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Best Blackout Shades – Top Picks and Buyer’s Guide

Written by Keith Cushner

Quick Overview

Many people experience sleep disruptions due to exposure to sunlight from their bedroom windows. Most curtains are not designed to block all sunlight. As a result, sleepers are especially vulnerable to light-related disruptions during brighter and/or hotter times of the year.

For this reason, many rely on blackout shades. Like blackout curtains, blackout shades are made from semi-opaque or opaque fabrics and other materials that prevent light from seeping into bedrooms. This results in significant darkening, which can help people fall and remain asleep more easily. The materials used for many blackout shades also block outside noise to some extent.

Blackout shades – also known as cellular shades – are widely available, and most have reasonable price-points. Despite the name, some blackout shades merely filter light to create some dimming; others provide near-total darkness. Some shades come pre-cut to certain dimensions, while others are sold in larger sheets that owners can trim and resize based on the windows in their home.

This guide explains what blackout shades do, how they’re made, and what to consider before buying them. Below you’ll find our picks for the top blackout shades sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner reviews, along with intensive product research and analysis.

Best Blackout Shades

Best Blackout Shades – Reviewed

Editor's PickEasy Lift Light Filtering Shades

Editor's Pick – Easy Lift Light Filtering Shades

Highlights

  • Made from lace fabric
  • Pleated shades, no cord
  • 4 sizes available for home trimming
  • Full satisfaction guarantee
Tuck readers can buy the Easy Lift Light Filtering Shades at the lowest price.
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Editor's PickEasy Lift Light Filtering Shades

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The ideal blackout shades should be durable, easy to operate, and – above all else – effective at blocking or filtering light. Our Editor’s Pick, the Easy Lift Blackout Shade, offers very good light-filtering, resulting in a soothing dimness that is very conducive to sleep.

The pleated, cordless shades are made from soft-spun lace that provides good darkening in any room of the house. The material is also resilient, giving the shades a longer-than-average lifespan.

Customers can choose from four shades sizes, ranging from 30 inches width x 64 inches length to 60 inches width x 64 inches length. Buyers can trim the shades at home to match their windows’ specific dimensions. The shades can be applied using a strong adhesive. The inside mount should be at least 1 1/4 inches deep. Owners can clean the shades with light vacuuming or dusting. Natural and white colors are available. Easy Lift offers a full satisfaction guarantee for all purchases.

Best ValueRedi Shade Blackout Shades

Best Value – Redi Shade Blackout Shades

Highlights

  • Made from paper
  • Pleated shades, no cord
  • 2 sizes available for home trimming
  • Blocks 99% of UV light
Redi Shade Blackout Shades are available to Tuck readers at the lowest price.
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Best ValueRedi Shade Blackout Shades

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The cost of blackout shades can be somewhat high – $15 to $20 per square foot, in some cases – but shoppers can find shade options at much lower price-points that offer comparable levels of quality.

Our Best Value pick, the Redi Shade Blackout Shades, are a great example. Priced at less than $2 per square foot, these shades are crafted from black, American-made paper that blocks up to 99% of outside light. Paper is not as durable as other blackout shade materials, but a much lower cost compensates shoppers for a shorter product lifespan.

Redi Shade offers two shade sizes, 36 inches width x 72 inches length and 48 inches width x 72 inches length, for owners to trim and resize at home. The shades are pleated. They do not have a cord, and can be raised or lowered using built-in clips. Many owners prefer cordless designs because they pose fewer safety risks to small children and pets. The shades can be installed using a resilient adhesive; no tools or small parts are required.

Best Size RangeBali Blinds Blackout Shades

Best Size Range – Bali Blinds Blackout Shades

Highlights

  • Made from honeycomb fabric
  • Pleated shades, no cord
  • 7 pre-cut sizes
  • Good sound-blocking
Bali Blinds Light Filtering Shades are available to Tuck readers at the lowest price.
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Best Size RangeBali Blinds Blackout Shades

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For customers who wish to order precut shades – rather than trim them to size at home – a wide selection of width and length options is important. Bali Blinds offers light-filtering shades in seven different sizes, ranging from 23 inches width x 64 inches length to 36 inches width x 64 inches length. These shades are made from durable fabric with honeycomb-shaped cells that trap light and filter it through, resulting in helpful dimming for sleepers.

