Best Window Shades

Updated September 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

209 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
311 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best window shades

Last Updated September 2019

Once upon a time, there were only a few ways to cover your windows: curtains and blinds with really long cords. Today, consumers can choose from cordless blinds, wooden slatted blinds, valances, light-blocking curtains, blinds built inside of windows, and more. One of the best ways to maintain your family’s privacy and conserve energy at the same time is to purchase light-filtering window shades.

Window shades are available in numerous styles to enhance the look of your windows and block sunlight. When people want a simple type of shade, they often select a roller style. Another option is a cellular style of window shades, which consist of thicker materials. There are other options as well, so it’s a good idea to learn all you can about the types of window shades before you invest in them.

We considered the features and prices of various types of window shades. Read on to learn more or peruse our list to find the best fit for your home.

The honeycomb shape of the cells in a cellular shade traps hot or cold air and prevents it from entering your home. In this way, the shade can help decrease your need for heating and cooling aids.

Key considerations

Types of window shades


Cellular shades

Cellular shades are a relatively new trend in the window shade industry. They are constructed using cell pockets, and when viewed from the side, the pockets have a honeycomb shape. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal (which some prefer over traditional blinds), cellular shades are also more energy efficient. They keep harmful ultraviolet rays out, block a little more noise than some other shades, and help darken a room.

Cellular shades are either single-cell or double-cell. This means the honeycombed cells are either one layer thick or two layers thick. There are slight differences and benefits between the two shade constructions.

Single-cell shades have larger honeycombs, which makes them slightly larger than double-cell shades. They would be beneficial for a large picture window in a living room or a window looking out of the kitchen. The cells provide some insulation from outside light and noises but not nearly as much as double-cell shades.

Double-cell shades have a double layer of cells, providing greater insulation from outside noise and light. This quality makes them more expensive than single-cell shades. Double-cell shades save you more on heating and cooling costs because there’s a thicker layer of insulation between the outside world and the inside of your home.

On the downside, double-cell shades come in smaller sizes. They are recommended for smaller windows or windows around which you want extreme privacy, such as in a bathroom or bedroom. 

A note about cellular shade pleat size: The nature of how honeycombed cells are built requires the cellular shade to fold up into pleats. The size of the cells dictates the size of the pleats. With single-cell shades, there will be larger pleats, which match well with larger windows. Double-cell shades have smaller pleats and therefore fit better in smaller windows. If you wish to install a double-cell shade in a large window, the window may appear too busy and add tension to the room rather than tranquility.

Roller shades

A roller shade is made of fabric and a hollow tube. The fabric wraps around the tube when it’s rolled up, and when you pull it down to lower the shade, it locks into place. Roller shades are a timeless and affordable option to cover windows. They are easy to clean because of the lack of texture, and they can be made in almost any color to match a home’s interior.

Pleated shades

Don’t confuse pleated shades with cellular shades. Pleated shades look like honeycombs from the front and don’t provide insulation. Cellular shades look like honeycombs from the side and do provide insulation. Pleated shades provide some light filtering, but the amount of filtering is very little due to the thinness of the fabric.

Shade blinds

Shade blinds differ from traditional slatted blinds because there are no spaces between the slats. Rather, shade blinds are made completely from one piece of fabric. However, they do have cords built into them that allow you to raise and lower the shade blinds.

EXPERT TIP

A window shade’s R value is the measurement of its resistance to heat transfer. The greater the R value, the more energy-efficient the shade will be.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Control options

Top-down, bottom-up

This type of shade allows you to manipulate the shade from both ends. You can lower the shades from the top, or you can raise the shades from the bottom. Or, you can do both. This is the widest range of manipulation that shades have.

Cordless

Cordless shades are self-explanatory: they are cordless. Rather than using long cords to raise and lower the shades like a puppet master, there aren’t any cords at all. The shades are constructed without mile-long attached cords. Because cords can be a safety concerns for pets and children, some people are particularly interested in cordless shades.

