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How do I Make Blackout Shades?

By Miranda Fine
Updated May 17, 2024
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If you do not want to purchase blackout shades, there are several things you can do to make them at home. These projects have varying degrees of difficulty, durability, effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. Homemade blackout shades can be as simple as taping layered newspaper over windows with masking tape, or as complicated as sewing your own curtains.

If your goal is simply to darken a room on a temporary basis— for a visiting baby or night owl, for example—taping layered newspaper or heavy duty black trashbags over windows with masking tape is an easy solution. Depending on your window’s sun exposure, several layers of newspaper might be needed to block out light. If there is a curtain rod over the window, hanging a dark colored, heavy wool blanket or bedspread will block the light. You can take these and the newspaper down during the day and put them up again when needed. Remember though, that the sun will fade the fabric if left in place for too long.

If you are looking for blackout shades that are more permanent and attractive, there are a few options to consider. There are several materials that effectively block out light, including plastic, vinyl and different types of fabric. If you go to a hardware store, in the window treatments section you will find rolls of material, usually made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a type of flexible plastic) that filters out different amounts of light and are intended for use as blackout shades. Some will be “light-filtering”, and will let in some light, while others will be true “blackout” shades. If you do not wish to install any hardware to hang the shades, you can easily cut a shade to fit your window yourself and attach it with heavy-duty adhesive backed velcro.

While PVC shades are very effective at blocking light, when new they emit foul-smelling fumes, which may be of particular concern if the blackout shades are for a child’s room. If you have a sheltered outside space, you can hang the shades there for a few weeks while they off-gas and then bring them inside. Another option is to make lined curtains out of a thick fabric, such as velvet, or add a lining to existing curtains or window treatments.

An easy way to gauge a fabric’s effectiveness at blocking light is to look for something that is tightly woven, and hold it up to a sunny window while you are in the store. If you don’t like the look of heavy curtains, you can also use the velcro technique described above to hang fabric blackout shades behind existing curtains or blinds, and remove it when not needed. You may need to sew or glue two layers of fabric together for maximum effectiveness. If you do not plan to hem the shade, make sure to use pinking shears when cutting the fabric so it will not ravel.

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Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Feb 19, 2014

@irontoenail - It doesn't bother me at all. I'll often fall asleep in front of the television even and I have a glowing alarm clock as well.

I do wonder if the color and consistency of the light makes a difference though. I mean, if you have blackout blinds or shades they would block random flashes of lights from cars, or lights of brighter colors like white or blue from entering your room.

Red isn't a bright color for a light though, so I imagine that's why they usually make clock radio lights red. I'm not sure why they don't do that for other kinds of electronics as well, in that case.

By irontoenail — On Feb 19, 2014

@indigomoth - I don't know if it would make a difference to the average person, but I just can't sleep without insulated blackout shades at my windows and every little bit of light turned off or covered. Once that's done I can sleep quite well and it doesn't seem to bother me if I'm taking a nap during the day but at night I can be a little bit obsessive about it.

By indigomoth — On Feb 18, 2014

I read an article recently that estimated that it only takes a bit of light the size of a pinhead to reduce the benefits of sleep for someone. The author was particularly concerned about the lights we have on our electronic devices, but I get far more light coming in from my window. My curtains aren't light proof at all and I live in a fairly crowded neighborhood.

Apparently the presence of light stops you from producing melatonin which you need to control stress levels among other things.

So now I want to get some blackout window shades, just to see whether or not it makes a difference to my sleep.

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