Unusual Uses for Zip Ties





Introduction: Unusual Uses for Zip Ties

About: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!

Zip ties (also called cable ties) come in every size, color, or length you could ever want. They are inexpensive, versatile, and invaluable for the utility they serve. Even though these plastic wonders have been around a long time, there's still plenty of uses for them besides simply a quick way to secure items together.

Grab ahold of your favorite, because we're going to explore a few unusual uses for zip ties!

Step 1: Secure Hubcaps

Although many newer cars have alloy wheel rims with a polished finish that don't require hubcaps, some cars still have plastic or metal hubcaps that cover the industrial wheel rim. These hubcaps are usually attached with a spring clip or interference fit, allowing them to be removed by giving them a sharp tug. However this also means they can come off on their own while driving if the conditions are right, making them high-speed dangers.

Secure car hubcaps to the wheel rims with zip ties, ensuring the zip ties clear the brake rotors and don't get caught up on anything on the inside of the wheel rim (there's usually enough clearance, but always check!)

Step 2: Tamper Detection for Luggage

Zip ties are also a quick and easy way to secure your luggage with a visual cue. Serving both as a signal to you to show if your luggage has been opened, and a deterrent to thieves who know that they will leave a trail if they break the zip tie to gain access to your luggage.

Step 3: Wire Management (color Coded)

Sometimes there's so many electrical cables at my desk it's tough to stay organized and tell the difference between the cord for my laptop and the cord for the printer. Zip ties to the rescue!

Keep your electrical cords organized with colorful zip ties, assigning a color to each device at each end of the cord. You can easily identify which words can be unplugged directly from the outlet instead of following each cable back to the device to discover which one is safe to unplug.

Step 4: Stop Tools Rolling Away

Even though I try and stay organized while I work, I still end up with loads of tools on my workbench when I'm fixing things. Most times things stay where I place them, but when I've got screwdrivers and drill bits out sometimes things roll around and eventually off the table.

You could color coordinate the zip ties, if you're feeling extra organized.

For drill bits that have a zip tie on the, the tie could also be positioned to be a depth gauge to make sure you don't drill too far into your workpiece.

Step 5: Drill Depth Gauge

If you're already using zip ties to prevent drill bits from rolling around your workshop then you've got a depth gauge already built in.

Zip ties can be moved along the length of the drill bit to adjust the desired depth.

Step 6: Traction

In a pinch, zip ties can be added to bike tires for a little extra traction.

Make sure the nubby latch that cinches the tie tight is facing outwards to get maximum traction. Since the zip tie will go over the entire tire and rim there's no place for the brake pads to engage the rim, unless your bike has disc brakes. To avoid not having any brakes on your bike only try this with the rear wheel so the front wheel can still slow you down. Of course, riding in the snow on your bike is a risky endeavor, so go slow.

Another great option for traction is to add zip ties to your shoes, and with a few hardware nuts for added traction you're sure to not slip the next time it's icy outside. Clever maker firefightermeyer made these no-cost crampons in minutes, and they look to give plenty of traction.

Step 7: Funky Lamp

Zip ties are so versatile they can even be used as a creative lampshade to great effect. I made this lampshade by replacing the existing lampshade with square wire netting and layering with colorful zip ties, and put together an Instructable about this technique.

There's a few other lamps you can make from zip ties, too.

Zip Tie Lamp - AudreyObscura

Zip Tie Spiral Pendant Lamp - Tarun Upadhyaya

Step 8: Fix Wobbly Outlets

Electrical outlets can receive a lot of abuse over the years with cords being mercilessly yanks from the socket, causing the receptacle to loosen inside the electrical box inside the wall.

If your electrical outlet is seated too far into the electrical box and the cover doesn't fit, try adding a zip tie behind the outlet on the machine screw to act as a standoff. This will allow you to tighten the screw to the zip tie and give you an additional bit of height to attach the faceplate over and allow it to sit flush.

Step 9: Plant Support

Zip ties can be a great addition to the garden, too. Tall plants can be trained to stakes to help support them while they grow, just make sure not to tighten the zip tie which could strangle the plant. Leave plenty of slack in the zip tie after the loop has been closed, this will allow the plant to move while it grows but still benefit from the support the tie provides.

The best part about using zip ties is that they come in lots of colors, so it's easy to find one that matches your plants.

Step 10: Trail Marker

Zip ties are a very useful item to have when you're camping, so why not take a few with you on your next camp hike to help mark the trail?

Using bright colors that are not often found on hiking trails works best, like orange or yellow. These colors stand out against the foliage and will catch your eye when hiking, guiding you back to your campsite. Zip ties won't rot and fall off wherever they are attached, and are easily removed with a camping knife when no longer needed.

When attaching zip ties to any plants it's important not to tighten, this can strangle the plant and cause harm. The aim with using zip ties in this fashion is a method for visual aid only, so leave plenty of slack in the tie after securing the loop.

Step 11: Pendant Lamp Cord Loop

A great solution to hanging pendant lamps is to use a zip tie to secure a loop in the cord, allowing it to be hung from the ceiling and adjusted to any height. Paige's Pendant Lamp Lesson in the free Lamps Class shows us how

The great thing about using a zip tie is that you can leave it a little bit loose for minor height adjustments and then tighten it all the way up once you have the pendant exactly where you want it!

