The Best Blackout Curtains (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who should get these
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick: Freemansburg Solid Blackout Thermal Curtains
  • Budget pick: IKEA Marjun Curtains
  • Upgrade pick: Crate and Barrel Silvana Silk Blackout Curtains
  • How to properly hang blackout curtains
  • Care and maintenance
  • The competition
  • Sources

Why you should trust us

As a Wirecutter staff writer, I focus on making the bedroom comfortable and functional so you can get the best sleep. I co-wrote our guides to sheets and bed pillows, and I’ve written much of our other bedding coverage, including guides to blankets and duvet covers. I’ve also personally shopped for blackout curtains because I’m married to a light-sensitive sleeper.

Several sleep experts helped me get a full picture of how light and noise affect us when falling asleep, the struggles of shift workers, and how dark a room should be for sleeping and napping children. I spoke with Michael Perlis, PhD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at University of Pennsylvania; Jerome Siegel, PhD, director of the Siegel Lab at UCLA’s Center for Sleep Research; Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep; and Rachel Manber, PhD, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at Stanford University Medical Center. I also spoke to Berek Awend, a former sales manager at Blackoutcurtains.com who previously owned a blinds store, to find out how to measure for and install blackout curtains to get the best coverage.

Who should get these

Our experts told us that most people would benefit from a darker room while they sleep. Whether you need total blackness or just a very dark room depends on your own reaction to light. “Individuals differ in their sensitivity to light, so I don’t think one answer fits everyone,” Siegel at UCLA told us. But for shift workers who sleep during the day, Manber from Stanford said total darkness is essential.

Most curtains we’ve tested for this guide are labeled as blackout curtains, but often they’re simply room-darkening (and sometimes not very good at that). True blackout curtains and shades, when installed properly, will block all light, even daylight, while good room-darkening curtains will block most light at night but are less effective during the day. If you want to darken a room for children napping during daylight hours, Mindell, author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep, told us room-darkening curtains are probably better because a little bit of light actually helps preserve their sleep rhythms.

Some people use these curtains to block outdoor light for a home theater but our focus in this guide is on improving sleep. We also have a guide to blackout shades.

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How we picked and tested

We’ve researched 56 blackout curtains since 2017, and our criteria for narrowing down the best have always been simple:

Effective light blocking: If a curtain is labeled as blackout or room-darkening and it doesn’t make a room significantly darker, it’s not doing its job. We read countless user reviews to see if the curtains we considered lived up to that promise.

Attractive fabrics: Most of the blackout curtains we’ve found are made with synthetic fabrics, which are better at blocking light, but many of them are ugly. Blackout curtains have a specific job to do, but they’re still a prominent piece of home decor so they should look as smart as possible. We focused mostly on solid-colored curtains available in at least a few shades to work with a variety of styles.

Easy to buy: We found a lot of custom-made blackout drapes, which can start at $500 a panel and take a while to have made. We looked for more affordable options and also for curtains that are consistently available. To make sure the curtains we recommend will stay in stock, we mainly focused on retailers selling the same styles year after year.

Available in a variety of sizes: Windows come in all shapes and sizes, so we looked for curtains in a variety of lengths and widths. Wide panels are essential for proper installation—all of our picks are at least 48 inches wide, and most are more.

Many manufacturers say their blackout curtains will help insulate drafty windows and reduce noise, but we didn’t focus on these factors or test for them. If your windows are letting in a lot of cold air or noise, curtains will only marginally help. We cover a few other measures you can take to block light and noise from the bedroom (such as weatherstripping windows and doors) here.

In 2017, we tested 13 curtains, and in 2019 we tested 11 (including retests of our original picks). I examined every curtain for construction and fabric quality, then photographed how much light came through each curtain.

The Best Blackout Curtains (1)

In both years of testing we used a studio strobe light to flash an intense burst of light directly into the back of the curtain fabric while we simultaneously took a picture from the front; we used very light-sensitive settings to try to capture any light that came through. In the resulting pictures, the blacker the photograph, the better the curtain was at blocking light. With this testing method, only three of the 20 curtains we’ve tested over the years proved to be true total-blackout curtains, with just a few others coming very close.

Our pick: Freemansburg Solid Blackout Thermal Curtains

The Best Blackout Curtains (2)

Our pick

Freemansburg Solid Blackout Thermal Curtains

The best room-darkening curtains

Combining style with almost total blackout capabilities, these look better than other polyester curtains we’ve tested and come in 14 colors, more than most we found. During the day, however, they may let in some light.

