Blinds vs. Shades: Which Window Covering Is Right for Your Home?

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If you just bought a new home or you’re thinking about upgrading window coverings in your current home, you might be wondering which type of window covering is best, blinds, or shades.

Before you dive in and purchase window coverings for every window in your house, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type so that you know what you’re getting.

In this article, I provide a comparison of blinds vs. shades and deep dive into their differences, similarities, pros, and cons. By the end, you’ll have a complete understanding of how they compare in terms of function, safety, cleaning, installation, price, and much more.

Helpful Resource: Did you know that you can get a free in-home design consultation from 3DayBlinds.com? Give them a call at 888-511-6616 to schedule your appointment.

Let’s dive right in!

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Pros and Cons of Blinds

Blinds are a type of window covering made from slats or louvers connected by thin strings. These slats can be closed tightly to keep light from coming into your home and prevent nosy neighbors from peeking in. They can also be tilted at a variety of angles to allow a portion of the light to enter the room while providing enough space for you to peek outside.

In addition to their adjustable slats, blinds can be raised as an entire unit and stacked at the top of the window allowing the maximum amount of light to enter the room or lowered to cover the entire window to minimize light and maximize privacy.

Blinds are usually raised with a string mechanism and can be adjusted to any height you wish; however, some varieties adjust by pulling or lifting the bottom rail to set the desired location.

Pros of blinds:

  • Options: With blinds, you have several different options to choose from, including mini-blinds, vertical blinds,  blinds made out of wood, faux wood, vinyl, fabric, and more.
  • Functionality: Blinds are more flexible than shades in terms of privacy. Although there will always be a tiny space between the slats for light to shine through, you can adjust the angle of the slats to achieve the precise ratio of light/privacy that you need. Since shades are made out of one piece of material, you don’t have as much flexibility.
  • Durability: Blinds made out of hard materials like faux wood or vinyl are incredibly durable and humidity/moisture resistant, which makes them an excellent option for high traffic areas and bathrooms.
  • Easy Installation: Most blinds are simple and easy to install.

Cons of blinds:

  • Blocking Light: Since blinds allow light to sneak in between their slats, you can’t get a room as dark as you can with shades. Keep this in mind when buying window coverings for your bedrooms.
  • Cleaning: Blinds often get dusty, and cleaning in between each slat is annoying and more challenging than cleaning shades.
  • Noisy: Blinds make noise when you open and close them or when a window is open, and the wind knocks them back and forth.
  • Design: Some blinds are beautiful and improve the decor, but most are plain and look somewhat institutional.

Pros and Cons of Shades

Unlike blinds that have rows of adjustable slats, shades are a different type of window covering that is made of a single unit of material, usually fabric, that can cover the entire window.

pros and cons of shades

When shades are down, they block most of the light from entering your home; however, they come in a variety of materials that let in different amounts of light. 

Like blinds, shades can be raised to any height you wish. They are raised by either a cord or rolled up with a spring mechanism.

Pros of shades:

  • Options: Like blinds, shades come in a wide variety of styles and materials to including cellular shades, roller shades, solar shades, bamboo, Roman, sheer, and many more.
  • Insulation: Cellular shades trap air before it reaches cold windows, which provide additional insulation and keeps your home warmer in the winter.
  • Privacy and Light Blocking: Shades are not as flexible as blinds in terms of adjusting the ratio of light to privacy; however, when pulled completely down, shades block out the light and provide complete privacy. You can even buy blackout shades to keep your bedroom dark so you can sleep in or take a nap during the day.
  • Installation: Like blinds, installing shades is super easy and should only take 10 minutes per window.
  • Cleaning: Shades are easier to clean than blinds because they don’t have individual slats to clean. Instead, you wipe, vacuum, or launder the entire shade in one piece.
  • Quiet: Shades are made out of softer materials compared to blinds, which help them stay quite when you open and close them or if the wind from an open window blows them around.
  • Design: Shades can be beautifully designed to add elegance and warmth to a room.

Cons of shades:

  • Flexibility: Although there are shades that you can lift from the bottom or pull down from the top, you can’t adjust the amount the light that shines through them like you can by adjusting slats on blinds.
  • Durability: Shades are typically made out of soft fabrics that can rip and are not well suited for abuse. They are also not the best choice for bathrooms or rooms will high humidity or heat; the moisture could absorb into the material and cause significant issues, like mold.

Types of Blinds

Blinds are made in a variety of materials. You can purchase blinds made of wood, faux wood, metal, vinyl, or natural materials.

Different types of blinds
Left to right: wood, faux wood, vinyl, aluminum

The individual width of the slats can vary from two and one-half inches to one-inch mini blinds.

blind slats
blind slats

You can also buy vertical blinds that are often used to cover large windows or sliding glass doors.

Vertical Blinds
Vertical Blinds

Although many people purchase blinds in neutral colors, you can buy blinds in a variety of custom colors and designs.

Gadget lovers can purchase blinds that are motorized and run off a remote control or smart home device.

