Having to fall asleep to the sound of a relentlessly ticking clock can be incredibly annoying. At that moment, it’s tempting to just take out the battery or toss the whole clock into the nearest drawer and be done with it. Sadly, neither of those two options is a permanent solution to your problem. Instead, you should be looking into how to stop the clock from ticking so loudly in the first place.
There are several ways to go about treating this issue, with the most effective one being replacing the clock mechanism. But before we get into the gist of the matter, let’s start by pinpointing the source of the noise.
What Makes Some Clocks Louder Than Others?
Whether you find the ticking sound some clocks make annoying or comforting, you probably know exactly where it comes from. Namely, if you’re hearing the noise every second — it comes from the mechanism that moves the longest clock hand. However, if the sound only occurs every minute or so, it could be coming from the second-longest hand.
Whatever the case may be, the ticking noise can be exacerbated by several other factors as well. Cheap construction and materials can increase the volume of sound, as can the position of the clock in your room. But before discussing that in greater detail, let’s talk about noisy clock mechanisms.
The Movement Mechanism
Ultimately, the underlying cause of the ticking noise you’re hearing is the choppy mechanism that’s moving the clock’s hands. The really loud ones move the longest hand in tiny increments every second, resulting in the repetitive clicking sounds. However, there are other moving mechanisms out there.
Some analog clocks run on a motor that doesn’t cause that rough movement of the hands. If you’ve ever looked into buying a new clock, you’ve probably seen some products claiming to have a Quartz movement mechanism. That kind of motor makes the clock hands move much more smoothly, achieving a noiseless, continuous motion.
Of course, if you’re not too attached to the idea of having an analog clock, you can always get a digital one instead. However, if you already have the traditional kind, there are ways to make it quieter.
The Quality of the Materials
The construction of a clock, as well as the materials the manufacturer used to make it, are two factors that can amplify the volume of sound you’re hearing. As you can imagine, cheap parts tend to make louder sounds than pricier options.
Since we’ve already discussed movement mechanisms, it may not surprise you to learn that the ones that move the hands of most mass-produced clocks are worth no more than a dollar apiece. The cheapest ones move the handles by using a battery-powered pulsed electromagnet, which is responsible for the choppy movement of the clock hands. Conversely, more expensive models use a motor that drives continuous movement, which is typically silent.
On top of that, the outer casing of a clock can also contribute to sound amplification. Namely, having to pass through thin plastic and plexiglass usually doesn’t deter noise as much as sturdy wood and glass would. So if you’re looking for quieter ticking, you might have more luck with a proper grandfather clock.
The Acoustics of the Room
The final thing you should consider if you’re looking to quiet a noisy clock is its position in your room. For example, wall clocks often sound louder because the ticking mechanism in the back is pointed right at the wall, which is usually a hard, flat surface. If you know anything about the reflection of soundwaves, you’ll understand that pointing an audio source at a flat surface can result in one of two things:
- Echoes, or the perceived repetition of the original sound, which can make the ticking even more pronounced
- Reverberation, or the prolonging of the noise, which often makes it seem louder than it actually is
These two phenomena can be interesting tools for creating a certain atmosphere or achieving an interesting audio effect in songs. However, they can also make your obnoxious clock even louder.
Luckily, the solution to this problem is simple. The issue that’s allowing the reflection to happen is the fact that the ticking mechanism is pointed directly at the bare wall. So you’ll just need to install some kind of absorptive material between the two surfaces to prevent distortion.
How to Stop a Clock From Ticking so Loudly
Now that you have a general idea of what’s causing and amplifying the sound of ticking, let’s talk about how you can muffle it.
Cover the Back of the Clock
Covering the back of your wall clock is one of the best things you can do to muffle the ticking sound. On the one hand, doing so should add some mass to the thin materials and thus provide better insulation. Covering the back of the clock will also interrupt the soundwaves before the wall can reflect them into the room.
To execute this trick, you’ll need a thin piece of cardboard, cork, foam, or even MLV. Use a utility knife or some scissors to cut out the shape of the clock, then put the materials over the clock. If you want, you can also cut out pieces that are just big enough to cover the clock mechanism. After all, that’s the main noisemaker here.
Next, you’ll need to get something that will hold your makeshift cover down. Taping over the whole thing and particularly around the edges should enhance the soundproofing effects. You can even use products like Dynatape, which are designed to work with automotive insulation products.
Once you tape everything down, make sure you have access to the hook in the back of the clock. Alternatively, you can create a new one.
Oil the Mechanism if Necessary
While the previous tip should help you muffle the sounds that are coming from your cheap wall clock, this one is more suitable for old-fashioned clocks. Basically, if your clock has metal gears, a bit of clock oil should help it run more smoothly.
Of course, if you’re not looking to decrease the tension between the gears but increase it, you could use a slightly heavier vehicle oil. Chances are, you’ll already have some 5W or 20W oil somewhere in your garage. However, if you just think your clock could use some oil, stick to specialized clock oil or WD-40 if you must. With that being said, let’s talk about how you can go about applying clock oil:
- First, open the back panel by gently prying it off or unscrewing the bolts that hold it down. Make sure you note how everything fits together as you go along.
