The Best Blackout Shades (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick: Select Blinds Classic Cordless Blackout Shade
  • Runner-up: IKEA Trippevals
  • Also great: iFit Cordless Blackout Polyester Fabric Roller Shade
  • Budget pick: Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade
  • How to achieve total darkness
  • Care and maintenance
  • The competition
  • Sources

Why you should trust us

This guide builds on the extensive research that Wirecutter senior staff writer Jackie Reeve undertook for her guide to the best blackout curtains, which included interviewing a number of sleep experts.

For this guide:

  • We spoke with industry experts and design consultants to determine how to choose the right shade for your needs.
  • We talked to expert installers, who educated us about materials, installation, and the ins and outs of the window-treatment industry.
  • We tested 12 different shades in a room with no ambient light and photographed how much light passed through with an external flash.

How we picked and tested

Our research, along with our conversations with industry experts, helped us determine that a blackout shade should offer the following features and benefits:

Effective blocking of light: Good blackout shades block the amount of light they claim to, 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 to achieve total darkness for how to fix this). According to Blinds.com’s Danielle Sansone and Stoneside’s Steve 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 to let light in through a gap between the mounting hardware and the top of the shade; to achieve true blackout with this style, you generally need to mount them above the window frame or use a valance. Woven-wood shades usually require a liner to keep out light.

Good value: The most basic blackout shades cost as little as 80¢ per square foot, while the highest-end shades run up to 20 times that. Inexpensive shades—such as the pleated paper kind—tend to be less durable, let more light pass through, and use lower-quality materials. Some expensive blackout shades often have extra features such as smart-home functionality or high-end finishes but can still let a lot of light through.

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 to 72 inches in width by 72 inches in length. A more limited range in size or color may mean that the shade won’t work quite as well in your home.

Safe and convenient design: Some types of shades, particularly those with a continuous-loop lift mechanism, pose a safety hazard in homes with small children or pets, who might accidentally strangle themselves while 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 are likely to be satisfied with cordless lifts. However, you need to be able to reach the top of your window to fully retract a cordless design (draw rods can help).

Attractive appearance: You’ll interact with your blackout shades every day, so it’s important that you like the way they look. We prioritized shades with attractive materials and modern designs.

Easy installation: We preferred shades with mounting hardware that’s simple to install and easy to hang the shades on. Roman shades can be more annoying to install than roller or cellular shades, since their excess fabric tends to 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 to install ourselves.

Reasonable shipping time: Custom shades can take as long as four weeks to assemble and ship. We don’t think this is a dealbreaker, since it means you’ll end up with high-quality shades that fit perfectly in your home. But if you need to acquire shades quickly, off-the-shelf models are a good choice and tend to be less expensive, though your ability to customize them is limited.

Good customer service and a solid 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 help to ensure you end up with shades that are right for your needs.

After reading editorial reviews from outlets such as Sleep Like the Dead, blogs of prominent window-treatment companies like Blinds.com, and customer reviews on Amazon and other retail sites, we assembled an initial list of 23 blackout shades. Based on our interviews with experts, we decided to focus our search on the most popular types of shades—cellular and roller—but we also looked at other kinds. After eliminating models that cost more than $5.50 per square foot, had lead times greater than four weeks, or received either few reviews or a significant number of negative reviews, we ultimately landed on 12 models to test, all of which happened to be cordless.

To compare the shades, we replicated the test we 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 back of the shade. By using a softbox and a modified blackout curtain, we were able to capture only the light that passed through the shade. The darker the resulting photo, the more effective the shade.

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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 to 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 for real-life testing. We took notes on each shade’s packaging and instructions, the included hardware, what the installation process was like, how the material felt in the hand, and how easy the shades were to raise and lower. Our testing panel evaluated each shade on look and feel, in addition to observing each shade’s performance at nighttime.