The material also absorbs sound well, offering privacy for homeowners and relief from outside noises. The shades block nearly 60 percent of outside heat, and will prevent a significant amount of heat from escaping the house during colder times of the year.

Bali Blinds Light Filtering Shades are exceptionally low-cost, as well, with each size priced at less than $3 per square foot. The shades are pleated and do not have a cord – the bottom handle can be used to raise and lower the shades. In addition to light-filtering shades, Bali Blinds offers additional opacity levels for added darkening.

Best Customizable ShadesLUCKUP Blackout Shades

Best Customizable Shades – LUCKUP Blackout Shades

Highlights

  • Made from paper
  • Pleated shades, no cord
  • 2 sizes for home trimming
  • Durable and easy to clean
Tuck readers can purchase LUCKUP Blackout Shades at the lowest available price.
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Best Customizable ShadesLUCKUP Blackout Shades

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The LUCKUP Blackout Shades are crafted from black, non-woven paper material with very dense opacity, which allows the material to block most outside light and UV rays. Customers can choose from two sizes, 36 inches width x 72 inches length and 48  inches width x 72 inches length, and then trim the shades to width and length at home. The shades are easy to cut and install, thanks to a no-tools process involving permanent adhesive.

LUCKUP sells single shades, as well as bulk backs of two, three, or six. The shades are relatively easy to clean. LUCKUP recommends light wiping with a rag of feather duster to preserve their look. They are also cordless, making them safe for small children and pets, and the fabric is considered non-toxic.

White, black, and grey colors are available. Single shades from LUCKUP carry below-average price-points, and customers can save some money by buying them in bulk.

Best DurabilityAchim Room Darkening Shades

Best Durability – Achim Room Darkening Shades

Highlights

  • Made from vinyl
  • Pleated shades, 1 cord
  • 1 size for home trimming
  • Easy installation and care
Buy the Achim Room Darkening Shades at the lowest available price.
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Best DurabilityAchim Room Darkening Shades

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The Achim Room Darkening Shades are made from vinyl, which is less susceptible to tearing as shades made from paper and other less resilient materials. As a result, these shades tend to perform for longer periods. Owners can raise or lower the shades with a single pull-cord in the center. Achim sells the shades in one size, 36 inches width x 75 inches length, for trimming at home. The shades are available as a single purchase or in bulk packs of six.

Installation is fairly straightforward for these shades. Once they have been cut to width and length, owners simply remove the adhesive strip and apply the shades to any window surface. Although the shades are primarily sold in bulk, Achim offers them at a fairly low price-point; when purchased in the six pack, each shade costs roughly 65 cents per square foot.

Buying Guide – How to Shop for Blackout Shades

Many sleepers struggle with sleep disruptions caused by light exposure, often due to sunlight seeping through bedroom windows.

Blackout shades (also known as cellular shades) can be a low-cost fix for this problem; like blackout curtains, blackout shades are made from semi-opaque or opaque materials that prevent outside light from entering the room. These shades can also block harmful UV rays, muffle noises in and out of the house, and lower utility costs for owners by preventing heat from escaping during the winter.

This buying guide covers how blackout shades are constructed and priced. We’ll also discuss sleepers who may benefit from blackout shades, some important considerations for first-time buyers, and additional strategies from preventing light-related sleep disruptions.

What Are Blackout Shades?

A shade is a type of window covering that, by definition, can be raised or lowered in a vertical direction. Some shades have a pull-cord, while cordless designs typically have a clip built-in to the bottom of the shade that can be pulled down or lifted up.

It’s important to note that shade cords pose some health and injury risks to pets and small children, since they can be ripped off the shades with force and are considered a choking hazard.

