Improvements in the safety and functionality of modern window treatments make it easy for parents to enjoy looks that are stylish, easy-care and — best of all — safe for little ones.
Window Covering Safety Concerns and Major Industry Changes
Unless you’ve recently shopped for window treatments, you may not be aware that the window covering manufacturing industry underwent a safety overhaul in the mid-1990s. In response to evidence that window covering cords were a leading the cause of strangulation deaths in children under age five, manufacturers redesigned products with improved child safety features — ranging from safer pull cord systems to completely cordless styles. They also developed window cord safety kits so consumers could retrofit existing window coverings.
Even with this design overhaul, a child safety issue remained. In 1999, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that the inner cords on some horizontal blinds could be pulled out, creating a dangerous loop which had been the culprit in more child deaths! So, manufacturers again refined their designs to prevent this hazard and released an inner cord repair kit for consumers to fix existing products.
Though window covering pull cords are the primary child safety risk, window treatments such as floor-length drapery, curtain rods, and vertical blinds can pose safety concerns as well, especially in homes with children under three years old. Rest assured, there are several inexpensive ways to improve the safety of window coverings — all without sacrificing style.
Child Safety Solutions for Existing Window Coverings
One of the easiest ways to protect children from window-related hazards is to eliminate access by keeping cribs, chairs and sofas away from windows and dangling cords. This also makes life easier since you won’t constantly be fixing mussed-up blinds! But this is just the first step. Children are naturally curious and surprisingly inventive, so childproofing dangerous window coverings is a must for a safe family home.
There are several ways to childproof unsafe window coverings (most made before 1995) without purchasing new products. If uncertain about the year window coverings were manufactured, this quick check will identify existing child safety features and help determine if simple safety repairs are needed:
- Do the pull cords connect at the end to create a loop? If so, is the plastic end “tassel” one solid piece, or will it break apart easily, breaking the cord loop? (If it separates into two pieces, it probably is a safety tassel)
- Can the inner cord (between the blind slats) be pulled out?
- Does the continuous loop (on some vertical and horizontal blinds) dangle freely?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider making childproofing modifications to your window coverings. Below we’ve listed the most common child safety issues and sources for free safety repair kits. One solution or a combination of solutions may apply, depending on the window covering’s style, use and accessibility to young children.
Most window covering retailers provide child safety devices free of charge. Call the Window Covering Safety Council at 1-800-506-4636 to find a retailer near you, or to request free safety devices listed below:
Install Separate Tassels on Pull Cords
The tassel is the plastic thimble-like piece at the end of the pull cord, often it creates a loop of the cords used to raise or lower the blind. To fix this dangerous loop, lower the blind completely and cut the pull cord(s) as close to the top of the blind as possible. Remove the equalizer cleat (which holds the cords together near the header on some styles) and install one tassel on each cord. And of course, do not retie the cords as the bottom — that creates another loop!
Install Break-Away Safety Tassels on Pull Cords
This repair will cause the pull cord tassel to separate into two pieces when pressure is applied.
Install Cord Stops
This repair will minimize the danger of inner cords being pulled out from between the blind slats (pre-1999 designs). The cord stops are installed onto the cords near the head rail when the blind is completely lowered. However, when the blind is raised, the cord stops themselves may create a child-accessible loop, so a cord cleat is a good device to use in conjunction with cord stops.
Install Cord Cleats
Cord cleats allow the cord to be wound safely out of reach near the top of the blind. This is a great child safety fix, but really should be used in conjunction with a safety tassel just in case someone is in a hurry and the cord is not wound up.
Install Continuous-Loop Tie-Downs
Continuous-loop systems are used with various types of blinds and drapes and often are seen in floor-length styles. These styles have a control cord that must be kept in a loop to function correctly. Wall- and floor-mounted cord tie-downs are available to remedy this child safety hazard.
What About the Draperies?
Parent know that just about anything a child can reach has a potential for danger — long draperies, curtains and vertical blinds are no exception. If long window treatments are a fixture in your home, ensure that hanging bars and hardware systems are securely installed into the wooden studs surrounding windows and doors.
Typically, windows and doors are framed with studs that extend about four inches around the opening. Any rod hardware extending beyond four inches might be installed only in sheetrock, which is not as secure — even when anchors are used. Note, the four-inch frame rule-of-thumb may not apply to all homes or window designs. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to check using a stud finder. If hanging hardware is not secured to studs, consider installing a wooden header bar to the studs to create a strong wood base for attaching the hanging rod.
Also, avoid using spring-loaded, pressure-mounted rods with any curtain that a child can reach (remember – they move chairs!). These can easily be pulled down, possibly injuring the child, and often have small end caps that are a choking hazard if pulled off the rod.
A temporary safety solution for long draperies is to tie drapes up, out-of-reach, in a decorative swag effect. This can help protect both your drapes and your child during the toddler years!
Look for Window Coverings that Combine Safety, Functionality and Style
Child-safe window coverings come in a wide variety of styles to fit most any need — some even feature remote-control! Used alone or with any number of window-topping swags, valances or panels, these new styles will add child-safe, easy-care style to any home’s decor. Coverings to consider include:
Pleated and Cellular (Honeycomb) Shades
Available in both cordless and safety cord designs, fabric pleated and cellular shades come in a variety of colors and styles. Most styles are stain- and dust-resistant and easily cleaned with a vacuum attachment or damp cloth. Cellular, or honeycomb, styles also feature energy-efficient insulating properties and linings that effectively filter or block light.
Look for: Duette Honeycomb by Hunter Douglas, Lumicel Honeycomb by No Brainer Blinds, Cirrus Cellular and Pristine Pleated by Levelor, DiamondCell and NeatPleat by Bali
Offering both cordless and safety cord styles, metal miniblinds are still an inexpensive and durable choice for active families. An added plus, many of today’s styles are made with dent-resistant alloys and dust-repelling finishes.
Look for: LightLines and SoftSuede by Hunter Douglas, Mark 1 by Levelor, Marquee by No Brainer Blinds
Faux woods blinds truly offer easy-care style for active families. While mimicking the look of expensive wooden blinds, faux wood blinds work better in high-traffic and high-humidity areas — great for kitchens. Faux woods are easily cleaned with soap and water (don’t try this with real wood blinds!) and feature child-safe cord designs.
Look for: WoodMates and Everwood by Hunter Douglas, Biowood by No Brainer Blinds
Plantation shutters are a classic window covering style for contemporary, traditional and country style homes alike. They offer safe, durable and energy-efficient features perfect for active families. Choose engineered faux woods and fire-retardant polyvinyls which require little to no maintenance and can even be cleaned with soap and water.
Look for: Palm Beach Shutters by Hunter Douglas, Satinwood by No Brainer Blinds, VinylBilt Shutters
Roman shades add versatility, dimension and charm to any room, and now they’re designed with child safety in mind, featuring bottom-lift and locked pull cord styles. Available in variety of textures, fabrics and colors, roman shades add a manageable drapery-like touch to any room — great for living and family rooms.
Look for: Jubilance by Hunter Douglas, Fresco by Graber, Casual Classics by Bali
The tried-and-true roller shade is sometimes all that’s needed. Child-safe in the original styling, spring-tension roller shades remain among the most durable, kid-smart window covering options. And with today’s new styling, light filtering features and hem decorations, roller shades offer unexpected looks that fit most budgets. Available in spring-tension and continuous loop styles.
Look for: Remembrance by Hunter Douglas, Derbyshire by No Brainer Blinds, Roller Shades by Levelor
Safety Alert: Imported Vinyl Miniblinds Might Contain Lead
Inexpensive vinyl miniblinds made before 1996 may pose an unusual but dangerous threat to child safety. Prior to 1996, some imported vinyl miniblinds used lead as a stabilizer to make the slats of the blind more rigid. Over time, the Sun’s UV rays can break down the vinyl, creating a dust on the surface that contains trace amounts of lead.
After this situation was linked to a child’s lead poisoning death in 1996, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ruled that imported vinyl miniblinds must be reformulated. Today, tin is the primary stabilizer used in these blinds.
If your home or apartment has older vinyl miniblinds, you may consider testing the blinds for lead to ensure a child-safe environment. Lead safety test kits can be found at most home improvement stores, or check out our Faves! Lead Test Kits for online sources and more information on household lead testing.