Motorized

With the press of a button, shades can be raised or lowered when the controls are motorized. This may sound like an advantage, as you don’t need to fiddle with a cord whenever you want to raise or lower your window coverings. However, with motorized shades, there’s always the chance of a motor failure as well as the need for batteries.

Light control options

The nature of your window shade fabric affects how much light shines through it. You can choose from sheer, semi-sheer, semi-opaque, and opaque options.

  • Sheer shades allow the maximum amount of light to enter the room.
  • Semi-sheer shades have minor light-filtering properties. The amount of light entering the room would be a slightly less with this type of shade than it would be with a sheer shade.
  • Semi-opaque shades are the opposite of semi-sheer shades. Rather than letting most of the light in and keeping some of it out, semi-opaque shades keep most of the light out and only let some of it in. They darken the room while allowing for a little bit of light to shine through.
  • Opaque shades provide extreme light blockage in order to darken a room. Little to no light comes through an opaque shade.

Sizing for window

When ordering window shades, the manufacturer may ask for specific measurements. The company will then cut the shades prior to mailing them to you. When you receive the shades, they will have been cut to fit your window. Other manufacturers offer a do-it-yourself product. They mail you a standard size of shade, and you make the cuts at home when installing the shade over the window.

EXPERT TIP

Most window shades come with mounting hardware. Check the specs before you buy to make sure you’ll have what you need to mount the shades when they arrive at your home.


Staff  | BestReviews

Window shade prices

The least-expensive window shades cost between $10 and $25. These will most likely be a single layer of pleated shades that provide little light filtering. They are basic window shades and will not withstand much abuse.

The next step up would fall between $25 and $50. These shades provide greater light-filtering abilities. Many options in this range are cellular shades.

When purchasing window shades for $50 or more, expect a high-quality product that provides your desired amount of light filtering, whether that be a complete “black out” or the filtering of 100% of ultraviolet rays.

EXPERT TIP

Cellular shades have a smaller “stack height” than traditional blinds. That means they take up less of the window view when completely compressed.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • If you’re interested in cellular shades, bear in mind that you can use both single-cell and double-cell shades throughout your home. The type you use would depend on your desired degree of light filtration in each room.
  • If you aren’t fond of the pleated look of cellular shades, consider hanging curtains or a valance on the window to cover them up as desired.
  • Roller window shades work great for small windows on front or back doors because they are so easily customized to the small space.
  • Hang window shades higher and wider if you would like your windows to appear larger.

Other products we considered

There are other reputable window shade options available. For example, we like the Decor Avenue Custom Cordless Muslin Light Filtering Cellular Shade. These shades provide adequate privacy and light filtering, but they are by no means blackout shades. They have 9/16-inch honeycomb cells which, notably, may be difficult to clean. These shades need to be mounted outside the window on the wall, which can create a bulky and informal look.

We also are fond of  ZY Blinds Cordless Single Cell Window Shades. The shades come in 10 color options, so you can choose the shade that best matches the interior of your home. They are made from a thick fabric that’s the same color on both sides. The track itself is weighted for easy manipulation when raising and lowering the shades. However, considering these are single-cell shades, the price is a bit high for some consumers.

When measuring a window to fit a shade, measure precisely. Go to the nearest eighth of an inch without rounding up for best measurements.

FAQ

Q. Do cellular shades need to be regularly cleaned?
A.
Yes. Cellular shades are difficult to clean because of their honeycombed nature. Use compressed air to blow dust and dead insects out of the cells. Vacuum the surface of the blinds with a brush attachment. As a last resort, use a rag with warm water to gently wash the blinds.

Q. Are window shades able to hold up against pets?
A.
It’s recommended that you try to keep pets away from window shades, as most shades are made of fabric. The fabric will attract pet hair and could be ripped by claws. If you have curious pets who will inevitably visit your shades, however, there are shades made of more durable fabrics that can withstand more abuse.

Q. Are there shades available that aren’t pleated?
A.
Yes. If you’re looking for a window shade without pleats, your best bet will be a roller shade. A roller shade is made from one continuous piece of fabric, and it hangs down flat over the window.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey