Which cable tie should I use?

Which cable tie should I use?

- Categories : Technical Info

Cable tie, zip tie, tie wrap? What do you prefer?  They are all the same thing; a type of fastener used for organising bundles of cables securing loose items or tying items together. They generally have a single-use but we do sell re-usable ones, and they can be trimmed to your desired length to allow for a neat and tidy install.  

Let’s consider the uses;

•    Securing a bunch of cables together ie in a server room
•    Tying tent pegs together so none are lost
•    Securing dolly into a bike basket when you take your children out.
•    Holding a Christmas garland to your stair banister
•    Gears and engine components
•    Handcuffing, although that is a bit extreme

When you think of all of the uses, cable ties must meet a broad range of requirements ranging from use in extreme environments, temporary fastening to weight they can hold.  Some people have very specific usage requirements or even a colour code for electrical instalments.  Luckily they are available in a wide range of lengths, colours and widths to suit a huge range of jobs both indoors and out, making them an essential product for any tool kit.  Get an overview of our various cable tie solutions here.

Cable ties are a very low cost, easy to use solution for many applications.  Generally made of a durable nylon, they have a flexible tape section with tiny teeth like ridges.  There is an opening at one end that when wrapped around the item to be secured, the blunt end inserted into the head and pulled tight to secure. The small teeth prevent it from loosening and coming undone.

With such a broad range of uses, from wiring companies to Christmas decorations, people need to be assured that their cable tie will last.  The life span of cable ties can be anything from 5 years to a max of a maximum of 10 years but this usually refers to the wider. black 450mm style and depends on environmental exposure.  White cable ties have a much shorter life span of around a year.  Obviously the life span will depend on the material the cable tie is made out of and where it’s used, and it’s worth noting that cable ties made from nylon and exposed to heat will speed the expiration date.

There are standards of nylon used in the manufacture of cable ties and in this section, I just want to outline those differences.  It’s actually quite thrilling as I’m a chemistry geek at heart.  So, Nylon (PA) 6 & 66 are both synthetic polymers called polyamides, with the numbers describing the type and quantity of polymer chains in their chemical structure.

As polyamides, Nylon 6 & 66, have their own separate and distinct benefits, but as you would expect from their usage, they also share many of the same core properties:

•    High mechanical strength, stiffness, hardness and toughness.
•    Excellent wear resistance
•    Good sliding properties.
•    Good electrical insulating properties
•    High mechanical damping ability.
•    Good resistance to high energy radiation (gamma & x-ray).
•    Good machinability.
•    Good fatigue resistance.

So each of the different standards of Nylon have been developed for use because of a list of unique benefits.  They are very similar but they do provide slightly different characteristics. The differences come about is largely because of their differences in chemical structure. Nylon 6 is made from one monomer which has 6 carbon atoms whilst Nylon 66 is made from 2 monomers with each one having 6 carbon atoms, hence the Nylon 66 name.

Less crystalline More crystalline
Lower mold shrinkage Greater mold shrinkage
Low melting point High melting point
Lower heat deflection temperature Higher heat deflection temperature
Higher water absorption rate Lower water absorption rate
Poor chemical resistance to acids Better chemical resistance to acids
Withstands high impact and stress and better stands up to hydrocarbons Better stiffness, tensile modulus and flexural modulus
Lustrous surface finish, easy to colour More difficult to colour


As highlighted earlier, there are many different applications of cable tie and this needs to be considered wen determining which standard is more appropriate for you; Nylon-6 or Nylon-66.  The lower level of mold shrinkage of Nylon-6 makes it more reliable as it solidifies and the changes after cooling of Nylon-66 should be accounted for.  Equally, Nylon-6 absorbs more water than Nylon-66 material and has a lower temperature tolerance so should not be used in applications that require exposure to water or high temperatures.

Ultimately, Nylon 6 is light weight and should be used where the tie is required to overcome high impact and stress.  This material also has better aesthetics as it’s easier to dye.  Uses could be in industry, the automotive trade and in military applications.  More thought should be given for use at high temperature and water exposure and Nylon-66 would be a better choice.

So each of the materials has a comprehensive list of benefits, essentially the opposite of the comparable material.  Nylon-66 is a better plastic if a high performing engineering material is required.  It will withstand being exposed to higher temperatures and is superior for repeated, long term usage.

As you can tell, cable ties is a dry subject but is also expansive with so much to consider if you have a specific application in mind.  However, if you are just using them to hold your tent pegs together, then any variety should work.

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