Choosing the right set of shades for your home or office windows can be more complex than you’d think. There’s more to it than just installing a sheet of flexible material over the window and expecting the right amount of coverage, filtering, and insulation. For many, blinds are just an afterthought, especially the blackout variety. We’re here to show you that there’s more to the picture than meets the window, but fret not: The goal isn’t to complicate your decision.
In truth, it’s still fairly simple. You have six characteristics to look at: material, color, filtering, insulation, fit, style.
Generally speaking, choosing the wrong shades will be annoying at worst. You may not sleep well in the early mornings as the sun comes up, and you may let the indoor temperature fluctuate too much in different seasons. Heat can escape or work its way into your home or office environment, forcing the HVAC to work harder when you’re trying to heat or cool the environment. In this way, the proper set of shades is not only essential for productivity and comfort, but it can also save you loads on the power bill in the long run. Keep in mind that if you live in a neighborhood that’s controlled by a homeowner’s association (HOA), the color of your shades from the outside may be a point of contention.
With that said, blackout shades aren’t rocket surgery, and we’re going to have a nice, relaxed jump into the finest options on the market as well as what we think you should look for when you’re decking out your space.
Best Blackout Blinds Comparison Table
Best in Category
Springblinds — Best Blackout Blinds for Bedroom
If for no other reason, we had to pick this one because it’s simply the best offering on our list today.
It does everything, has everything and probably is everything that you want out of a blackout shade minus the expense. Bedroom, living room, entertainment cave — anywhere that features moderate to large windows will benefit from this shade.
Green Mountain — Best Blackout Blinds for Nursery
With careful consideration, we passed up on Springblinds’ offering here because it’s too flat, utile and dark-colored to promote an inviting atmosphere in a nursery.
Babies and small children will take favor in the softer hues, edges and general form of these Roman shades, which are the next best option on this list.
Best Blackout Blinds Reviews
We’d like to kick-start this review with a message in good humor: If Redi Shade isn’t a brand name that inspires confidence in the shades that you’re looking at, you might actually be more or less right. Didn’t expect that, did you?
Okay, let’s be fair here: This is a great product from a great company, but it does have a few problems. First, let’s focus on the positive talking points.
For starters, this shade does a splendid job of blocking out all light — well, 99 percent, but you get the drift. At 36 by 72 inches and 48 by 72 inches, you have a substantially sized shade that should be just ducky on the vertical and fit most windows on the horizontal plane. There aren’t any cords, so you can simply lift them up and pull them down as needed without the dangly hassle and fuss, not to mention that it’s safer for children and pets. Finally, the durable paper construction won’t crack or fade in the sun and offers UV protection for the room.
The major drawback here is the durability. Yes, we understand that these are paper shades; no, passenger liners aren’t made out of printer paper. Among cellular shades in general, these are particularly flimsy and show it with conditions as gentle as, say, central air control. If you’ve ever lived with cellular shades, you know that when the HVAC kicks on and off, it can cause the shades to suck into the window frame and then exhale back out. This in-and-out motion, with time, will crinkle these shades until they’re an eyesore and eventually tear them down entirely.
One of our favorites words here is “pleated”. It just sounds amusing. Maybe it reminds us of sheep since the closest-sounding term is “bleated”, which is another source of mindless amusement. It’s about as amusing as the cord on this shade, which will drive your cat nuts once they find out about it. One supposes that the short design is better in some ways because it eliminates the risk of strangulation, but hey, maybe you don’t own a cat.
Here’s what we can tell you about this shade: It’s bloody fantastic. Resting at the bottom of the pricing scale, any drawbacks that come with it are probably acceptable. We’re totally not ignoring the glowing reviews, but let’s talk about the benefits real quick:
- Excellent room-darkening prowess
- Reasonable durability
- Fits almost any window and can be cut to size
It’s not a long list, but what do you want from pocket-fluff cellular blinds? These perform the basic most tasks in breezy-easy fashion and without any true issues.
We’re shuffling into some high-end cellular territory here, ladies and gentlemen. This ripple shade is advertised as “light-blocking“, comes in four home- or office-suitable colors and doubles as a shield against inbound UV radiation.
There’s no cord; rather, a locking mechanism is supposed to hold it open when you lift it. Other benefits to take note of are the traditional ease of installation that’s normally associated with cellular shades, which is handled with mounting brackets that are cited for their excellent quality.
