Blackout Shades vs. Room Darkening Shades

Blackout shades darkening a room
BY BLINDSTER | August 27, 2014
September 29, 2023

It's tough to know what truly differentiates blackout shades from room darkening shades. In fact, people in the blinds and shades industry use these terms interchangeably all the time. Here's the difference in a nutshell:

Blackout shades use a fabric that blocks 100% of all incoming light, while "room darkening" usually refers to almost any shade that uses a fabric that blocks between 95% and 99% of the light that enters your room. Anything that blocks less than 95% of the light is usually referred to as light filtering.

What You Need to Know about Blackout Shades

When they're properly installed, blackout shades make your room almost completely dark. However, no shade can totally block out all light, so it's impossible to make your room pitch black. There will still be light that shows along the sides of your shades during the day. With blackout shades, a little "halo" of light still sneaks through around their outer edges.

To create this effect, blackout shades typically use an opaque material like PVC or Mylar to line the fabrics used, and they're also designed to fit tightly to your window casing. This drastically reduces light seepage.

Most often, you use blackout shades for rooms like your:

  • Bedroom
  • Home theater
  • Nursery
  • Dark room (if you are a photographer)

Some types of blackout shades cut out almost all light, giving you the darkest possible room. They reduce the light that seeps through that little "halo" we talked about earlier. These include:

  • Roller shades with side channels
  • Blackout curtains with tracks
  • Multi-layer treatments that combine either side panels and a cornice box or valance

If the room you want dark gets direct sunlight whenever you want to use it, blackout shades make good sense.

Additional Advantages of Blackout Shades

Beyond the nearly pitch-black environment they create, fully blocking out the sun's rays gives blackout shades a few distinct advantages over their room-darkening counterparts:

  • Items in your home — including furniture, rugs and other belongings in your living area — are less likely to experience UV damage when you have blackout shades pulled down. Consequently, you and anyone in the living or sleeping space is exposed to fewer UV rays. Due to this factor, blackout shades are ideal for nurseries, media rooms and studios where you store expensive, sensitive equipment.
  • They improve temperature control. Sealing cracks around your windows and using Low-E glass allow more heat to remain contained in your home during the winter months, and blackout shades offer a secondary measure through their thicker, more insulating composition. As a result, your home stays warmer — or cooler, once summer arrives — and you use less heat long term, seeing greater energy savings.
  • There's no need for multiple layers of curtains. With blackout shades, a single, thicker material does its job.
  • The opaqueness offers an added level of security, if you're worried about strangers and neighbors looking into your home from the street level.

A Little More on Room Darkening Shades

Because there is some confusion around this term, let's shed some light on the matter. Room darkening generally refers to any window treatment that dramatically reduces the incoming light to your room. However, they won't make your room nearly pitch black like blackout shades do. They just make it noticeably darker than before.

Common types of room darkening shades include sheer shades, zebra dual shades, and pleated shades. You can purchase all of these window treatments with opaque materials that block much of the light that normally enters.

You can also use room darkening shades for your bedroom or home theater. But didn't we also mention blackout shades are commonly used for these rooms?

In reality, you can use either. What really matters is how dark you'd like it to be in each of these spaces. Room darkening shades and blinds work best when direct sunlight does not shine into your room. Or, if you are a heavy sleeper and do not need blackout shades, they make a good fit for your bedroom.

Does that Clear Everything Up?

That should clarify the difference between room darkening and blackout shades for you. Now, the next time you're ready to buy either type, you can find exactly what you want on our website or communicate it to a customer service representative at!