Why you should trust us
This guide builds on the extensive research that Wirecutter senior staff writer Jackie Reeve undertook for her guide lớn the best blackout curtains, which included interviewing a number of sleep experts.
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We also spoke with Blinds.com senior social truyền thông media specialist Abigail Sawyer and design consultant Danielle Sansone about trends in the shade industry and choosing the right shade for your needs. Steve Musgrove, a design consultant with Stoneside, educated us about materials and installation, and Peter von Feilitzen of iFit took us through the ins and outs of the window treatment industry. We consulted Oliver Furth, an interior designer based in Los Angeles, about balancing functionality with style.
Who should get these
Anyone who might benefit from blackout curtains—the sleep-deprived, the night-shift worker, the day napper, the home page theater owner—but who doesn’t lượt thích the look of them might opt for blackout shades instead. For our blackout curtain guide, experts told us that room-darkening, and not true blackout, window treatments are the best option for most people.
How we picked and tested
Our research, along with our conversations with industry experts, helped us determine that a blackout shade should:
Effectively block light: Good blackout shades will block the amount of light they claim lớn, but proper installation is key. Even the best blackout shades can suffer from the dreaded “light halo,” which occurs when small slivers of light seep in around the sides of a shade (see How lớn achieve total darkness for how lớn fix this). According lớn Blinds.com’s Sansone and Stoneside’s Musgrove, cellular shades are often the most effective at blocking light. These shades are constructed with either a single or double layer of hollow cells, which not only block light, but also improve insulation and muffle noise. Roller shades tend lớn let light in through a gap between the mounting hardware and the top of the shade. To achieve true blackout with this style, you’ll generally need lớn mount them above the window frame or use a valance. Woven-wood shades usually require a liner lớn keep out light.
Be a good value: The most basic blackout shades cost as little as 80¢ per square foot, while the highest-end shades lập cập up lớn trăng tròn times that. Inexpensive shades—such as the pleated paper kind—tend lớn be less durable, let more light pass through, and use lower-quality materials. Expensive blackout shades often have superfluous features such as smart-home functionality or high-end finishes. Although our experts recommend investing in motorized lifts (custom models often offer this upgrade), they add a considerable amount lớn the total cost, and we don’t think they’re necessary. We think shades costing about $3.50 lớn $5.50 per square foot strike the right balance of savings, good looks, and functionality.
Come in a range of sizes and colors: Most shades we considered come in dozens of sizes, with the majority ranging from at least 14 inches in width by 12 inches in length lớn 72 inches in width by 72 inches in length. A more limited range in size and/or color means the shade might not work as well in your home page.
Be safe and convenient: Some types of shades (particularly those with a continuous loop lift mechanism) pose safety hazards in homes with small children or pets, who might accidentally strangle themselves playing with the cords. Most of the experts we consulted recommended motorized lifts if you can afford them, or cordless lifts if you can’t. We think many people will be satisfied with cordless lifts. However, you’ll need lớn be able lớn reach the top of your window lớn fully retract a cordless design.
Be attractive: You’ll interact with your blackout shades every day, sánh it’s important that you lượt thích the way they look. We prioritized shades with attractive materials and modern designs.
Be easy lớn install: We preferred shades with mounting hardware that’s simple lớn install and easy lớn hốc the shades on. Roman shades can be fussier lớn install than vãn roller or cellular shades, since the excess fabric tends lớn get in the way of mounting hardware. Some companies offer professional installation for a fee, but we didn’t find any shades that were especially challenging lớn install ourselves.
Have a reasonable shipping time: Custom shades can take as long as four weeks lớn assemble and ship. We don’t think this is a dealbreaker, since it means you’ll kết thúc up with high-quality shades that fit perfectly in your home page. But if you need lớn acquire shades quickly, off-the-shelf models are a good choice and tend lớn be less expensive, though your ability lớn customize these is limited.