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Our pick: Select Blinds Classic Cordless Blackout Shade

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Our pick

Select Blinds Classic Cordless Blackout Shade

The best blackout shade

This polyester cellular shade is one of the best we found at blocking light and the most attractive of the bunch, and it comes in one of the widest ranges of sizes and colors.

Buying Options

$50 from Select Blinds(19 by 24 inches)

The Select Blinds Classic Cordless Blackout Shades are especially effective and block out most light, unlike some other shades we looked at that claimed to do the same.

They really do block light. 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 we installed them in a kitchen and bathroom.

They’re well made, and they ship quickly. These Select Blinds shades felt better to the touch and looked higher quality compared with the other 100% polyester shades we tested, and they 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’re holding up, and we’ll report back with our findings.

They are very customizable. Unlike some of the other models we investigated, you can adjust the size of the Select Blinds in eighth-inch increments, increasing the likelihood of finding a shade that actually fits your window. Wirecutter’s Kevin Purdy told us that the versatile sizing and quick turnaround was exactly what he needed: “I have a very old Victorian house with nonstandard window frame sizes, and [it took] five days from order to shipping.” Sizes range from 19 inches wide by 24 inches long to 72 inches wide by 84 inches long.

They come in a wide variety of colors. One of the most appealing aspects of these shades is the wide variety of colors and sizes available. They come in 10 neutral colors, all various shades of brown, taupe, gray, and white. We recommend ordering the free swatches so that you can see the color, material, and light-blocking ability of these shades before committing to them.

They’re cordless. These shades use a cordless lift system, so they’re safe for homes with small children or pets. “The raise/lower action on them is smoother than I would have thought,” Purdy said, “and it’s a significant upgrade from terrible two-string draws or roller shades that I’m used to.” If you can’t easily reach the top of the window to fully retract the shade, you could get the IKEA Riktig draw rod, which can grab hard-to-reach handles. Or consider upgrading to the motorized Select Blinds Premier Single Cell Blackout Shade.

They’re easy to install. Though these shades aren’t as easy to 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 to 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.

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They come with a three-year limited warranty. The company has a good reputation for providing quality customer service, and we found its representatives more than happy to assist us with measurements and selecting the right setup. For a fee, you can upgrade your warranty to a five-year limited or five-year unlimited plan. But the basic warranty should protect you against most manufacturer defects.

They get great reviews. These shades received numerous positive reviews on the Select Blinds site, with reviewers citing the shades’ effectiveness at blocking light, the speed and ease of installation, the excellent materials and construction, and the exceptional customer service they received.

If you’re interested in a version of our pick that offers additional insulation and durability, you might consider getting the Select Double Cell Blackout Shade. And if you’re looking for a shade that combines traditional and blackout shade functionality, check out the top-down/bottom-up Premium Light Filtering/Blackout Cordless Shade.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • Select Blinds combined the instructions (PDF) for several models of shades in one manual, making it confusing and hard to read. We appreciate the company’s 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.
  • While we didn’t run into problems with the mounting brackets during our own testing, 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 to work.”
  • Keep in mind the depth of the shade if you plan to mount it over a full-size window on a door. While using this pick, we found that it didn’t allow enough clearance for the door handle to sit properly. If you plan on installing cellular shades on a door window, consider instead a custom option (such as one from Blinds.com) that you can order in shallower depths. We found that a half inch or less worked well on our test door.

Runner-up: IKEA Trippevals

The Best Blackout Shades (5)

Runner-up

IKEA Trippevals

More convenient, but limited selection

This IKEA shade is easy to install, looks good, and works as well as custom options (as long as you need only standard sizes). But it comes in few sizes and only one color.

Buying Options

$67 from IKEA(34 by 76¾ inches)

Compared with our main cellular-shade pick, the IKEA Trippevals shade is just as effective at blocking light, equally simple to install, and made with the same cordless design, while 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.

They look good for the price. Like our pick from Select Blinds, these IKEA shades are constructed entirely from polyester, but they feel thinner, less textured, and generally less pleasant to touch than our top pick. Our panel confirmed that while the Select Blinds shade felt more luxurious, the Trippevals shade looked almost as nice.