Make a loose loop in the lamp cord

Secure with a zip tie. Don't over tighten! Leaving it a little loose will allow for easy adjustments later, if you wish.

Hang loop from ceiling hook.

Step 12: Bonus: Undo a Zip Tie

Zip ties are great because they are easy to use. But, did you know you can reuse them?

Though you may think these are single-use, you can actually remove zip ties by inserting a pin, fingernail, or dull knife into the ratchet latch and pry it downwards to release the zip tie, then slide out the tail of the tie to remove.

How Have You Used Zip Ties?

Do you have another unusual use for zip ties? I want to see them!

Share a picture of your zip tie unusual use in the comments below and get a free Pro Membership to Instructables! Make sure your use is unusual :)

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213 Discussions

This is a positive comment because it may save a life! The lamp idea is NOT a good idea because plastic zip-ties have a low melt point and plastic often gasses out before it starts to melt and you may not be able to smell these fumes. The accumulated ingestion of these fumes would be toxic. If you didn't know, a light bulb is a mini oven that can reach 300 degrees F. An LED bulb is still about half the temperature of an incandescent and in my opinion (as someone whose used many thousands and types of zip ties in industrial work), in the right circumstances enough to cause damage to a zip tie. Even long exposure to the sun (and cold) will damage a zip tie so zip-tie makers who claim they can withstand 185 degrees are really pushing it. From my experience (and I have a lot of it, in the past I've literally spent 12 hours a day zip-tying stuff) they wouldn't last long at that temp. Generally it is good idea to NEVER put plastic anywhere near a heat source.

6 replies

Yes, it might be an issue with an incan bulb, though with quality nylon ties, I doubt it.

Use an LED, problem solved.

The spiral chandelier looks like it is already using an LED strip.

Wrong. If you read my comment above you'd know that an LED is still about half the temperature of an incandescent. Also, all plastic zip ties have a low melt point. DO NOT put plastic near a heat source ever! I can't state that loudly enough. It can literally mean your and/or your loved ones (including pets) life or death. A lot of times when plastic is gassing out (doesn't need to be on fire to do this - just near a heat source) you cannot smell it and it will not set off your smoke alarm. So the bottom line is: Putting plastic near a heat source is a good way to wake up dead. Why take an unnecessary risk? Just don't do it.

so you know how a pendant lamp hangs normally 2 to 4 feet bellow the ceiling? i really doubt a zippy securing wire 2 feet above the lightbulb is going to get very hot. if your lamp wire is getting to 300d's F you have worse problems than 'fumes'

The pendant lamp is not being discussed here. It's the Lampshade made of many zip ties that is being discussed and yes THAT lampshade could cause problems if overheated

Buildseason, either you've posted to the wrong comment or you failed to understand the lamp shade instructional and/or my comment. Regardless, the fact is fumes from plastics kill and in some cases, if different gasses/fumes combine - can kill within seconds. Just ask any one of the families of the 100 people who died from plastic foam fumes during the Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island a few years ago. Pyrotechnics started that fire with toxic fumes no one expected because no one thought (or cared) about the environment they were setting them off in. I'll say it again: DO NOT put plastic by a heat source period. When things fail or go wrong or the unexpected happens you're always better off safe than sorry. Keep things out of the line of fire - literally and metaphorically.

My Hubby was a firefighter for 35 years and you are so right Thunderborn!!! Thank you for your safety tips. Shame some ALWAYS think they are ALWAYS right. Even when it comes to their own safty.

Great ideas! Another good use is for shampoo and conditioner bottles, if they're the same shape and size. Put one zip tie on the shampoo, two on the conditioner. It will both help you get the correct one first try every time (great for bottles with small font or people who use glasses), and keep them from rolling if dropped.

9 replies

Brilliant! thanks for sharing. now i need a memory trick to remember which one I put it on... LOL

Easy to remember - TWO for shampOO.

It's easy if you remember that you 1st (1) shampoo and 2nd (2) conditioner.

use shampoo first (1 ziptie) conditioner second (2 zipties) That would be how I'd remember it...hope it helps you too

Great idea Joe, how about 1 on the shampoo and be done with it.

Because having them on both prevents them from rolling and also gives you grip when you grab them with soapy hands.

Thanks! They also help add grip to the bottle so they won't slip off soapy hands.

I've been running a pro-level electronics repair shop for half a century. Heed: If you want high-level performance from these "hacks" (we call them "solutions") then you need good materials. For light-duty/non-critical applications the minimal-quality ties you can get from outfits like Monoprice or Home Depot (etc.) will suffice. The good stuff comes from Panduit Corporation. Heavy duty. Nylon. Available in white or black. As far as re-using a tie by sticking things into the locking mechanism, don't. You will damage the ratchet track by doing this, weakening the tie's holding ability; it may fail unexpectedly, causing injury or other problems. What you need is called a releasable tie; they're rugged and easy to use, and releasing one doesn't hurt it a bit. Check out the Panduit PRT series ties, available online from outfits like Mouser, Digi-Key, Arrow, Newark, etc.

2 replies

Mostly agree, but the "good stuff" comes from thomas&betts. :)

If you use a T-pin to pull back the ratchet, and do it carefully, you will do absolutely no damage to the track at all. Been doing it for decades.

I've never found reusable ties in decent colors.