- Find the gears that move the second and third hands of the clock and apply the tiniest bit of oil to them. Be incredibly gentle with the mechanism housing, as using any amount of force may push the gears out of alignment.
- Leave the clock open to let the excess oil evaporate while the gears are turning. Alternatively, you can tip it over on its back with newspapers or paper towels directly under it.
- After about 30 minutes, put everything back the way it was.
Of course, if you look up video tutorials, you’ll see that most experts remove the mechanism before oiling it. If you’re not confident that you can do that, you can either take the clock to a professional or follow this video instead.
Insert Dampening Materials Into the Clock
Before closing your big clock, you could dampen the noise further by applying some insulation from within. Whatever you can fit inside without disrupting the gears should work.
So thin sheets of acoustic foam or any other kind you have on hand should work just fine. You can attach them with pieces of double-sided tape. Or if you want to be able to strip the materials later on, you can use folded-up crepe tape.
If your clock opens from the front too, take steps to close any gaps you see. For example, attaching a strip of foam all along the inner side wall where the door meets the body of the clock should absorb most sounds that would have slipped through the crack otherwise.
Put the Clock in an Airtight Container
If you own a smaller clock that doesn’t have a nice, sturdy wooden case around it, you could still make one. There are several ways to go about providing a soundproof case for your clock. You can:
- Keep it in a bookcase or cupboard with a glass front
- Put it in a large Mason jar or another kind of airtight food container
- Build a custom box for your clock depending on its size
Ultimately, all that matters is that you have a clear visual line to your clock. Smaller clocks may be able to fit inside a transparent food container. However, larger ones may require one of the other solutions listed above.
If you decide to make a container from scratch, try using laminated glass. Not only will it be less likely to break than tempered glass, but the clear layer of vinyl sandwiched between two layers of glass should be more soundproof as well.
In fact, the only problem with this solution is the fact that you may need some of the sounds your clock is capable of making. Namely, if you have an alarm clock, you won’t be able to hear the bell if you keep it in an airtight container.
Shorten the Long Hands of the Clock
As the mechanism of the clock turns its hands, the vibrations traveling down the length of the aluminum parts might amplify the noise. To check if that is the case, you’ll have to examine the hands closely. Try to isolate the sound of the ticking from the accompanying buzzing of the thin metal hands.
If you decide that the clock’s hands have something to do with the noise, swap them out for shorter ones. Alternatively, if you’re not worried about damaging your clock, you can trim the hands with scissors. This tip is also one you can do while you’re waiting for replacement parts to arrive. But that brings us to the most effective solution to the ticking noise you’ve been hearing.
Replace the Movement Mechanism
As you know, the thing that causes the ticking noise in most cheap wall clocks is the mechanism that moves the hands. Specifically, the choppy movements of the minute and second hands seem to be the main culprits. Luckily, there’s a way to eliminate the sound once and for all.
Namely, if you have one of those cheap clocks that have a removable mechanism in the back, you should be able to replace it. Just check the size of the mechanism in your clock by removing it and measuring the thickness of the slot. That will allow you to find a suitable Quartz mechanism for your clock.
You should also look at the design of the clock. Some clocks have a hanging hook that’s separate from the movement mechanism while others don’t. If your clock has a separate hook, get a basic mechanism like this 16-millimeter one.
Alternatively, if the original mechanism had the hook attached to it, you can get a new one that has it. For example, this one should fit clocks that are between 9 and13 mm thick. But you can also just make a separate hook out of tape and string — no one will see it, anyway.
When it’s time to install the mechanism, you’ll want to start by unscrewing or gently prying off the front of the clock. From there, you’ll unscrew each of the clock hands, taking care not to bend the thin metal. After you do that, loosen the last nut to release the mechanism box before turning the clock and removing it.
Finally, you’ll do everything in reverse to install the new mechanism. If any of this sounds confusing, just watch some video tutorials before attempting to replace your clock’s mechanism.
Get a Clockmaker to Modify It
Depending on the kind of clock you have, you may find that you can’t do anything to make it quieter. In that case, you can take the device to a clockmaker. They probably know all sorts of tricks you can’t do at home, especially if you’re dealing with an older clock. But really, if it’s just a random plastic one, there’s no need to dwell on it.
Alternatively — Buy a New Clock
If your clock is truly beyond repair, or you don’t want to bother installing a silent mechanism, you can always buy a new device. After all, there are plenty of clocks that run silently.
On the one hand, you have digital clocks, which are often easier to read, anyway. Naturally, those kinds of devices shouldn’t make a peep — unless you get one that doubles as a speaker.
But of course, there are plenty of non-ticking analog clocks you can get as well. Best of all, they come in a variety sizes and styles. So you can really make them fit in with the rest of your furniture.
There you have it. If you decide that learning how to stop a clock from ticking loudly just isn’t worth it — there are plenty of alternatives out there.