Come with good customer service and warranty: Great customer service reps can help you choose the right shade and address any problems you might encounter. Strong warranties and good return policies will help ensure you kết thúc up with a product that’s right for your needs.
After reading editorial reviews from publications lượt thích Sleep Like the Dead, blogs of prominent window treatment companies lượt thích Blinds.com, and customer reviews on Amazon and other retail sites, we assembled an initial list of 23 blackout shades. Based on interviews with our experts, we decided lớn focus our tìm kiếm on the most popular types of shades—cellular and roller—but we also looked at other kinds. After eliminating models that cost more than vãn $5.50 per square foot, that had lead times greater than vãn four weeks, or that received either few reviews or a significant number of negative reviews, we ultimately landed on 12 models lớn test, all of which happen lớn be cordless.
To compare the shades, we replicated the test used for our blackout curtains guide. We suspended a shade in the middle of a room with virtually no ambient light. We placed a camera on one side of the shade and an external flash on the other.
Whenever we clicked the shutter, the external flash illuminated the backside of the shade. By using a softbox and a modified blackout curtain, we were able lớn capture only the light that passed through the shade. The darker the resulting photo, the more effective the shade.
Though the external flash test provided us with a somewhat objective measure of a shade’s effectiveness, we couldn’t totally dictate the direction of the light, and there may have been leakage. It’s important lớn remember that for many people a room-darkening shade is sufficient. Thus, we didn’t eliminate any blackout shades simply because they performed poorly on our first test.
We then installed each shade in two homes. We took notes on each shade’s packaging and instructions, the included hardware, what the installation process is lượt thích, how the material feels in-hand, and how easy the shades are lớn raise and lower. A panel evaluated each shade on look and feel, in addition lớn observing each shade’s performance at nighttime.
Our pick: Select Blinds Classic Cordless Blackout Shade
The Select Blinds Classic Cordless Blackout Shade effectively blocks the amount of light it claims lớn, unlike some other shades we looked at. The all-polyester shade is one of the more expensive models we considered, but the high-quality materials, high degree of customizability, and relatively short lead time make it a good value.
In our external flash test, the Select Blinds Classic Cordless shades blocked nearly all light from passing through. We were also impressed with how well they worked when installed in a kitchen and bathroom.
One of the most appealing aspects of this shade is the wide variety of colors and sizes available. It comes in eight neutral colors, all various shades of brown, taupe, gray, and white. We recommend ordering the không lấy phí swatches sánh you can see the color, material, and light-blocking ability of these shades before committing lớn them. Sizes range from 19 inches wide by 24 inches long lớn 72 inches wide by 84 inches long. Unlike some of the other models we investigated, you can adjust the size of the Select Blinds in ⅛-inch increments, increasing the likelihood of finding a shade that actually fits your window. Former Wirecutter writer Kevin Purdy told us that the versatile sizing and quick turnaround was exactly what he needed: “I have a very old Victorian house with non-standard window frame sizes and [it took] five days from order lớn shipping.”
These shades use a cordless lift system, sánh they’re safe for homes with small children or pets. “The raise/lower action on them is smoother than vãn I would have thought,” Purdy said, “and a significant upgrade from terrible two-string draws or roller shades that I’m used lớn.” If you can’t easily reach the top of the window lớn fully retract the shade, you could get the IKEA Riktig draw rod, which can grab hard-to-reach handles. Or consider upgrading lớn the motorized Select Blinds Premier Single Cell Blackout Shade.
Though this shade isn’t as easy lớn mount as our stick-on budget pick, the installation is still one of the simplest and most straightforward of the models we tested. You screw two lớn four mounting brackets into your wall, depending on the size of the shade, clip the shade into the brackets, and pop the handle on the bottom.
The Select Blinds Classic Cordless shade feels better lớn the touch and looks higher quality compared with the other 100 percent polyester shades we tested, and it also had a much shorter lead time—eight days versus four weeks—than other custom shades we considered. We’re taking notes on how well they hold up and will report back with our findings.
