How to Rescue an Over-Twisted Power Cord




Pay it Forward. You Get what you Give.

It's really annoying when somebody "helps" you clean up by improperly coiling your power cords.  The main way this happens is illustrated in the first picture.  The person grabs the end of cord in one hand and then tightly wraps the cord around his or her elbow and hand repeatedly.  This guilty twister is usually an impatient Type-A that thinks fast and hard is better.  Here's a public service announcment:  Fast and Hard is Not Better.

This is a quick trick I used to fix some of my cords that had become hopelessly twisted.  It's not a guaranteed fix - but it does a great job at improving the condition.  Think of it as laser-tatoo removal without all the pain. 

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Step 1: It's OK. Help Is on the Way - Here's All We Need

This one is easy.  All I used is a drill, an eyebolt, and some masking tape.
The drill can be corded (gasp) or battery powered.
You can actually use almost any tape you want.


Step 2: Quick Assembly

Now, just attach the cord to the eyebolt.  It can be done a number of ways.  I have illustrated two ways.

Step 3: Insert Bolt Into Drill

Now mount the bolt into the drill.

Step 4: Tie the Other End of Cord to a Tree or Post

Now just stretch the cord out all the way and tie the other end of the cord to a fixed tall stable object.  A tree or swingset post are good candidates.

Step 5: Regain Control of Unruly Extension Cord

Before you start "unwinding" with the drill, pay close attention to the direction of the corkscrew twist which is present in the cord.  You will want to have the drill rotating opposite of the direction of the current bad cord twist.   We want to make it better not worse!

Also - Very Important!  Before "unwinding", stretch the cord so it suspends off of the ground by a few feet.  This will help a great deal because it will allow the "bad twist" to be worked on somewhat evenly across the length of the entire cord. 

So, now just unwind with the drill!  I have found that doing a little "extra" twisting helps to straighten things out more.  It's no exact science, but it works for me!  

OK - once your'e happy with the cord, be sure to wind and store properly.  And keep away from those who are the "bad-winders".

Step 6: Notes on How One Might Properly Coil the Cord

These instructions are for a RIGHT HANDED person. 
I'm going to let the pictures tell the story...

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    21 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    I am having trouble finding a replacement cord that doesn't tangle for my vacuum cleaner. Can I use one of those thick shiny Outdoor ones that look like they won't tangle?


    Reply 2 years ago

    im a custodian and i've found when i come across inherited equipment with messed up cords .. i stretch the cord out straight down a hallway every time i havta wrap it up .. then i start from the equipment end and grab the round cord with just my thumb and index finger ..thumb nd index pointing away from equipment end .. and with my other hand ..just using my thumb and index finger i stretch out arms length.. then as im coming back . going to make the coil into my left hand i twist around nd keep the cord loose .. when i do this 5-10 times a week .. after like2 weeks the cord is almost perfectly in its natural curve... and i guess it varies on ones' arms but when i do that its like a perfect oval of cord liek about 2 feet in biggest diameter liek up and down.. prolly like 10 inches across


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just the hand drawing makes this a winning Instructable!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Cords twist because most people do not unplug the one end while winding up the cord. This is what causes the twisting. The free end of the cord must be able to rotate as you wind up the cord. Always make sure the cord is fully stretched out and that both ends are unplugged and free to rotate and you will never get a twisted cord or rope again.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Prohidium, That is a good way of explaining the whole twisting issue. I wish I would have said that!


    7 years ago on Step 4

    This seems like the cord could begin to osscilate and rip the drill out of your hand. You don't want that.

    Master Beorn

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I just use a cord coiler that you "wind" up the cord around a central hub. If the cord wants to turn it can. I've had more than a few extension cords that have been recycled for this very reason, thanks for sharing!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the info. And nice illustrations !
    Clear and sensible.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    While I am a type A person of the 'more has got to be better' brigade (hehe), I suspect the reason most people use the elbow-hand technique is not because they're type A but because that's how they've seen others do it, and they assume it's the correct way. I learned the elbow-hand technique from my father, and I've been unwittingly twisting cords all my life. It was only fairly recently that someone took the time to show me the correct way. Don't get grumpy, educate :-)

    I like your technique for untwisting cords and have an extension cord that's just begging to be made whole again. I'm thinking that laying the cord in the sun after untwisting the internal copper wiring would also help to relax the plastic covering before recoiling the cord.

    BTW, awesome drawings.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I usually wrap hand to elbow but I do make sure the cord doesn't twist, I rehang cords on a hook in the same way (100' hd cord is coiled outside inside the arbor year round) If a cord does get twisted a simple walk or a whip like snap while pulling the cord usually straightens it out


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    There is more than one way to wind a cable. You can do a quick google search on "winding an extension cord," "coiling an extension cord," "rolling an extension cord," etc.

    The main thing to keep in mind is the point is to try and keep the cord from getting more kinks in it than it already has. If you buy a new extension cord it will already have kinks in it from being coiled in the package. So, I try to coil power cords for tools and other appliances with the same pattern they came in.

    With my extension cords, at least 25', I try to coil them in large coils, about 2'-2.5' in diameter. When doing this you hold the coils in one hand while coiling with the other. Your coiling hand will also be rolling the cord with your fingers to allow the cord to relax. I know that's a bit hard to imagine without a video, but like I said, Google is your friend. Also, this is the way I do it.

    Others will have different ways. A couple of ways I've never subscribed to include the "over-under" technique and the "contractor" or "daisy chain" technique. "Over-under" is like mine, but you reverse every other coil to keep it from getting tangled. I've never had a problem with my technique tangling, I can still throw my cord out just as easily and I don't have to spend a lot of time teaching anyone how to roll my cords.

    "Daisy chain" is a technique that some contractors use for one reason or another. Once again, I don't use it because my technique works and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

    Just remember to not bind up the cord. If you wrap it around your elbow it will get bound up and add undue stress to the cord causing it to wear out prematurely. Also, NEVER tie a knot in cords and cables. I'd also like to add that I'd probably not use the drill technique to "un-wind" my cord, unless I had a 100' or longer cord. You can usually shake out a "bad wind" in most cords and the cord will "remember" where it's supposed be.

    Wow, sorry about the long rant.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Good info Truehart. Thanks for posting. I think you have a good point about the drill technique possibly posing a problem. One illustration shows the cord getting looped back at a sharp bend. But the other illustrated way would avoid bending the cord. It's just taping it flat onto the eyebolt. I think that way would be kosher.

    I will sheepishly admit that I have been guilty of putting a knot in the end of power cords - using it to help hold the cord attached to given tool. 

    There are lots of ways to wind the cords. I'm grasping for words to explain in very short order how I wind em... 

    Everytime I try to put it in  words - I start sketching.  I think this may be a disorder.  I'll post shortly the way I learned to coil them....


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    *Agree* over/under is the best way. It keeps the "memory" out of the cord while still allowing it to hang up nice like a normal loop.

    One other tip: Keep the ends extra long. Whenever an end accidentally goes through the loops, that's where knots come from.