Buying Options

$41 from Wayfair

$41 from Home Depot(starts at $27 per panel)

The Freemansburg Solid Blackout Thermal Curtains offer the best combination of light blocking and good looks of any curtains we’ve tested. They come in a wide range of colors and lengths, and the 50-inch width is generous enough to fully cover most windows. They’re also available from a few different retailers, and we think the price is reasonable.

When properly installed, the Freemansburg curtains are more than sufficient for darkening a room. They weren’t the best curtains we tested at blocking all light, but they did an impressive job, letting in just a hint of light during our photography tests. They aren’t as effective as the IKEA Marjun curtains (one of the few true blackout curtains we’ve found), but they blocked more light than the Crate and Barrel Silvana style and most of the others that we’ve tried in two years of testing.

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The 100 percent polyester Freemansburg curtains are the best-looking synthetic blackouts we’ve found that are actually effective at stopping light. In our tests, synthetic fabrics consistently block more light than natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk–even if those fabrics are backed with synthetic linings. They never look as good, though—the polyester often looks cheap and very shimmery. The Freemansburgs have a simple matte weave that’s more understated and easy to live with than other polyester curtains we’ve considered, but they’re still not as lovely as the silk and linen Crate and Barrel Silvanas.

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The 14 color choices—the most of any of our picks—also make these the most versatile curtains we found. They’ll match most decor. The polyester IKEA Marjun curtains look nice, but they come in only three colors, and only one 98-inch length. The Freemansburg panels come in four lengths (84 inches, 96 inches, 108 inches, and 120 inches), and the generous 50-inch width offers plenty of coverage for maximum light blocking.

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Confusingly, our test set of Freemansburg curtains arrived labeled as the Bellino Textured Blackout Curtain. We spoke to Joss & Main and confirmed that the manufacturer recently changed the name. They’re still sold under the Bellino name at JCPenney and Home Depot (which also offer a 63-inch length but fewer colors in all sizes), but Joss & Main had the best selection and some of the best prices—you can pick up two 84-inch panels for about $80.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Some user reviews note that these snag easily, especially when hanging them, and we did notice a couple of snags out of the packaging. But our wear tests didn’t cause any additional snags, so we think taking extra care when putting them up is probably all you need to do.

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Budget pick: IKEA Marjun Curtains

The Best Blackout Curtains (7)

Budget pick

IKEA Marjun Curtains

Inexpensive room-darkening curtains

These come in only one length and three color-blocked styles, but they look nice, blocked more light in our tests than most, and they’re less expensive than many we’ve tested.

Buying Options

$75 from IKEA(two panels)

May be out of stock

IKEA’s Marjun blackout curtains are the least expensive curtains we recommend and block more light than the Freemansburg Solid Blackout Thermal Curtains—plus, we think. The fabric and color-blocked design looks nice. But because they only come in one size (and only three colors, gray, lilac, and blue), they won’t fit in with as wide a range of interiors as our picks with more available colors. For around $50 for a pair of 98-inch curtain panels (which you can hem to fit if necessary), we think they’re a bargain, as long as you like the style.

The Best Blackout Curtains (9)

The Marjun curtains are made from thickly woven 100 percent polyester and backed with blackout material. These are sturdy, well-made curtains that should last for years. The color blocking along the bottom adds a little more personality to a room than our solid-color picks too. One Wirecutter staffer has been long-term testing them in her NYC apartment since our original guide published in 2017 and liked them enough to hang them in both her and her daughters’ rooms.

Upgrade pick: Crate and Barrel Silvana Silk Blackout Curtains

The Best Blackout Curtains (10)

Upgrade pick

Crate and Barrel Silvana Silk Blackout Curtains

The chicest room-darkening curtains

Silk and linen fabric gives these curtains a light weight and beautiful texture, but they don’t block as much light as others we’ve tested.

Buying Options

If you want a stylish curtain that makes a room a bit darker, the silk and linen Crate and Barrel Silvana Silk Blackout Curtains get the job done. They’re some of the nicest-looking curtains we found, but they block the least amount of light of our picks. They still performed better than almost half the blackout curtains we’ve tested since 2017, though. They’re the only curtains we recommend made with natural fibers—the silk threads give them a subtle sheen that catches the light beautifully, while the linen adds some texture. They look put together but not fussy.