The Select Blinds shade comes with a three-year limited warranty, which protects you against manufacturer defects. For a fee, you can upgrade your warranty lớn a five-year limited or five-year unlimited plan. The company has a reputation for providing quality customer service, and we found their reps more than vãn happy lớn assist us with measurements and selecting the right setup.
This shade has received numerous positive reviews on the Select Blinds site, with reviewers citing their effectiveness at blocking light, the tốc độ and ease of installation, the excellent materials and construction, and the exceptional customer service they received. “These blinds are such great quality,” writes one reviewer. “They have a clean look, fitting snug inside the window frame and no tangled chords. They block out almost all the light really darkening a room … . My husband did all rooms in 30 minutes with a hand held drill.”
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Select Blinds combined the instructions for several models of shades in one manual, making it confusing and hard lớn read. We appreciate their paper-saving efforts, but the installation process for each model diverges significantly, and the type is quite small. I kept finding myself reading the first few sentences of sections for other shades before realizing that info wasn’t pertinent.
A few customers mentioned having issues with the mounting brackets, claiming they were “super obvious from the outside of the house,” or that they “did not fit and required bending and working with it for it lớn work.” While we don’t doubt these customers, we didn’t lập cập into problems with the mounting brackets.
Finally, be careful with depth if you plan lớn mount a cellular shade over a full-size window on a door. We found there wasn’t enough clearance for the door handle lớn sit properly while using this pick. If you plan on installing cellular shades on a door window, consider instead a custom option (such as one from Blinds.com) that can be ordered in shallower depths. We found a half inch or less worked well on our test door.
Runner-up: IKEA Trippevals
The IKEA Trippevals is as effective at blocking light, as simple lớn install, and has the same cordless design as our main cellular shade pick, while also costing about a third less. However, it doesn’t look quite as nice as other, more expensive blinds and comes in far fewer sizes and only in gray. Customer service varies according lớn the store you’re in, but we found the reps on IKEA’s customer service line lớn be knowledgeable and personable. The shade doesn’t come with a warranty, though it’s covered by the company’s 365-day return policy.
Like the Select Blinds pick, this IKEA shade is constructed entirely from polyester, but it feels thinner, less textured, and generally less pleasant lớn touch than vãn our top pick. Our panel confirmed that the Select Blinds shade felt more luxurious, but agreed that the Trippevals looked almost as nice. It also does a good job of blocking light but isn't quite as effective as our top pick. Former Wirecutter writer Daniel Varghese told us that in his space, the Trippevals blocked most, but not all of the light: “They block out 95 percent of the light, but there’s still a nonzero amount that gets in.”
If you live relatively close lớn an IKEA store, the biggest advantage of the Trippevals over our main pick is its availability. Because Select Blinds takes two lớn three days lớn manufacture shades, you could wait as long as eight days between the time you order and when the shades show up at your doorstep.
Compared with other shades we tested, the Trippevals comes in the fewest colors. If you’re ordering online, we hope you lượt thích light gray, since that’s your only option. It comes in only one length (76¾ inches) and five preset widths (27, 30, 32, 34, and 48 inches). Those standard sizes won’t work for many. Wirecutter senior editor Harry Sawyers told us he considered the Trippevals but, due lớn non-standardized windows, decided lớn buy IKEA’s Marjun blackout curtains instead. If your window isn’t one of these five widths, our top pick offers more precise sizing options. Assembly is straightforward, but the four screws you’ll need lớn attach the mounting brackets lớn your wall aren’t included.
Also great: iFit Cordless Blackout Polyester Fabric Roller Shade
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The iFit Cordless Blackout Polyester Fabric Roller Shade blocks light as effectively as our top pick and more effectively than vãn most of the roller and cellular shades we tested. It’s a better choice if you prefer the look of a roller shade, if you want lớn add a blackout shade lớn a windowed door, or if you need something that’s easier lớn clean.