They do a good job of blocking light. While they’re not quite as effective at blocking light as our top pick, they still do a decent job. One of our testers told us that in his space, the Trippevals shades “block out 95% of the light, but there’s still a nonzero amount that gets in.”

You can get them in-person. If you live relatively close to an IKEA store, the biggest advantage of the Trippevals shade over our main pick is its availability. Because Select Blinds takes two to three days to manufacture shades, you could wait as long as eight days between the time you order and when the shades show up at your doorstep.

Customer service varies according to the store you’re in, but we found the reps on IKEA’s customer service line to be knowledgeable and personable. These shades don’t come with a warranty, but they’re covered by the company’s generous return policy.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • Compared with other shades we tested, the Trippevals shade comes in the fewest colors. If you’re ordering online, we hope you like light gray, since that’s your only option.
  • It comes in only one length (76.75 inches) and five preset widths (27, 30, 32, 34, and 48 inches). Those standard sizes don’t work for many. If your window isn’t one of those five widths, our top pick offers more precise sizing options.
  • Assembly is straightforward enough, but the four screws you need to attach the mounting brackets to your wall aren’t included.

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Also great: iFit Cordless Blackout Polyester Fabric Roller Shade

The Best Blackout Shades (7)

Also great

iFit Cordless Blackout Polyester Fabric Roller Shade

The best blackout roller shade

This shade doesn’t look quite as nice as cellular shades, but it’s easier to clean. It is the best-looking of the roller models we tested and one of the most effective at blocking light.

Buying Options

$66 from Home Depot

If you prefer the look of roller shades, the iFit Cordless Blackout Polyester Fabric Roller Shades block light as effectively as our top pick and more effectively than most of the roller and cellular shades we tested. They’re also thinner than cellular shades, so they might work better for doors with windows, which can have shallow clearances.

They block out most light. Nearly all of the roller shades we considered passed our external flash test with flying colors, and the iFit shade was no exception. These shades blocked most of the light coming through, with just a bit seeping in through the sides. And they performed just as well in our real-world tests, blocking as much light as our other picks.

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They come in several colors. The iFit shades come in six colors: beige, black, brown, light gray, dark gray, and white. The acrylic-coated material of the iFit shade looks sleeker and feels more pleasant than that of many of the other roller shades we tested (although we prefer the look of our main pick). The iFit shade comes in a 73-inch length, and the width ranges in half-inch increments from 24 to 73 inches.

They are cordless and easy to clean. The cordless lift system works like that of our cellular picks. If you can’t reach the top of your window, get a draw rod, such as the IKEA Riktig. If you have kids or pets in the house, roller shades present no safety hazards and can stand up to roughhousing. Like most polyester roller shades, the iFit model is durable and easier to clean than cellular shades.

They are easy to install. Home Depot customer reviews of the iFit Polyester Roller Shade are glowing and specifically mention how easy it is to install. A number of customers say they were also impressed with the quality of the materials—one compares this shade to those at “a boutique shade shop where I was quoted a price four times as high.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • The fabric is 1.125 inches narrower than the mount, so if you hang 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 valance, can prevent this otherwise unavoidable light halo.
  • Customer service from Home Depot, where these shades are sold, can be a bit hit-or-miss. We called twice—the first rep was not that helpful, while the second person we spoke to was extremely knowledgeable about measuring and installing blackout shades (PDF). iFit does include a one-year warranty with these shades, which covers manufacturing defects and design flaws.

Budget pick: Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade

The Best Blackout Shades (10)

Budget pick

Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade

A DIY paper option

This inexpensive paper option doesn’t look as nice as other blinds we tested, but it’s a great quick fix. You can trim it to any size, and it hangs from an adhesive strip.

Buying Options

$30 from Amazon(36 by 72 inches; pack of six)

$30 from Walmart(36 by 72 inches; pack of six)

$9 from Home Depot(36 by 72 inches)

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.

