohl, Sound City, proves otherwise. I walked in on a Robert Palmer session at Regent Sound Studios where they were tracking in a small box studio, that was so tight, RP had his head against the glass control room/studio window. And it was a square box with nothing on the walls, absolutely nothing! Low ceiling as well. Tracking through a analog Studer console to a Ampex MM-1000-16. And it was completely awesome sounding! How could that be? Well it's the musicians, the music, the equipment and most importantly, the engineer, that's how.

Media Sound, NYC, where I had also worked, was no different except for Studio A. The other three control rooms and adjoining studios were small boxes with really not much attention paid to the acoustics of the small box, low ceiling, studios. Yet those rooms turned out one hit after another. How? It only proves it ain't the acoustics. Sure, depending upon original initial construction, those walls definitely ahead some major mass to them. It wasn't plasterboard with a few inches of fiberglass and metal 2 x 4's. And it's really the resonance of those cheap standard constructed walls that resonate at all the wrong frequencies so as to cause those acoustic nasty sounding aberrations. But you can't add any mass! Sure ya can... it's called floor to ceiling bookshelves. Crammed full of books. Free books that would normally be discarded from the libraries, churches and other academic institutions. So it's all free except for the shelves. And he wants us to be heavy wooden freestanding floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Like those discarded from libraries under renovation. And that's called green recycling at its best. Use what's out there for free.

Here's another one. Go around to your local carpet stores. All carpets are on these very heavy industrial cardboard tubes. Stick it on a band saw and cut them in half. Now you've got 4 inch poly-cylindrical, diffusers. A couple of metal brackets at the hardware store and you're done for under $20. Want to make them fireproof? Paint them with something fireproof. Want to make a more effective? Stick some rigid fiberglass pieces inside and drill a bunch of different sized holes, all over the thing. Why spend money if you don't have to? Ya need to spend the money on the equipment, microphones, headphones not stupid acoustic folderol when you can get it all for free or virtually free. And that's how it's done. And ya don't even need that.

I made plenty of rock 'n roll recordings in an empty basement that was rectangular and carpet on the floor. That's all. No other acoustic nonsense was needed or necessary. This is just idiocy that keeps blowing my mind with all of these home studios. Just learn how to record and mix for Christ's sake? Please! Learn how to do that first. Worry about the acoustics after that. And then you won't worry about the acoustics after that. Because you'll already be recording some killer sounding rock 'n roll. It is for rock 'n roll isn't it? And occasional acoustic guitar vocalist thing maybe? Acoustics? Who needs to care about acoustics? Bad acoustics probably means you're using a large diaphragm Chinese condenser microphone? And that's all. Stick out a 58 and problems are solved just that simply, neatly, inexpensively, stupidly stupid Lee and all of his other friends. Sure it makes a difference. It doesn't matter that it makes a difference. It matters that you know how to record and mix under those conditions. And that we also call Location Recording. So you're on location in your own home, look at it that way. You're not been a change somebody else's acoustics in someone else's house, right? Right. Work it. Make it work. It's not a hard when you choose cheap 57 & 58's and then realize that your recordings now sound like hits in this lousy acoustic environment. That's when you laugh your butt off, open up a beer and try out some of that almost legal stuff.

I knew I shouldn't have moved out of Maryland. I could've lived in the district but no... I'm in Virginia land of right-wing born-again Christians.
Mx. Remy Ann David

anonymous Tue, 03/26/2013 - 13:57

Thanks for the great answers everyone. I still am uneasy about using fiberglass insulation as panels so I will probably stay away from that. I think I read somewhere that Auralex is toxic if consumed, but got to look that back up.
As for fire treating the materials, isn't the spray and whatever material is sprayed with it become toxic? Even if it has aired out?
Also is it truly necessary to fire treat everything? The studio is in my bedroom and not much equipment running. I do have a heat/a/c floor vent in my room as well as a stand up heater. I do keep them a safe distance away. So since it's my bedroom and everything else is not fire treated is it really that necessary to fire treat the material?
Health really is important to me. But, no I am not a germaphobic type of person. Just trying to avoid health problems if I can help it.

RemyRAD Tue, 03/26/2013 - 23:51

You are really getting a little too concerned about fiberglass. It's not asbestos. It's all around you everywhere you go. Rigid fiberglass is less prone to shedding. It's frequently used as ceiling tiles in many office buildings, classrooms, Hospitals. It only becomes dangerous when you play with it, come in direct contact with it, without gloves on. Everything is poisonous to eat if its nonfood. Pink fiberglass doesn't taste any different than yellow fiberglass let's be clear about that. Put it on a paper stick and the kids never know. And it's not as sticky except for those tiny glass particles.

