In the layman’s vernacular, there may be no actual difference. But there is a difference between blackout blinds and shades and room darkening blinds and shades and if you are in the market for window treatments you may want to know.
I see these terms being used interchangeably all the time. And, for the most part that’s fine, as long as the customer ultimately gets what he or she wants. That’s what we care about. But it is important to know that there are true blackout blinds, wherein they will block almost all incoming light. Then there’s room darkening which has a much wider spectrum of meanings and each person would have a different definition.
For example, and depending on your definition, room darkening could be applied to almost any window blind or shade. A mini blind will darken a room, but a mini blind is not really considered a room darkening blind.
Because there is no industry standard for either term, I am going to call an audible and present what I believe these terms should mean. Room darkening should apply to any window treatment that dramatically reduces the amount of incoming light such that if you closed the slats, vanes or lowered the shade your room would be significantly darker. I believe that this is what most people think of when they are looking for room darkening shades or blinds. That said many people interchange room darkening for blackout. This can be confusing. If what you want is room darkening, I would recommend roller shades, cellular shades, pleated shades, sheer shades or even drapes. All these can be chosen in opaque materials.
Blackout should apply to a window treatment that blocks almost all light from coming into a room wherein, the room would be almost completely dark. Note that I didn’t say pitch black! Even the best blackout window treatment cannot achieve this. Blackout shades work for two main reasons: an opaque material (fabric or vinyl), coupled with a tight fit within the window casing to cut back on light seepage or that lay over the entire window casing with minimal distance between the material and the window itself. If you want blackout shades (note that I didn’t say blinds, because technically there are no blackout blinds), I recommend blackout cellular shades, blackout curtains, blackout roman shades and blackout woven wood shades. All of these shades are made with a blackout material or come with a blackout liner. These shades work as blackout because of the materials and because they fit tight within the window casing with very minimal space between the shade and window casing. Blackout curtains can be added over an existing window treatment to add blackout to any room, or as a stand alone window treatment.
Blackout window shades are perfect for bedrooms, nurseries, media rooms (home theaters) or any place where near total darkness is preferred.