Blackout curtains are excellent for blocking out almost all the sunlight that can possibly enter your bedroom.
However one of the biggest concerns for people looking into this blackout solution is safety. After all, the last thing you want is to inadvertently damage your health by trying to get a better night’s rest.
Ultimately, given that many blackout curtains are made with chemicals and since they often contain VOCs, these curtains are considered by many to be “toxic”. However, by using these curtains properly, in most cases, these curtains aren’t nearly hazardous enough to be damaging to your health.
Regardless it is important to do some research on blackout curtains and their materials if you are sensitive to certain substances in order to make sure that they are a safe investment for you.
Blackout curtains and VOCs
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are released into the air as gases or vapors from materials that contain them1.
Blackout curtains, like many other common household items such as cleaning supplies, or furniture are made up of materials that radiate VOCs. According to the American Lung Organization, although not all VOCs have adverse health effect, many of them do2. When these chemicals are breathed in they can potentially be harmful to you.
“How bad for you are VOCs?” you might ask…
At the end of the day, it is tough to say generally how harmful VOCs, are for you. It really depends on how close in proximity you are to the VOCs, how long you are exposed to the VOCs, what type of VOCs you are exposed to, and how sensitive you are to the given VOCs. However, some of the short term side effects of being affected by VOCs include dizziness, headaches, and irritation of the eyes3.
Some of the more serious long term health effects of VOCs include prolonged throat and nose irritation, nausea, loss of balance, headaches, organ damage and possibly even some forms of cancer.
What VOCs do blackout curtains contain?
Blackout curtains are most often made from polyester or a polyester blend. These curtains often also have a blackout liner that is sometimes made from rubber. This backing is designed to face your window to block out light more effectively.
Polyester is a petroleum-based synthetic fabric found in various clothing and other fabric materials such as curtains. There are certainly more harmful materials out there that contain more damaging VOCs. However, it is important to note that the manufacturing of many polyester materials such as blackout curtains can be very chemical-intensive.
Additionally, these curtains also often contain flame retardants and stain treatments also made up of toxic chemicals4.
In turn, when you open up your blackout curtain container and catch and you smell a waft of chemicals, your getting a whiff of VOCs. That same strong smell will subside over time but it could still linger in the fabric as long as the curtains are up.
So… blackout curtains are bad for you then?
“Ok ok ok. Lets cut to the chase. Are blackout curtains reeeally bad for you? And if so how bad…”
Although polyester (the most common blackout curtain material) is made through a chemical-intensive process, this material is not as scary as it might sound. After all, polyester is one of the most popular materials for clothing and there are numerous safety standards that ensure products such as blackout curtains aren’t detrimental to your health.
There is no secret that most blackout curtains do contain VOCs but the dangers of these VOCs aren’t all that serious.
Now if you take your blackout curtains out of the package and proceed to immediately bury your nose in them and breathe through your curtains for 8 hours straight, you probably aren’t doing your health any favors for the short term. However as long as your blackout curtains are installed the way they should be, you shouldn’t have much of a problem unless you happen to be particularly sensitive to polyester or any of the chemicals used to make the curtains.
The toxicity of blackout curtains is simply less severe compared to many other home materials. Many paints, for instance, are much more toxic than blackout curtains and in turn, can be more damaging. Chemicals such as methylene chloride and benzene commonly found in paint are probably what you smell when you smear the stuff on your wall. Breathing in chemicals like these is the reason why people often have bad headaches after painting a room.
Reducing the toxicity of your blackout curtains
Blackout curtains in most cases aren’t that scary. However, in case you are still concerned that these curtains might be harmful to your health, there are some steps you can take to make sure that your blackout curtains are as safe as can be for you, a newborn baby, or anyone else.
First of all, it is always good to wash your blackout curtains as soon as you get them. Washing your curtains will remove many of the chemicals still lingering on your curtains from where they were manufactured. After washing and drying your curtains, you should notice that there is less of a lingering chemical smell on them.
Although the process of washing your blackout curtains is not all too difficult, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind. You can learn more about how to wash your blackout curtains here.
Additionally, in order to clean the air of any harmful VOCs from your blackout curtains or other household items, you can use an air purifier and of course, make sure that the air in your room is well ventilated as well.
Organic curtain alternatives
In case you are particularly worried about the potential adverse health effects of blackout curtains, you might instead decide that you want to do away with the idea of buying them completely.
Although you probably won’t find many with the same blackout qualities, there are plenty of non-toxic, eco-friendly curtains you can buy. Any curtains that are made from organic cotton, linen or hemp are safe bets.
Curtains made from these materials are made less chemically intensively and safer to be around.
There are also blackout curtains that are advertised as non-toxic and eco-friendly despite the fact that they are made from polyester. Whether they really are non-toxic or if they are advertised as such mainly for marketing purposes, is debatable. Regardless, these curtains may be an excellent blackout solution nonetheless.
Although you shouldn’t be concerned, if you are still hesitant about getting blackout curtains for safety reasons, remember that they aren’t the only blackout solution.
Blackout curtains are just one of the many ways in which you can blackout your windows. Cellular blinds, blackout film, and other DIY methods can be equally as effective.
For an in-depth approach to darkening your room in your bedroom, check out this ultimate guide to blacking out your bedroom!
- “Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality.” www.epa.gov, https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality
- “Volatile Organic Compounds.” www.lung.org, https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/indoor/indoor-air-pollutants/volatile-organic-compounds.html
- “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).” www.toxtown.nlm.nih.gov, https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/volatile-organic-compounds-vocs
- “Choosing Earth-Safe and Home-Safe Curtain Fabrics.” www.chasinggreen.org, http://www.chasinggreen.org/article/choosing-earth-safe-and-home-safe-curtain-fabrics/