The Best Blackout Curtains (12)

The Silvana curtains do have a polyester lining, which helps block more light than the silk-and-linen front would on its own. In our light test photos we could see the shape of the flash through the curtain, but the light was muted. These won’t be as effective at blocking light as our other picks, so if you need total darkness during the day they’re not the best choice. But they should block street lamps and less direct light at night. The Silvana curtains are available in three neutral colors and three lengths (84 inches, 96 inches, and 108 inches). They’re the narrowest of our curtain picks, with 48-inch-wide panels, but that’s still more generous than several we’ve researched and tested. A pair of panels will fit most windows, but to be sure, measure yours and add 12 inches on each side for proper installation. Like the Freemansburg curtains, these had a couple of minor snags out of the package, but they survived our wear tests—brushing them vigorously with a corn brush. These are also the only curtains we recommend that are dry-clean only.

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How to properly hang blackout curtains

To completely block all light, you have to install the curtains correctly. Avoid curved rods or any installation that will place the curtains out too far in front of the window. The curtain panels also need to be wide enough and long enough to eliminate light gaps. Berek Awend, formerly of Blackoutcurtains.com, calls this “the dreaded ‘halo effect.’” His company specializes in commercial blackout needs for photography studios, labs, and medical clinics. They know how to eliminate all traces of light. “When measuring outside the window frame, we suggest measuring 12 inches on both sides and above the opening to eliminate that light,” Awend said. If your curtains aren’t touching the floor, allow at least that much extra space along the bottom of the window as well. Depending on how wide your window is, you may need three panels instead of two.

Care and maintenance

Follow the care labels on your curtains. Many we tested are dry-clean only, and some you can wash on very gentle settings but not iron. Many of the curtains we tested, in synthetic fabrics or natural fibers, came with some wrinkles out of the package. Iron them if you can, or hang them in a steamy shower before putting them up. But it can be a frustrating job and might be worth taking them to the dry cleaner to be pressed and put on hangers—not folded.

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The competition

Best Home Fashion’s Thermal Insulated curtains blocked all light in our testing, but these almost iridescent panels looked like they belonged in a lab or home theater, not a bedroom. They reminded me of a superhero cape.

Walmart’s Mainstays Blackout Energy Efficient Curtains and the Deconovo Room Darkening Thermal Curtains are both under $15 per panel. They didn’t completely block out light, but they weren’t bad for the low price. We don’t recommend either because the material felt cheap, but if you’re looking for darkening curtains on a tight budget, these wouldn’t be terrible choices.

We tested Pottery Barn’s Emery linen-cotton curtains in 2017 and Belgian Linen Curtains Made with Libeco Linen in 2019, and both had beautiful fabric, but the linen/cotton curtains didn’t compare with the others we tested for blocking out light, and the Belgian linen curtains were heavy enough to be impractical. They were also the most expensive curtains we tested each year.

The West Elm Linen Cotton curtains, our former upgrade pick, were the best of the natural fiber curtains I tested in 2017 for blocking out light, but when I retested a new panel in 2019 they were the worst of all the curtains I tried. They also only come in white.

Pottery Barn Kids offers a few blackout curtain options, and we tested the Hayden Blackout Curtains because they came in the widest variety of neutral, non-pastel colors. They didn’t block as much light as others we tested from Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Crate and Barrel, and the fabric quality wasn’t as good.

Eclipse is a big manufacturer of room-darkening and blackout curtains, and we tested three different models—the Eclipse Canova (sold at JCPenney), the Eclipse Samara (sold at Walmart), and the Eclipse Fresno (sold on Amazon). The Canova and Samara had linings that felt flimsy and thin, like a disposable plastic tablecloth. The Eclipse Fresno curtains were much better quality, but all three were terrible at blocking light.

Sun Zero is another big blackout curtain manufacturer. In 2019, we tested the Evan (sold at JCPenney) and the Easton (sold on Amazon), and they were absolutely identical, down to the model number on the tags. Neither was very good at blocking light, but more frustrating was the pricing. The Evan’s retail price is about five times as much as the Easton price, depending on the color and length, and while JCPenney has frequent sales they’ve always been at least twice the price when we’ve checked.

Sources

  1. Rachel Manber, PhD, behavioral sleep medicine specialist at Stanford University Medical Center, phone interview, December 14, 2016

  2. Jerome Siegel, PhD, director of the Siegel Lab at UCLA’s Center for Sleep Research, email interview, November 28, 2016

  3. Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep, phone interview, November 17, 2016

  4. Michael Perlis, PhD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at University of Pennsylvania, email interview, September 22, 2016

  5. Light-Blocking Window Treatment Ratings, Reviews & Comparisons, Sleep Like The Dead, December 8, 2016

  6. Carrie McBride, Sleep Better with Black-Out Curtains: Sources for Buying Them & Making Them, Apartment Therapy, May 9, 2014

The Best Blackout Curtains (2024)

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