Zip Tie Hacks That Make DIYing a Cinch
Every homeowner should have a stash of these tiny, versatile straps on hand. Zip ties can help you conquer clutter, work hands-free and even see in the dark. Here's how:
Attach Garbage Can Lids
Are you tired of losing your garbage can lid? “Hinge” it to the barrel with zip ties. Drill 1/4-in. holes for the ties and double them for extra strength. The lid will flip open and stay attached to the barrel. You’ll never have to search for your lid again. Smart, right?
Gym Bag Odor Control
Throw a few silica packets in the bottom of the bag to soak up that gym smell. Or you can make your own silica pouches. Just wrap a generous scoop of silica crystal kitty litter in a piece of breathable fabric and tie it shut with a zip tie.
Improvised Caulk Gun
You can improvise a caulk gun instead of buying yet another one. Just zip-tie the tube of caulk to the bar of a trigger-style clamp and stick a wood scrap in the tube’s end to act as a plunger, dispensing caulk as you squeezed the clamp’s trigger.
Secure Moving Bins
Moving is always a pain, but using plastic containers that don’t stay closed adds even more frustration. Zip ties to the rescue. After putting on a container lid, drill a small hole through the lid and handles. Run a zip tie through the holes and you’re on the road.
Secure Chains on Outdoor Power Equipment
Snowblower chains pop off when you least expect it. Here’s a simple solution that will prevent the chain from unhooking and coming loose. Tie the locking links in place with nylon zip ties. The chains will stay secure until you decide it’s time to take them off.
When referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don’t prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working. You can make a smartphone stand out of just about anything these days, but it doesn’t get much simpler than looping zip ties around your phone (two on each side). All you have to do is tighten the zip ties until they are snug to the phone with the zip-tie heads facing down and near the edge of your phone. Now you can watch video instructions or look at project drawings without having to hold it in your hands the whole time.
Simple Bathroom Sink Drain Cleaner
Next time your bathroom sink gets clogged, use a long zip tie. Cut several notches on the end of the zip tie. It’ll hook the hair clog, allowing you to pull it out. Problem solved. The size of the eye of the zip tie should prevent you from inadvertently pushing the tie past the stopper,
Move Clothes Masterfully
When it comes time to move, this tip is especially useful for packing — and unpacking — your closet! There’s no need to take your clothes off of hangers, fold them and stack them in boxes. Just grab a handful of your hanging clothes and wrap the tops of the hangers together using bendable electrical wire or a zip tie. Drape a garbage bag over the clothes, pulling the tops of the hangers through a hole in the bottom of the bag. Then cinch up the garbage bag handles and tie them together.
Your clothes will stay organized and clean while moving them to your new place. To unpack, just remove the bag, untwist the wire and hang your clothes in the closet.
Control Your Climbing Plants with Zip Ties
Getting your vines to run up just how you want can be tricky. To direct the vines, fasten zip ties around the stalks, strapping them to anything stable. Don’t strap the vines too tightly. They need to be able to move and grow.
Fix a Screwy Electrical Box
If you find a loose receptacle inside a plastic electrical box due to stripped screw holes, you can fix it with zip ties. Just slip small zip ties into the stripped holes, which will allow you to tighten the screws until snug.
Easy Knob-and-Tube Insulation Fix
The insulation on knob-and-tube wiring gets brittle with age. When you’re working with it, the insulation may just crumble in your hands. You can easily re-insulate a section using a length of the plastic jacket from a piece of nonmetallic sheathed cable (often referred to as Romex) and secure it with a zip tie.
Keep Round Tools from Rolling
To keep X-Acto knives from rolling off the table and stabbing you in the foot, put zip ties around them. This trick also works great for preventing short pencils from getting stuck down in narrow tool belt pockets, and carpenter’s pencils from falling through the cracks when used as spacers between deck boards.
Sometimes when working under the kitchen sink, it can be hard to see what you’re doing. Next time you need some light, use zip ties to attach mini flashlights to a pair of safety glasses.
Safe Fluorescent Bulb Storage
Safely store extra fluorescent bulbs in jumbo-sized vinyl-clad storage hooks in a handy location near your fixture in the shop, garage or basement. Cut the hooks off one end of a couple of mini bungee cords and use zip ties to attach the severed ends to the top of two vinyl-clad steel storage hooks. Store several fresh bulbs and mark your bad bulbs with a marker and store them until it’s time to recycle.
Store Zip Ties on a Pegboard
Faithful reader Raymond Hudon sent us a tool storage technique for all those slender tools and shop accessories. Cut short lengths of PVC pipe (1-1/2- and 2-in.-diameter pipes work well for most items) and slide them over pegboard hooks. Then load them up with files, hacksaw blades, zip ties, pencils, stir sticks . . . you get the skinny.
Spotlight for Woodworking
Focus a bright beam of light on your layout lines when you’re doing fine work on a band saw or scroll saw. All you need is a 1-1/2-in. round base magnet with a hole in the center, a Mini Maglite flashlight and a 1/8-in.-thick steel rod. Bend an eyelet in the end of the rod and bolt it to the magnet, then strap the flashlight to the other end with zip ties. The setup will stick to any steel or cast iron surface, so you’ll see what you’re sawing! Our thanks to Gary Brandhorst for this tip.
Make a Tool-Protecting Pouch
If you store your toolbox in a non-climate-controlled garage or shed or in the bed of your truck, rust prevention is very important. You could collect a few of those tiny silica packets that come with a new pair of shoes, but it could take months (or years) to have enough to protect your tools from excess moisture.
Instead, make your own rust-preventing pouch using a generous scoop of silica crystal kitty litter, a piece of breathable fabric (we cut off a piece of an old t-shirt) and a zip tie.
Toss the pouch inside your toolbox to keep your tools rust-free. You can make several pouches with one bag of kitty litter. Heck, make some extra pouches and gift them to your friends.
Zip Tie Your Decorations
Zip ties are a simple way to string holiday lights on banisters and fences without marring the railing with nail marks. Zip ties are sold at home centers. You’ll find them in the electrical supplies aisle. After the holidays, snip the ties off with scissors.
Quick, Secure Clamps
To repair split chair rungs or spindles, inject glue into the split, and then clamp it together with electrical tie-wraps. Grip the tie-wrap with two pairs of pliers to cinch down on the workpiece. Slip a chip of wood under the wrap to increase the pressure, and simply cut off the wrap when the glue’s dry. Tie-wraps are also great for wrapping wood strips or dowels in bundles, and for ﬁxing a loose connection between the ﬂex hose and the nozzle on your shop vacuum. Thanks to reader Rodger Ahlberg for this versatile tip.
Recycling Zip Ties
Whenever you buy something that’s wrapped with zip ties, don’t cut them off and toss them. Instead, remove the ties by inserting the tip of a pocket knife under the ratcheting mechanism of the ties and pulling the end out. You can reuse the ties and never worry about over-tightening one because you can reposition it.
Alternatives to Zip Ties
Here are three easy ways to keep cords tightly coiled, even when they fall off the hook or get shoved into a toolbox:
- Velcro strips. Buy a pack of 10 precut, pre-slotted strips ($2 at a home center) or pick up a roll of hook-and-loop material at a fabric store and make your own.
- 3/8-in. dia. rope. Attach to the end of the cord as shown, then tie up the coiled cord.
- Elastic ponytail holders that secure with plastic balls on the ends work great on coiled extension cords too.