Nearly all of the roller shades we considered passed our external flash test with flying colors, and the iFit was no exception. It blocked most of the light coming through, with just a bit seeping in through the sides. And it performed just as well in our real-world tests, blocking as much light as our other picks.
The iFit shade comes in a 73-inch length, and the width ranges in half-inch increments from 24 lớn 73 inches. The fabric itself is 1⅛ inch narrower than vãn the mount, sánh if you hốc the shade inside the window frame, light will enter along the sides as well as in the space between the roll and the mount. Installing the shade with an outside mount or adding a valence can prevent this otherwise unavoidable light halo.
The iFit comes in five colors: beige, đen giòn, brown, light gray, and white. It has a cordless lift system that works lượt thích that of our cellular picks. If you can’t reach the top of your window, get a draw rod lượt thích the IKEA Riktig.
Like most polyester roller shades, the iFit is durable and easier lớn clean than vãn cellular shades. The acrylic-coated material of the iFit looks sleeker and feels more pleasant than vãn many of the other roller shades we tested (although we prefer the look of our main pick). If you have kids or pets in the house, roller shades present no safety hazards and can stand up lớn roughhousing.
iFit includes a one-year warranty with these shades, which covers manufacturing defects and design flaws. Because iFit distributes their shades almost entirely through trang chủ Depot, we recommend contacting the retailer’s customer tư vấn line. We called twice—the first rep was not that helpful, while the second person we spoke lớn was extremely knowledgeable about measuring and installing blackout shades.
Home Depot customer reviews of the iFit Polyester Roller Shade are glowing and specifically mention how easy it is lớn install. A number of customers were also impressed with the quality of the materials—one compares it lớn products at “a boutique shade cửa hàng where I was quoted a price four times as high.”
Budget pick: Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade
The Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade is your best option if you want a more affordable or temporary window treatment and don’t mind a bit of light filtering in. It comes in packs of six, can be cut lớn width, and couldn’t be easier lớn install—just peel and stick. This isn’t the best long-term solution, since the shade is less attractive and less durable, and doesn’t come with a warranty.
This paper shade blocked substantially less light than vãn competitors did in our external flash test, tinting the light that passed through with a reddish hue. However, Wirecutter supervising editor Winnie Yang has a similar model from Redi Shade installed in her home page and finds that this isn’t an issue with windows that receive indirect light.
Our panelists agreed that they prefer cellular or roller shades over paper models for style and durability, but pointed out that paper shades might come in handy in certain situations, such as in a basement, garage, or dorm room, or as a stopgap measure until you find a more permanent solution.
This shade comes in two sizes: 36 inches by 72 inches and 48 inches by 72 inches (width by length), but you can cut it lớn the exact size you need. If you’re particularly crafty, you can even cut paper shades into hexagons, semicircles, or other irregular shapes, allowing you lớn inside-mount on non-rectangular windows.
The Redi Shade uses a similar cordless lift system as our other picks, but with far less precision. The shade is liable lớn sag a bit when raised or lowered.
The Redi Shade may rip, tear, or discolor more than vãn vinyl or polyester options, but we tự think it’ll last longer than vãn you might expect. Yang has had hers for two years, and she’s found they’ve held up well, even with a toddler in the house. Wirecutter senior editor Jennifer Hunter recently installed Redi Shades when she needed some quick privacy shades in a new house. She said: “They took seconds lớn install and were a great stopgap while we waited for custom shades on a hard-to-size window.”
In general, the customer reviews of the Redi Shade are positive, with many people praising the adhesive installation and the low price. Some customers note that you need lớn “clean the window area properly with some alcohol” in order lớn prevent a shade from falling down after prolonged use.