Types of Shades

Shades are also made with a wide variety of materials like vinyl, fabric, wood, faux wood, bamboo, polyester, cotton, silk, and more. Because they are made in such a wide variety of types of material, the opaqueness of shades varies tremendously. You can purchase blackout shades for maximum coverage or sheer shades to provide privacy but a great deal of light into the room.

different types of shades
Left to right: vinyl, bamboo, fabric

In the winter, warm air circulates inside your home and comes into contact with cold windows. When this happens, the air cools and recirculates, causing the temperature in your home to drop and taxing your heating system (and your wallet). Cellular shades are a specific type of shade designed to add insulation to your windows by trapping the air before it comes into contact with the cold window. If you live in regions that get cold in the winter, I highly recommend investing in cellular shades.

Cellular shade
Cellular shade

You can also purchase pleated shades, which look similar to blinds, but don’t allow you to peek between the individual slats.

pleated shade
pleated shade

Roller shades are designed, so with a quick tug, the shade quickly springs to the top of the window in a tight coil.

roller shade
roller shade

Roman shades, which are my favorite because they add such warmth to a room and have soft, horizontal folds when you pull them up.

Roman Shades half open
Roman Shades

Since shades are sometimes made of materials such as cotton and silk, the color and pattern possibilities are limitless.

Cotton Shades
Cotton Shades

If you would like more flexibility in regards to which part of your window is covered, you can purchase shades that allow you to open them from the top down or the bottom up.

Shades that open from the top
Shades that open from the top

Now that you know the basics about blinds and shades, let’s dive into how they compare to each other.

Privacy

When deciding between blinds and shades, one of the biggest things to consider is privacy.

Blinds give you the most flexibility in terms of privacy. You can adjust the height of blinds to expose as much or as little of the window you want. Also, you can adjust the angle of the slats to achieve the exact ratio of natural light and privacy you want. The downside of this is that there will always be a tiny space between the slats for light to shine through, which makes the room feel less private.

blinds privacy

Shades made out of thick materials allow you to have complete privacy, but there are also shades made from less opaque materials that allow some sunshine through your window.

Shades privacy

Top down shades can be expanded and contracted from either the bottom or top. These are ideal for first-floor living rooms where you want some natural light to come through but don’t necessarily want people seeing you while you lay out on the couch. Lowering these types of blinds from the top allows natural light in but provides privacy at couch level.

When it comes to privacy, it’s a draw! Blinds are more flexible since you can adjust the angle of the slats, but shades can completely block the outside world. 

Durability

Since blinds are usually made with harder materials such as wood, metal, and vinyl, they tend to be more durable than shades, which are often made out of softer materials that can rip.

Thin fabric of shades
The thin fabric of shades

Blinds are better for high-traffic areas, such as doors and playrooms, and bathrooms because the hard material of their slats is moisture and humidity resistant.

Although blinds are more durable than shades, they’re not indestructible. Slats can break or bend over time, especially if furniture leans up against them or they don’t fit the window properly. They can also be damaged during the cleaning process, especially if you use a powerful vacuum to dust the slats.

So, when it comes to durability, blinds win!

Safety

Between 1990 and 2015, almost two children a day ended up in the ER for injuries caused by window blind cords. About one child each month during that period died from cord-related injuries. These accidents happen in a matter of minutes and can alter the course of your life. I’m not trying to scare you, but these are facts that you need to know.

Since blinds and shades both come in corded and cordless varieties, there’s no way to avoid this risk by choosing one or the other. If the window coverings you buy are corded, make sure the cords are out of reach from children. For blinds or shades with long cords, you can tie them in several knots to shorten and keep them clear of children.

In terms of safety, pay attention to the length of the cords and use common sense, especially around kids.

Installation

Installing blinds and shades is a simple process, and since the invention of the internet and how-to videos, it has never been easier. Although each manufacturer has minor nuances, most of the time, installing either blinds or shades is a matter of attaching metal brackets to the window frame and sliding or snapping the window covering into the brackets.

Blind bracket
Blind bracket

Before you plan on installing either yourself, make sure you have the necessary materials. You may need a pencil, a tape measure, and a drill with a 1/16” drill bit (or a screwdriver). You should also use a level and a sturdy stepladder.

If hearing this list of required tools gives you the chills, rest easy knowing that you can always hire a handyman on HomeAdvisor.com to complete the task for you.

One tip to remember: if you are replacing existing blinds or shades, you may want to purchase products made by the same company. Some companies use the same installation hardware for all their blinds. If you buy the same brand, replacing a damaged shade can be as easy as opening a hinged piece of hardware at the top of the window, removing the damaged product, and placing the new shade in its place.

Which type of product wins the award for the easiest to install? Since the process is nearly identical, it’s a draw.

Cleaning

Once you install your blinds or shades, you going to have to keep them clean. The level of effort required to keep your window coverings clean depends on which type you buy.

Blinds are more difficult to clean than shades because you have to clean the surface of each slat rather than running a vacuum across a flat fabric surface.

