What Are Blackout Curtains And How Do They Work?
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Blackout curtains — also called solar or blackout curtains — have become standard in many homes. And it’s easy to see why, since many brands promise to block up to 99.9% of sunlight while adding style to your living space.
The secret to blackout curtains’ light-blocking material probably isn’t as exciting as you think. But that doesn’t change the fact that these curtains can be good for your sleep hygiene! They are an excellent way to become more energy-efficient and to reduce our carbon footprint.
Whether you’re designing the perfect home theater or looking to sleep in a little later on the weekends, there’s no shortage of reasons to install a set of blackout curtains. Here’s everything you need to know before taking the plunge:
How Do Blackout Curtains Work?
The technology that goes into making modern blackout curtains is much different than that of just a few years ago. As a result, you can find blackout curtains made of a wide variety of materials and in all different colors.
Sometimes, a single layer of dense, woven fabric is all it takes to block out the majority of light coming through a window. But the most effective blackout curtains feature additional layers of fabric to block even more sunlight.
Some blackout curtains also feature a layer of foam between the fabric layers for maximum light-blocking and insulation.
What Are Blackout Curtains Made Of?
Most blackout curtains are made of synthetic textiles like nylon or polyester. You can sometimes find high-end blackout curtains made of cotton or wool fibers.
Tightly woven fabrics (think velvet or felt) are extremely popular because they allow very little light to pass through.
The light-blocking layer found in many blackout curtains is usually made of polyester or a similar material. Instead of being woven into an attractive fabric, however, the end result tends to be thick and plastic-like.
Are Blackout Curtains Safe?
Curtains are one of many household products that may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOCs can lower indoor air quality and trigger negative health effects.
In the past, blackout curtains were believed to contain more VOCs than other curtains because of the heavy synthetic materials used.
While the quality and safety of blackout curtains have improved, it’s still a good idea to invest in curtains made of low- or no-VOC fabrics.
3 Benefits Of Using Blackout Curtains
1. Better Sleep
You can hang blackout curtains in any room. But you’ll notice the most benefits by adding them to your bedroom.
If you’re a natural night owl or work late shifts, then blackout curtains are an obvious upgrade to traditional ones. They’ll block out the morning or afternoon sun so you can sleep undisturbed.
Even if you follow a standard sleep schedule, there are plenty of reasons to switch to blackout drapes. You’ll no longer need to worry about car headlights, street lamps, or the neighbors’ security light flooding your bedroom with unwanted illumination.
2. Energy Savings
Maybe we’re biased but the fact blackout curtains can save energy is our favorite reason to try them out.
The thick fabric and foam most blackout curtains are made of do a wonderful job at insulating your home. According to the EPA, up to 30% of household heating and cooling is lost through our windows, so this is a pretty big deal!
Since blackout curtains stop sunlight (well, most of it!) from passing through the window, they can also help keep your home cool in the summertime.
Blackout curtains are a wonderful alternative if you can’t afford to invest in energy-efficient windows at the moment.
3. Dampened Outdoor Noise
The insulating properties that help blackout curtains block light and outside temperatures also muffle sound. Switching to blackout curtains could make a huge difference in the amount of traffic or neighborhood noise seeping into your home.
If blocking out noise is your main motivation for installing blackout curtains, be sure to explore all of your options. Some blackout curtains are specifically designed for soundproofing and will provide a much better experience than regular old drapes.
How To Make Blackout Curtains Work Better
Blackout curtains are simple yet incredibly effective. However, you’ll need to optimize your window treatment setup if you want to reap the full benefit of these curtains.
Here are a few easy ways to make your blackout curtains instantly work better:
Double Up On Window Coverings
Quality blackout curtains can block an incredible amount of light entirely on their own. But it doesn’t hurt to call in some backup if you want to create the darkest room possible.
Combine your blackout curtains with Venetian blinds, a roller shade, or interior shutters. You can also layer a variety of drapes to create a custom window treatment that blocks any and all light.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a blinding crack of light shining through your closed blackout curtains. Securing the curtains together with fasteners will stop this annoyance from happening.
Fasteners come in all styles. Some are decorative and meant to be seen. Most are designed to be hidden. Magnetic fasteners are probably the most popular solution.
On the other hand, you don’t need to invest in anything fancy to keep your blackout curtains closed. One of the simplest options is to secure your curtains together using clothespins or binder clips. Just clip the inner edge of each curtain together from the back.
You can also use ties, magnets, or hooks to keep your blackout curtains from gapping at the sides of the window.
Purchase Bigger Curtains
Even the best blackout curtains will let in light along their edges. You can prevent the sun from creeping in around your drapes by selecting a size larger than your actual windows.
This tip doesn’t just apply to your curtains’ total width. You should also ensure the curtains have plenty of extra length to cover the top and bottom edges of your window.
Install your curtain rod several inches above the upper window casing to prevent light from shining into the room from the top. This will also make your windows appear larger and the ceiling feel taller!
Invest In A Wraparound Curtain Rod
A wraparound curtain rod is the perfect complement to a new set of blackout drapes. This style of curtain rod is also (aptly) called a blackout or room darkening rod.
While traditional curtain rods are completely straight, wraparound rods curve toward the wall on each end. This allows you to pull your curtains flush with the wall, eliminating that annoying gap on each side.
Wraparound curtain rods can also increase the privacy offered by your blackout curtains and block drafts coming from your windows.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you clean blackout curtains?
Routine vacuuming with an upholstery or brush attachment will keep your blackout curtains free of dust and hair.
Some blackout curtains can be machine-washed or steamed. Those containing delicate fabrics or foam liners typically must be spot cleaned without heat.
Blackout curtain care instructions vary by brand and material. You should always reference the tag or packaging of your curtains before attempting to clean them.
Can you turn a regular curtain into a blackout curtain?
If you want the benefits of blackout drapes but already have a set of curtains you love, attaching a light-blocking liner might be an option. Keep in mind that this won’t have the best results if the existing curtains are at all sheer — the liner and attachment method will show through the decorative fabric.
Personally, I like the idea of hanging a blackout liner separately from the main curtains because then you can choose between letting some or no light in. You can also use this method with sheer or opaque drapes as long as you’re okay with the liner showing through when both curtains are closed.
Can you use blackout curtains outside?
Blackout curtains can bring much-needed privacy to a gazebo or porch. They can also block unwanted sunlight, wind, and rain.
However, I don’t recommend hanging blackout curtains meant for indoor use anywhere outdoors. If you do, it’ll only be a matter of time before the curtains fade or show signs of moisture damage.
Fortunately, blackout curtains designed for outdoor use do exist. These curtains are made of weather-safe materials that won’t fall apart when exposed to the elements.
What are room darkening curtains?
To the average person, the difference between “blackout” and “room darkening” might seem negligible. But these terms mean distinctly different things to curtain manufacturers.
Rest assured, room darkening curtains block a significant amount of light. Most room darkening curtains block up to 95% of light. When you compare this to blackout curtains that block up to 99.9% of light, the difference is stark!
There’s nothing wrong with room darkening curtains if total darkness isn’t your goal (for example, these curtains are great options for nurseries and kids’ bedrooms). But room darkening curtains definitely won’t do the job of true blackout curtains.
Do white blackout curtains work?
Yes! High-quality blackout curtains are effective no matter what color the room-facing layer is.
Blackout curtains sold in the past were usually available in dark fabrics only. Today, however, you can find blackout curtains in all colors and designs.