How lớn achieve total darkness
To eliminate the light halo common with blackout shades, you basically have two options. If you use an inside mount, where the shade hangs inside the window frame and covers only the actual glass pane, you’ll need lớn get a light-blocking sidetrack, lượt thích the Sleepy Time Tracks. This magnetic track works with all of our picks—if you opted for our budget pick, we recommend installing the tracks before the shade.
Sleepy Time Tracks
These tracks can be installed along the sides and bottom of a window frame lớn eliminate the light halo you get with improperly or inside-mounted shades.
Some custom-shade specialists might also include tracks with their shades, but this isn’t a common option. Instead of using tracks, many people opt lớn layer a curtain or drape over the shade.
You can bypass the light-blocking sidetracks by using an outside mount, where the shade hangs on the wall above the window, including the frame (similar lớn how you’d hốc a curtain rod). For the best effect, Blinds.com’s Danielle Sansone recommends adding at least 3 inches of extra width on either side of the window. The extra clearance virtually eliminates any light halo and also gives more leeway with measurements. Interior designer Oliver Furth said he often recommends mounting “shades higher up on the wall—close lớn the ceiling—in order lớn stretch a room's height and make ceilings look taller.”
Whether you mount your shade inside or above your window frame, you’ll want lớn make sure you get the right width of shade for your window, which is where most of the light halo comes through.
Care and maintenance
If you live with children or pets, it’s a good idea lớn discourage them from playing with your shades. Tugging on a shade with extraneous force or in unusual directions can easily tear it. Keep an especially close eye on cats, as their claws can easily scratch or rip shades.
Most shades can be dusted by hand or with the dusting attachment on a vacuum cleaner (be sure lớn use a low power setting). You can also spot-clean with a sponge, lukewarm water, and mild dishwasher detergent. But again, it’s best lớn follow the cleaning instructions included with your shade.
Nothing about the Linen Avenue Custom Cordless Crystal Blackout Cellular Shade stands out when compared with our runner-up cellular shade pick. The company’s customer service also seems lớn be nonexistent. We couldn’t find a customer service phone number, and after emailing them several times, we never received a response.
We were concerned about the durability of the adhesive-mounted cut-and-install Redi Shade Easy Lift Trim-at-Home Shade. If you have unusually sized windows and want inside-mounted cellular shades, these are your only option. Otherwise, we think you’re better off with our top pick.
Compared with our roller shade pick, the now-discontinued IKEA Tupplur was more difficult lớn mount. Wirecutter staff members we polled also disliked the slick-feeling vinyl. The Tupplur was also available in fewer colors and sizes than vãn our roller shade pick.
The now-discontinued Birch Lane Blackout Roman Shade seemed overly complex, with multiple layers of fabric and a snag-prone lift mechanism. We also had trouble keeping light from seeping in through the pleats.
The now-discontinued bamboo Top Blinds Privacy Blackout Gray/Brown Roman Shade was attractive and easy lớn install, but it was the worst performer in our external flash test.
Danielle Sansone, design consultant at Blinds.com, phone interview, February 8, 2018
Abigail Sawyers, senior social truyền thông media specialist at Blinds.com, phone interview, February 8, 2018
Oliver Furth, Oliver M. Furth interior designer, tin nhắn interview, February 2, 2018
Steve Musgrove, design consultant at Stoneside, phone interview, January 12, 2018
Peter von Feilitzen, business development manager at the Markisol Group, phone/email interview, January 23, 2018
Jackie Reeve, The Best Blackout Curtains, Wirecutter, January 25, 2017
Light-Blocking Window Treatment Ratings, Reviews & Comparisons, Sleep lượt thích the Dead, November 10, 2017
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O'D McKewan, How lớn Find Blackout Curtains That Actually Work, Angie's List, February 8, 2016
Katie, Hello Sunshine, Goodbye Glare-Openness vs. Opacity, BeHome, May 16, 2017
Lauren Smith, How lớn Clean Blinds and Shades, Good Housekeeping, December 11, 2017