Everything you need to know about blackout shades

What does "blackout” really means when talking about window shades.

A bedroom features blackout cellular shades

Let’s go through some of the most commonly asked questions about blackout shades.

Will blackout shades make my room pitch black?

The short answer is no. A blackout shade on its own is not going to completely darken your room and turn the day to night. To do this, you would need to block 100% of the light coming in and that just isn’t really possible without boarding up your windows.

Unfortunately, the term “blackout” has become widely used throughout the industry. And, while you can make a room considerably darker with these products, a better way to describe them them would be “room darkening” blinds.

The reason for this? Light gaps. The material itself does a good job of stopping light, but the gaps between the window frame and the fabric—which allow your shade to go up and down—offer a passage way for light.

To mitigate this issue, consider adding drapery to cover the light gaps. Also consider different types of shades—some, like cellular shades, have much smaller light gaps than, say, a roller shades or a cascade shades, both of which require more space due to the headrail configuration.

Drapes paired with roman shades on a double window in a modern bedroom

How dark will blackout shades make my room?

You can make your room pretty dark with the right shades or combination of shades. But just how dark is going to depend on the type of shade, and the application. Not all blackout materials are equal. For example, a blackout cellular shade is going to give you better light blocking than most blackout roller shades, simply because of the way the shades are constructed. The best way to shop for blackout shades is to visit a window treatment store in person. At Blinds To Go showrooms, you can simulate light blocking with our custom light boxes.

What are the most popular blackout shades?

Cellular (aka Honeycomb) Shades are by far the most popular option when shopping for blackout shades. We coat the inside of each cell with a light-blocking foil material which not only prevents light from penetrating, but adds an extra layer of energy-efficient insulation for hot and cold weather.

Blackout cellular shades paired with drapery in a contemporary bedroom

Cellular shades also require very little space between the window frame and fabric (“light gaps”), making them considerably more effective at darkening your room than most other products.

Roller shades are great blackout options because of the variety of materials available. Blackout fabrics are thicker and range from the traditional vinyl texture, to decorative fabrics with a layer of blackout material on the back. Some of these materials may work better than others with cordless lift systems, so keep that in mind.

One thing to consider when shopping for blackout roller shades are the wider light gaps required to ensure the fabric can move up and down. Customers are often surprised at how much light penetrates a roller shade application, and it’s because of these gaps. The best way to mitigate unwanted light coming through roller shade light gaps is by paring a set of blackout drapes on each side of the shade.

Blackout roller shade

Roman shades and drapery with blackout liners sewn onto the back offer light blocking capability with a more formal, designer-friendly look. Perfect for a living room or owner’s suite. Roman shades require minimal light gaps making them a great blackout option while drapery can be paired with blackout roller shades to block light more effectively.

When are blackout shades the best choice?

This really depends on what your needs are. We’ve had customers ask for blackout shades when all they really need is privacy, and it’s important to know blackout shades do not offer more privacy than standard light filtering shades. Most light filtering shades offer total privacy regardless of how much light passes through them.

If you need to block incoming light during the day—whether you’re hoping to make naptime a little easier or darken a room for TV watching, blackout shades could be a great option.

More tips for choosing blackout shades

  • Blackout shades don't let daylight in when they’re lowered.
  • Consider blackout shades with a top-down bottom-up lift. You’ll get privacy during the day without blocking out the sun completely.
  • Expect to spend a little bit more on blackout shades, because they require extra material.
  • Blackout fabrics are heavier and will put more strain on lift mechanisms—and if you’re motorizing them, be aware that you may need to replace the batteries more often that you would with a set of standard shades.
  • Is the light from a skylight interrupting your sleep? Consider blackout cellular skylight shades.
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