If your blinds have a thin layer of dust, you can use the soft brush vacuum attachment and run the end along each slat of your blind, or use a slightly damp microfiber cloth and wipe each slat down individually. Avoid wetting the cloth too much since the dampness of the fabric can mix with the dust and create a muddy, streaky mess.

Blinds with dusty slats
Blinds with dusty slats

Another option is to purchase a blind duster that allows you to dust several slats at one swipe. This one on Amazon is super cheap and gets excellent reviews.

What if your blinds haven’t been cleaned in years and are heavily soiled? If it were me, I would throw them in the trash and buy new ones, but for those who are less lazy than I am should follow these steps:

  • Start the cleaning process by removing the dust with a vacuum or blind duster.
  • Next, take the blinds down and put them in your bathtub that is filled with warm water.
  • Allow the blinds to soak for at least one hour before scrubbing any debris off the slats.
  • Wipe the blinds dry with a clean towel before hanging them back in the window.

If you allow the blinds to air dry, they could show spots on the slats which defeats the purpose of cleaning. If your blinds are made of wood, do not put them in the tub as the water will warp and ruin them.

In general, shades are easier to clean, but it’s a little more difficult to give generic instructions on since they are made with such a wide variety of materials.

Roller shades, bamboo shades, and solar shades should be first lightly vacuumed using your upholstery attachment. Work in a side-to-side motion from top to bottom. If there is a soiled area, wipe the area clean with a damp cloth. It is not recommended to immerse these types of shades in water.

Similar to other materials, it’s best to start the cleaning process for fabric shades without water. First, dust or vacuum them to get rid of any dust and hair. Pay particular attention to the folds of the fabric. If the fabric is soiled, you might be able to wash with soap and water or spot clean with products like Resolve and OxiClean, but you should always check for care instructions from the manufacturer. 

So, which are easier to clean, blinds, or shades? Most websites will say that blinds are much easier to clean than shades because you can soak them in a bathtub. I tend to have a different opinion because I HATE cleaning the individual slats on blinds. It’s tedious, and I can never seem to get them completely clean. Because of this, shades win the cleaning category as well.

Comment below if you wish to challenge my opinion. My hatred for cleaning blinds is pretty intense, though, so I doubt you’ll be able to change my mind.

Price

The price of blinds and shades vary tremendously depending on the style, material, size, and brand. They can be extremely affordable, around $25 or $30 per window, for the very basic type, but you can also pay hundreds per window for highly customized versions.

To get an idea of the costs, you can visit your local home improvement store, or you can check out the current prices of blinds and shades on Amazon, where I’ve been lucky enough to find great deals, and there’s a virtually unlimited selection.

If you’re still can’t decide between blinds or shades, 3DayBlinds.com offers a completely free in-home design consultation. Their design experts will come to your house and provide recommendations based on your style. Give them a call at 888-511-6616 to learn more and set up your appointment. 

Noise Level

Most websites that analyze the positive and negative aspects of blinds and shades do not even mention how quiet or noisy the window coverings are, but being the opinionated sort, I think this is an important topic to cover.

If you have small children in your home, you understand how sacred naptime is. During this time, you silence your cell phone, tiptoe around the house, and glare at anyone who dares ring your doorbell. While some children can sleep through thunderstorms, others are disturbed with even the slightest sounds, in particular, the sound of a blind being drawn.

While old-school shades can also snap up noisily as you try to adjust the darkness in a room, blinds are particularly difficult to adjust without making a minor racket.

Also, If your windows are open to let in the warm breeze of late afternoon, the slats on blinds often vibrate and create a commotion in the room.

While the process of adjusting shades can be noisy at times, they tend to be quieter than those noisy blinds. The winner of the quietest window covering is the shade.

Bottom Line: Which Window Covering Is Right for You?

Now that you understand the differences and similarities between blinds and shades, it’s time to decide which type of window covering is right for your home.

At the end of the day, choosing between blinds and shades is based on your personal preference. Besides bathrooms and high traffic areas, I strongly prefer shades over blinds.

In most cases, I like the look of shades over blinds, especially Roman-style shades. They come in a wide variety of colors, fabrics, and styles so that they can add to the aesthetic of a room. For me, blinds remind me of an office or hospital and look more institutional than homey.

Besides the look, I HATE cleaning the individual slats on my blinds. It’s such a tedious task that it rarely gets done. On the flip side, shades are much easier to maintain. It only takes a minute or two to wipe down my bamboo shades with a microfiber cloth, and since it’s so easy, I end up cleaning them at least once a month.

At this point, if you think you’re ready to buy either blinds or shades, I highly recommend checking them out on Amazon. Both have a wide range of styles, colors, and materials at all price points. It’s also worth making a trip to your local Home Depot or Lowes and checking out what they have in stock.

If you’re still undecided on blinds or shades or if you don’t know where to start, you can set up a completely free in-home consultation with a design expert from 3DayBlinds. Just call them at 888-511-6616 to set up an appointment. 

What do you think? Comment below to give us your opinion on this household debate.

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