Additional points of note:
However, be wary of the brackets that you receive when they ship as some lemons have been reported.
Arlo Blinds is another one of those dedicated companies that does everything blinds, shades, shutters and draw-ins to treat your windows and backdoors. As such, you can expect some pretty great stuff from them, and you’re staring at one of their crowning jewels right here.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: “Cellular shades are a crowning jewel? What?” Well, it’s true that you wouldn’t walk into a high-class house or office environment and find these hanging from the windows, but when you’re getting permanent-like quality with rippled paper, you have to give credit where it’s due.
Like most paper shades, you can simply clean these off with a duster. However, one of the great glories of this offering is the honeycomb construction, which does well with absorbing sound while insulating the window to a limited degree. For a paper shade, these are great benefits.
To be squarely honest, there aren’t any real drawbacks to talk about here. Some say that the paper feels flimsy, but let’s be honest: What were you expecting?
Passenger Pigeon isn’t really a pigeon, and black shades are the new black shades.
Are you tired of walking into homes and offices to see them adorned with white shades? Where’s the sense in that? Maybe those folks like to let some light in, but Passenger Pigeon had a different vision in mind: 100 percent, total blackout.
This is a roll-down option that displays as a flat sheet and comes in a mighty sizable form factor to cover back doors and large window. Oh, and did we mention that they’re also thermal resistant and waterproof?
There’s hardly a bad point to note with these as even the black coloration is welcome in its own way, standing out from the rest of a normal home setting, which is usually an overwhelmingly sterile vanilla or white.
This shade actually comes in several varieties. Some occur as honeycomb filters; others happen as cellular blackout options that show the white side out with the blackout filters lining the inside of the cells.
Whichever way you prefer to do it, these are comprised of polyester yarn fiber and utilize a mount for expert holstering to the wall. Topping it all off is the ease of installation, but that’s hardly a surprise: Most shades are pretty easy to put up.
For example, you may want blackout shades for the back end of the living room, filter shades for the sides and privacy shades for your bedroom. They’re all great products that don’t have the flimsy feel of paper-like cellular shades.
It’s not huge, but this shade will do the trick for smaller windows and slides in on an affordable price tag with all of the features that you’d normally expect from a quality shade offering.
Calyx Interiors specializes in many things home-related, so you’re buying from interior decorating pros or something like that. Anyway, they’re paper shades: versatile, water-resistant, ecological and mighty fine blackout products when made just right. These should do the trick, at least for the most part.
It’s cordless, which some will like while others may find inconvenient, but this does make it a safer solution for pets and children. Additionally, thermal insulation and a bit of sound absorption are included although these aren’t top-of-the-line offerings and are probably better viewed as tack-on bonuses.
Concerning what you might not like about this shade, there’s a list of issues that users have found with it. Some say the construction of the shade itself is cheap; others find that the brackets are poor, and others yet discovered that some of the necessary hardware was missing right out of the box.
Now this, friend, is a great shade; we could tell from the moment we laid eyes on it. Here, you’re looking at a variable-size, spring-locked roller shade that works much like those roll-up projector screens.
The blackout feature is 100 percent effective, and the shade comes in a ton of color options. Perhaps the best feature, however, is the ability to customize this shade to exact dimensions.
The material is polyester fabric, and there’s a foam backer fabric that adds some thermal blocking as well. Since you can customize this shade to fit inside your window frame exactly, it’s easy to see how much money a huge cut of this shade can save when placed over a grand window fixture. As if that wasn’t incentive enough to hop on this investment, the finished result is incredibly durable and operates smoothly on its roller. In fact, you’ll even receive a remote to control this thing from a distance. Yup, we think we’re in love.
This is an interesting offering right here. We have only two Roman-style shades among the 12 products that we reviewed here, and that makes this a special entry on our list.
Roman shades, for ye all of the little knowledge, are basically flat sheets of fabric that have routine creases where the shade folds while opening it up. Basically, instead of spindling onto a cylinder, it fold-stacks onto itself as you expose the window. It’s neat, different and wholly functional, we think.
This particular shade comes in several — and we mean several — sizes that span just about every conventional window size imaginable. The price is a little high, but the cotton fabric design gives a full-figured, upscale look. Blackout fabric is woven into the mix for that total-darkness effect that we know you love, and there aren’t any cords to get tangled up in, so it’s child-friendly. Thanks to the thickness of the fabric, you also get excellent draft control to boot, which is a feature that probably no other shade on this list does as nicely.
With four simple colors of Roman-styled shades gracing your windows, there’s a good statement from the aesthetic side of things already. The window-facing side of the shades are regulation white, and the fabric overall is a very normal and usual polyester.
There’s not much else the manufacturer says about it, but given the thick nature of Roman shades, you can expect good thermals, some soundproofing and a whole lot of light-blocking.
The main criticism that this shade receives is the cord design, which is said to break, jam or simply not cooperate as often as users would like, but this was seldom mentioned.
Yes, that brand name was spelled right; no, we don’t think they thought it through too well. Hey, it’s not our circus or our monkeys, and we’re just here to tell you whether it’s a good product or a great one.
This particular shade occurs in eight modest colors and, like Roman-style shades, is a rare specimen on this list because it’s not a cellular entry. Rather, Windowsandgarden has settled for a roll-down sheet and cleanly fills the breadth of the window frame. The shade itself is entirely vinyl, and like one of the other roll-up shades on this list, it can be custom-cut prior to delivery if you request it.
To satisfy HOAs and grouchy octogenarian neighbors, the backside of this shade is a regulation white while the in-facing side is whatever color that floats your boat. Speaking of that, this offering is a 100 percent blackout solution, and with the total omission of sunlight comes a formidable degree of heat blockage in the summer.
As far as thermal migration through the shade, it’s most likely not too shabby considering the coverage that you can achieve with a carefully manicured order. Also, consider that this isn’t paper we’re dealing with, so there’s considerably more for temperature change to deal with when attempting to work its way in or out through this shade.
Well, judging by the brand name, we already know what to expect here: shades that block enough light to let you tuck in and sleep tight. In actuality, this product is, well, not a shade at all. It’s really just two strips of magnetic tape that run down the sides of the window frame to hold your current shade in place, blocking light from spilling in through the sides.
Strangely, it seems to work quite well at everything that the manufacturer claims it can do. Of course, there had to be a flaw somewhere, and it comes down to the crappy wall tape, which consists of a strip of cheap tape that doesn’t really do the job too well. This probably isn’t so bad since you can buy two-sided tape from your local hardware store and fix the issue yourself, but still, you shouldn’t have to.
We’re surprised that there aren’t more complaints about the magnets themselves, but that might be where some people comment on the whole product being “basically two-sided tape”. It’s difficult to gauge what, exactly, we’re looking at here.
Best Blackout Blinds Buyer’s Guide
Dimensions, Fit: The first and foremost detail to look for when investing in blackout shades is whether they’ll fit your windows. You could say “screw it” and just stick with oversized shades that more than cover the whole window, but then you’d have heat and light leakage through the sides, which more or less defeats the point of using a blackout shade to begin with. It’s better to purchase shades that fit the window in question while leaving the relaxed fit to blackout curtains.
Thermal, Insulated: Some blinds are better suited for absorbing or deflecting inbound heat without allowing it to pass in or out of your home. These are considered a good idea since you can save the expense on your power bill by using these to regulate indoor temperatures, reducing the amount of A/C or heating required. There aren’t any drawbacks to rolling with thermal shades, so if possible, pick these up.
Material: Paper shades are generally considered temporary while wood and cloth are marks of an established home. Ironically, paper shades are usually more economical and effective than some of the more permanent options. Wooden blinds, for example, aren’t recommended in humid areas, but paper shades handle it well while maintaining their typically pleated design. Cloth blinds are difficult to argue with overall, but they’re heavier and more costly than the paper type.
Filtering: Not all blackout shades are meant to completely black out the room. Some provide partial filtering that allows some light to come through dimmer and with a specific hue. White blackout shades will give a gentle, warm glow while black versions are meant to completely mute inbound sunlight or nearly so. If you prefer a certain color, you can opt for blue or green shades that will allow half of the light to come through while filling the room with an innocuous tone that suits your tastes.
Style: Common styles include Roman (folding), roll-up, slatted and cellular (pleated). Cellular almost always occurs as a type of fibrous paper shade while Roman and roll-up varieties are more permanent and composed of actual cloth material. Generally, cellular shades will be used as stand-ins until you can afford long-term shades down the road, but they do great with insulation and light blockage. On the other hand, the cheap look and feel means they’re prone to tear more easily and don’t quite inspire that upscale look in your home.
