Blackout curtains & blinds – Everything you need to know

In Scotland, long midsummer days are always a welcome change after the long and dark winter months. But they also come with only a few short hours of darkness at night, with dawn setting in just after 3am. If the early daylight disturbs you and you prefer to sleep a little longer, your best options are probably blackout curtains & blinds.

So, let’s find out what you need to know about using curtains and blinds to control the light that shines through your windows!

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Room darkening vs blackout curtains & blinds

First of all, it’s all about the level of darkness you would like to achieve. Curtains and blinds with the right lining can help darken your room to a large degree. 

But, as everybody who has ever stayed in a hotel room knows, even the heaviest blackout curtains and blinds have a crack of light coming through somewhere. So unless you have a room without windows and a heavy curtain around the door, you will struggle to achieve true blackout in your home. 

For example, a roller or Roman blind inside the window recess needs a gap of at least 5mm on either side to be able to move up and down freely. And installing it outside the window recess means the roller mechanism or headrail will always let light bleed through at the top and at the sides.

If it’s full blackout you’re after and you have modern windows, perfect fit or framed blinds are available as blackout options. But they are unfortunately not suited to most period windows in Scottish properties.

Minimising light leakage

So, a professional curtain maker’s job is more about darkening your room by minimising light leakage through your windows rather than blocking out all light. 

And the best way to do that is the combination of a roller blind with big heavy blackout-lined curtains and a pelmet across the top. The pelmet will reduce light shining through the top of your window. To reduce the light coming through the sides, make sure that the outer edges of your curtains are turned to the wall at 90 degrees.

Your choice of curtain heading is also important when it comes to blackout curtains & blinds. For example, wave-headed curtains let in a lot of light leakage because of the wave undulations and the space at the top (although a pelmet can reduce that to a degree). Eyelet-headed curtains have similar issues. 

Better choices are curtains with a pinch pleat or euro pleat as they sit closer to the pole or track. And if you prefer blinds, then roller blinds or Roman blinds are your best bet. 

Blackout options

To achieve the blackout effect, you add a blackout lining with a rubberised coating to the fabric of your curtains or blinds. But that doesn’t mean it has to be that stiff and rubbery lining you know from hotel curtains (and the main reason they usually don’t hang very well).

Depending on your fabric and budget, there are many options available when it comes to blackout lining. Even better, you can combine it with interlining which will add insulation to your window treatments and help with the drape as well.

Also, ‘blackout’ doesn’t mean you have to choose a dark fabric for your curtains & blinds. The lining works as well with lighter fabrics or patterns in any colour.

One more thing to keep in mind is weight. Blackout lining adds a considerable amount of weight to your curtains & blinds. So make sure your pole or track is suitable.

Sun protection

There are many other reasons to choose a blackout lining for your curtains & blinds. For example, Roman blinds often have a blackout lining to make the pattern of the fabric stand out against the light. 

Blackout lining also helps protect your curtains & blinds from the sun by blocking the light from hitting the fabric in the first place. That’s why you will usually see silk curtains & blinds or window treatments in black or dark blue fabrics with blackout lining. For more tips on sun protection, see my post on semi-sheer curtains & blinds.


Do you have any questions? Check out my FAQ, find out more about my process and fees or get in touch for a free initial chat!