Blackout shades are specialized shades made from light-blocking paper, fabric, or other materials such as vinyl. Although the term ‘blackout’ seems to imply full light-blocking, blackout shades are divided into three general categories based on their darkening abilities:

  • Light-Filtering Shades allow some light to enter the room; they are typically made of white or grey cellular fabrics that filter out harmful UV rays and also mute the brightness of sunlight, resulting in noticeable darkening.
  • Darkening Shades block most outside light. These shades are commonly made of black/dark grey fabric, paper, or vinyl. Most darkening shades are also thick enough to mute outside noises to some degree.
  • True Blackout Shades block almost all outside light, up to 99% in some cases. They are always made from black materials – typically fabric, paper, or vinyl – that provide near-total darkness, even during the daytime. These are also the best curtains for trapping inside heat, absorbing sounds, and blocking UV rays.

Technically, blackout shades and blackout curtains are different by design. The table below breaks down some key distinctions between these two products.

Product Blackout Shades Blackout Curtains
Common Materials Cellular fabric Paper Vinyl Two-pass fabric padded with one layer of foam Three-pass fabric padded with two layers of foam
Opening/closing direction Vertical Horizontal
Coverage Area Window only Window, as well as areas above and below the frame
Installation options Rod and screw Adhesive Rod and screw
Average Cost $15 to $35 per shade $30 to $60 per panel

Choosing and Installing Blackout Shades

Next, we’ll look at how to select a size for blackout shades and install them on a bedroom window.

Many manufacturers of blackout shades sell the product in oversize sheets, which typically measure anywhere from 20 to 64 inches wide and 64 to 72 inches long. Customers order a standard size, and then cut the shades to width and length at home based on their bedroom window dimensions.

The paper, vinyl, fabric, and other materials used to make blackout shades are easy to cut with a straight-edge blade. Other brands offer shades that are pre-cut in specific or custom sizes, but owners may still be able to trim the shades themselves if further adjustments are needed.

Installing blackout shades usually involves one of these two processes:

  • The shades are mounted using rods, screws, and other small parts. These components are almost always included with purchase.
  • The shades are applied with an adhesive strip; owners simply remove the strip cover and apply where they choose. These shades usually require a minimum window depth of 1/2 to 1 inch in order to conceal the adhesive strip.

Both installation methods have pros and cons. Rod and screw assembly requires more legwork, since these small parts are also easier to lose, and replacing them may be a hassle. However, these shades never need to be reinstalled as long as the rod and screws remain in place.

Adhesive shades need to be applied precisely the first time, since the substance is strong and quick to bond with surfaces; attempting to reapply may cause the adhesive to weaken and result in unsightly marks on the walls. Adhesive shades tend to be less expensive, and when applied correctly the adhesive for most is semi-permanent.

Who Should Use Blackout Shades?

Blackout shades can be useful for any sleeper, but they are particularly suitable for the following:

  • Shift workers whose schedules require them to work at night and sleep during the daylight hours. Many of these employees experience shift-work sleep disorder, which causes sleep disruption due to irregularities in the individual’s sleep cycle; because our circadian rhythm depends on exposure to sunlight, shift workers often struggle to sleep during the day. Blackout shades, by blocking light, can mimic the darkness of nighttime and help shift workers get much-needed rest.
  • People who live in exceptionally bright areas; this issue may be compounded from late spring to early fall, when the sun sets later during the day and more light is present in the evening. Thick-opacity shades are recommended for these individuals because they also filter out harmful UV rays.
  • People who live in urban areas with a heavy exposure to neon and other forms of artificial light from nearby buildings. Blackout shades can also help block outside noises for those who reside on loud streets.
  • Newborns, infants, toddlers, and other small children who nap during the day. Blackout shades can help little ones nod off and stay asleep during naptime, leaving them well-rested during other parts of the day.
  • Homeowners with relatively high utility costs. Thick blackout shades can block outside heat during the summer, which can cut down on air conditioner use, and also trap interior heat during the winter.