No really if your concern is for health, music is already the great healer. So you have nothing to worry about. And if you're that concerned about your health? Why would you use any equipment from China? There is too much lead in their paint. So you twiddle knobs and dials than you bite your nails and the next thing you know... you have lead poisoning. That's where I keep a lot of sushi. I figured that maybe the lubricating properties of molten air temperature metal might help gather and wash the lead out? This is a regime I must follow at least once a week for the rest of my life. OMG? What happens if I move to middle America?

I can't even think about that. I would feel like a fish out of the control room.
Mx. Remy Ann David

KurtFoster Wed, 03/27/2013 - 00:05

there's a lot of stuff out there on fibreglass .. general consensus is it's safe even in uncovered form (yes the pink and yellow fluffy stuff). if you are that worried just wrap it in something like burlap.

you should join the forum and take these questions to the acoustics forum. those guys over there are much more qualified to answer your questions... the rest of us here are mostly just knob twisters. or musicians. acoustics is a science.

kmetal Fri, 03/29/2013 - 00:48

nobody likes the install itchy-ness. so suck it up like evry installer did. lng sleeves, mask, eye protection,. cold shower thats the key to installing fiber panels. it closes your pours. thats the trick. don't believe me, try it, take a warm shower after a fiberous insulation install. don't be surprised to remain itchy for a bit. barbers use hot water cuz it opens up the pours, insulatation instalers use the cold water to keep itch out of the pours. it's safe but still annoying eh?

use it, cover it up, don't set it on fire, and damn, just rock the heck out. after you get your mids/highs done, bass absorb, bass absorb first maybe?

MadMax Fri, 03/29/2013 - 04:51

Cold showerrs are fine and all, but to do the gig right, you wanna do what the professionals do; Buff up in baby powder... and I mean BUFF UP! You wanna pre-fill your pores with baby powder so there's no where for the fibers to cling to.

Get a pair of panty hose and cut a leg off, then pull that leg over the top of your head.

Wear long sleeve shirts and take a piece of duct tape and wrap the junction of your sleeves and gloves.

AFA gloves go, a few guys swear by latex, but I found I sweat too much - so I used cheap hide gloves that you can buy in bulk and throw away after a coula' days work.

Guilford of Maine is the defacto supplier of breathable "burlap" material for covering mineral wool/rigid fiberglass as their material can be supplied with the certification of fire resistance if requested. There's several others that are good, but they're only cheaper if they happen to be physically closer than GOM and you can save on the shipping.

Treating your own material is definitely doable by purchasing a certified solution, but you CAN make your own... if you're decent at mixing up chemicals and are willing to deal with the process of treating both sides of the material BEFORE you put it up... as it needs to be completely saturated on one side... allowed to completely dry, then flip it over and repeat the process.

Be aware that some of the formulations may require a periodic re-treatment to maintain their ratings... but I think most of those might now be off the market.

IMHO, using a material that is Fire Re-tard-ent (FR) is less desireable than an Inherently Fire Re-tard-ent (IFR) as you NEVER have to treat the material once in your posession, as it does not flame up, as part of its makeup... and GOM does distribute IFR's as well as certified FR.

As a sidebar, I got a letter of cerification to use a specific SAE certified IFR material used in the auto industry for apholstry... so there are other materials you can use that are safe, but you gotta dig to find em'. In my case though - and I wanna be sure I'm clear on this - If the material I used had not been covered partially by the wood in the room, it might have been allowed by my Fire Marshall.

So be prudent in your material handling and selection... and you'll be fine.

As far as all this whining and "concern" about outgassing and formaldyhide and blah, blah, woof, woof... leave any bundles you get in plastic, sealed until a week-ish before you're ready to use it... then open it up and let it air out. It'll be able to evaporate (any formaldyhide that is) in a short period of time.

Do your REW testing THEN calculate your needs... buy your materials according to how much/how many traps and first order reflection points you need... If you have any extra, use it to make a coupla' gobo's.

Generally, you wanna make/install all of your bass trapping first, then test... adjust/modify/add as necessary, then move on to your next point - which "should be" your first order reflections... but could be SBIR or other placement depending upon your exact room geometry.