They are especially easy to install. These shades couldn’t be easier to install—just peel and stick. This isn’t the best long-term option, since these shades are less attractive and less durable, but they work in a pinch. Some buyers note that you need to “clean the window area properly with some alcohol” in order to prevent a shade from falling down after prolonged use.

You can cut them to the appropriate width. These shades come in two sizes, 36 inches by 72 inches and 48 inches by 72 inches (width by length), but you can cut them to the exact size you need. If you’re particularly crafty, you can even cut paper shades into hexagons, semicircles, or other irregular shapes, which allows you to inside-mount them on non-rectangular windows.

They’re a great temporary option. Paper shades might come in handy in certain situations, such as in a basem*nt, garage, or dorm room, or as a stopgap measure until you find a more permanent treatment. Wirecutter senior editor Jennifer Hunter installed Redi Shades when she needed some quick privacy shades in a new house. She said: “They took seconds to install and were a great stopgap while we waited for custom shades on a hard-to-size window.”

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They may last longer than you expect. Redi Shade models may rip, tear, or discolor more than vinyl or polyester options, but they can last a surprisingly long time. One tester has had hers for five years, and she has found that they’ve held up well, even with a toddler in the house.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • This paper shade blocked substantially less light than competitors did in our external flash test, tinting the light that passed through with a reddish hue. However, one tester has a similar model from Redi Shade installed in her home and finds that this isn’t an issue with windows that receive indirect light.
  • This Redi Shade model uses a cordless lift system similar to those of our other picks but with far less precision. The shade is liable to sag a bit when raised or lowered.
  • These shades don’t come with a warranty.

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How to 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 to get a light-blocking sidetrack, like 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.

Also great

Sleepy Time Tracks

These tracks can be installed along the sides and bottom of a window frame to eliminate the light halo you get with improperly or inside-mounted shades.

Buying Options

$46 from Amazon

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 to 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 to how you’d hang 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 to the ceiling—in order to stretch a room's height and make ceilings look taller.”

Whether you mount your shade inside or above your window frame, you’ll want to 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 to 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 to use a low power setting). You can also spot-clean with a sponge, lukewarm water, and mild dishwasher detergent. But again, it’s best to follow the cleaning instructions included with your shade.

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The competition

Cellular

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 to 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.

Roller

Compared with our roller shade pick, the now-discontinued IKEA Tupplur was more difficult to mount. Wirecutter staff members we polled also disliked the slick-feeling vinyl. The Tupplur was also available in fewer colors and sizes than our roller shade pick.

The Select Blinds Vinyl Blackout Roller Shade comes in fewer sizes than our main roller shade pick, and the rough vinyl also looks worse.

Roman

Thenow-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.

Woven wood

The now-discontinued bamboo Top Blinds Privacy Blackout Gray/Brown Roman Shade was attractive and easy to install, but it was the worst performer in our external flash test.

Sources

  1. Danielle Sansone, design consultant at Blinds.com, phone interview, February 8, 2018

  2. Abigail Sawyers, senior social media specialist at Blinds.com, phone interview, February 8, 2018

  3. Oliver Furth, Oliver M. Furth interior designer, email interview, February 2, 2018

  4. Steve Musgrove, design consultant at Stoneside, phone interview, January 12, 2018

  5. Peter von Feilitzen, business development manager at the Markisol Group, phone/email interview, January 23, 2018

  6. Jackie Reeve, The Best Blackout Curtains, Wirecutter, January 25, 2017

  7. Light-Blocking Window Treatment Ratings, Reviews & Comparisons, Sleep like the Dead, November 10, 2017

  8. O'D McKewan, How to Find Blackout Curtains That Actually Work, Angie's List, February 8, 2016

  9. Katie, Hello Sunshine, Goodbye Glare-Openness vs. Opacity, BeHome, May 16, 2017

  10. Lauren Smith, How to Clean Blinds and Shades, Good Housekeeping, December 11, 2017

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