Color: Why did we add an entry for color? Everyone knows what color is, right? Well, we wanted to make an important point on the unexpected changes to colors from the outside of your home when you’re looking through a window. While it looks nice in preview images or on a shelf while you’re shopping, the way the sun hits it through the glass can make a dark blue seem faded, a red seem almost pink, or a nice green show up in a vivid shade of lime-green puke. Conversely, shades that sit too far from the window may seem much darker than the color you expected. Keep this in mind when considering which windows are getting blinds, how the sun hits them and the angles that people will see them. Your HOA could raise a fuss if the colors don’t match up.
Soundproofing: The little-discussed matter of soundproofing in your shades is often left to public infrastructure or the building itself. At bare minimum, people would normally resort to curtains instead because of their size. However, sound-resistant shades do exist, but you’ll have to look harder to find them around. They’re functionally ideal for windows that have a tendency to let a lot of noise through that otherwise wouldn’t make it past the walls.
Best Blackout Blinds FAQ
When should I use blackout shades versus blackout curtains?
It’s strictly preferential. Shades are more compact and orderly, and they’ll nestle right into the frame easily, which is aesthetically pleasing and efficient for blocking heat and light transfer. On the other hand, curtains are a more natural and convenient solution that may allow some bleed-over between indoor and outdoor environments, but their relaxed fit means you can easily set them over any window. Curtains are also a good idea if a horizontal draw is more appealing than a vertical roll when opening and closing your window treatment.
How tight into the frame should my blackout shades be?
As a rule of thumb, leaving an eighth of an inch between the shade and the side sills of the window should provide ample room for opening and closing with a snug fit that keeps light and heat from transferring. However, it’s not necessarily “wrong” to leave more space since you may prefer the light and gentle temperature difference that’s offered by a partial-fitting shade.
Where should I use which materials? What styles are recommended?
Paper shades, which usually occur as cellular or pleated shades, are considered the most versatile option due to their ability to hold up against sunlight and moisture while being easy to clean. You can use these just about anywhere in your home.
If you’re looking at more durable options, a cloth is typically recommended for the same reasons while wood is more of an aesthetic window treatment than anything.
Wooden shades tend to create glare, don’t hold temperature very well and are susceptible to moisture, but they do create an upscale feel and are great for windows that don’t require a serious blackout treatment. You probably shouldn’t use these in a bathroom setting.
Concerning styles, keep in mind that slatted shades may compromise indoor privacy to an extent because the slats can usually be seen through — that is, if your neighbors are diligent enough. It’s not as important for second-floor windows, but really, what are chances of someone playing peeping Tom with your windows? That’s all up to your comfort level and where you live.
However, roll-up and folding shades will generally cover the entire window with the only concern being whether they’re thick enough to prevent light from barging straight through them. Aside from these minor details, you probably won’t be overly concerned about the functionality of different styles unless you dislike a draped style of shading, which is arguably less convenient thank peeking out through slats.
While they’re a fairly uncomplicated household accessory, manufacturers have found ways to give buyers such as yourself a range of motion when making a purchase decision. We think this makes it interesting to shop for shades because when you get down to it, any old shade will do the trick 90 percent of the time. After all, how much can you possibly ask of a blackout shade that amply covers a given window? Everything else is a bonus, right? Well, that might be partly true.
See, in an office setting, blinds can be even more important because of ongoing business expenses that depend on staff productivity and corner-cutting on power bills. A thermally insulated shade or curtain would punch well beyond its weight in savings not only as seen in gains through staff execution but also the amount of A/C or heat that’s kept inside. Sound-resistant shades may also be of importance here if the office is set next to an interstate, power plant or other areas that are known for their volume. Unfortunately, not all buildings are constructed with this thought in mind.
It may also prove important to invest in shades that look nice when conducting commerce to the public since cellular window fixtures give off a less confident vibe that almost says, “We aren’t quite sure what we’re doing here.” The next time you’re ever in a store or office, take note of the shades that are used and ask yourself how they make you feel about the business in question. First impressions are everything!
Where many of our reviews aim to simplify a topic, this one strove to bring more depth to a deceptively simple accessory of your home or office space. We hope we’ve gotten you thinking in three dimensions about the potential offerings of blackout shades. If you need to see everything side by side, check out the comparison table near the top again for at-a-glance specifications. Good luck!