Pros and Cons of Blackout Shades

  • Generally cheaper than blackout curtains
  • Wide selection of pre-cut and home-trim shades
  • Easy installation, cleaning, and maintenance
  • Multiple darkening levels to accommodate sleepers with different preferences

Cons

  • Generally less durable than blackout curtains, with an average lifespan of about 3 years
  • Shades with pull-cords or chains can be a choking/strangulation risk for small children and pets.
  • Some shades do not absorb sound or trap heat as well as others.
  • Little to no warranty coverage for most shades; if a warranty is present, it most likely covers the product for three years or less

Key Considerations for Blackout Shades Buyers

When shopping for blackout shades, first-time buyers should take the following factors into account.

  • Price: Most blackout shades do not cost more than $30 per panel, although high-end models can much more expensive. Please note that some sellers price them per square foot; the average shade costs between $2 and $6 per square foot.
  • Cord or Cordless: Shade cords can pose a strangulation hazard for small kids and pets. For this reason, most blackout shades have built-in pull-down clips instead – but buyers who prefer a cordless model should check the packaging just in case.
  • Material: Blackout shades made from fabric tend to be much more durable than those made from paper – and this durability often drives up the price-point. Vinyl shades are also more durable than most paper shades, but do not cost as much as fabric shades.
  • Opacity/Darkening Level: Light-filtering shades bring a pleasant dimness to most rooms, while darkening shades will block most light. Those who desire total darkness should opt for true blackout shades.
  • Pre-Cut or Trim at Home: Precut shades are more convenient, but they can be a hassle to return or replace if the buyer’s measurements are not completely accurate. Precut shades also take longer to ship, in most cases. Shades that are trimmed at home may be more labor-intensive, but this may be the most suitable option for buyers with irregular window sizes.
  • Installation: Rod-and-screw installation is more stable, though it requires making holes around the window surface and small parts can get lost easily. Adhesive installation does not require any small parts, but owners need to apply the shades correctly the first time to preserve adhesive strength.
  • Color: Although blackout shades come in a wide range of colors, it’s no surprise that shades made from solid-black materials provide the most light blockage.
  • Warranty: As noted above, many blackout shades do not come with a warranty. Those that do are usually covered for three years or less.

Other Sleep Strategies for Light-Related Issues

In addition to blackout shades, sleepers can limit light exposure and optimize their bedroom conditions through one of these other methods:

Wear a Sleep Mask

The term sleep mask refers to a lightweight barrier used to cover the eyes. Most sleep masks are made of fabric and have an elastic band that fits around the back of the head. Some models are also padded with foam for added cushioning and comfort.

Sleep masks may not prevent light from entering a bedroom (which can affect circadian rhythm if no curtains or blinds are present, but most masks mimic darkness fairly well and can significantly improve sleep onset and maintenance. They make great travel accessories, as well, due to their light and compact shape. For more information, please visit our Best Sleep Masks guide.

Try Light Therapy

People who live in areas with minimal darkness during part or all of the year are susceptible to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This condition, which occurs due to irregular circadian rhythms, can lead to depressive symptoms. Many alleviate the symptoms of this condition using a light therapy box, a device that emits high concentrations of bright, artificial light that mimics natural sunlight.

Although preferences vary, most sleepers seem to prefer 20 to 60 minutes of exposure to bright white light. To learn more about these devices, check out our Light Therapy & Best SAD Lamps guide.

Invest in a Wake-Up Light

Wake-up lights are designed to emit a soft light that gradually becomes brighter. They can be programmed as alarms, providing the brightest light levels at the owner’s preset time.

Most emit a bright white or yellow light; by mimicking the natural sunrise, the lights can improve the sleeper’s circadian rhythm. For many, wake-up lights also offer a more pleasant waking experience than audible alarms. Check out our Best Wake-Up Lights guide for more information.

For more information about blackout fixtures and other methods of optimizing bedroom light levels, please visit the following pages on Tuck.com.

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