A zip tie, which is formally known as a cable tie, is a type of cable that is used to hold multiple objects together. They are an integral part of cable management so that you don’t have to dig through piles and piles of live cables to locate the one cable you’re looking for. Zip ties come in a variety of lengths and weight capacities.
A standard zip tie will usually measure 12 inches long, but you can find zip ties ranging from 4 inches to 60 inches in length. A single zip tie can support between 18 and 250 pounds before snapping, depending on its length and width.
In this guide, I’ll explain what zip ties are, the specifications of a zip tie, and the various types of zip ties available.
What Are Zip Ties?
A zip tie is a type of fastener that is used to keep cables bundled together. They were first introduced to the world in 1958 under the name Ty-Rap. The original design used metal teeth instead of plastic.
Parts of a Zip Tie
As simple as they may appear, zip ties are made up of multiple components to keep cables and small objects anchored in place.
Tie Head—The large ratchet system is found on one end of the zip tie. The “tongue” on the head grabs the serrated teeth to keep it from becoming loose.
Cable Tie—The section of the zip tie that extends from and slips into the cable tie head. It has a serrated side and a flat side. On the opposite end of the tie head is a slightly tapered tail.
Teeth—The serrated ridges found along one side of the zip tie. The teeth are pointed in one direction to allow the tie head to tighten around an object but not become loose too easily.
Zip Tie Sizes and Tensile Strength
The measurement of a zip tie is taken from the end of the tie head to the end of the tail. The standard zip tie will measure 12 inches long, but zip ties come in all sorts of sizes, ranging from 4 to 60 inches long.
When looking for zip ties, you should also pay attention to their tensile strength rating. Tensile strength refers to a zip tie’s resistance to breaking under tension. The higher the tensile strength rating, the more weight it can bear before snapping.
The following chart describes the various zip tie strengths and common tensile strength ratings relating to a specific size. Please note that the exact measurements and strength ratings may differ between manufacturers.
|4 in.||18 lbs.|
|5.5 in.||18 to 40 lbs.|
|8 in.||18 to 120 lbs.|
|9 in.||250 lbs.|
|11 in.||50 to 120 lbs.|
|14 in.||50 to 250 lbs.|
|18 in.||120 lbs.|
|19 in.||20 lbs.|
|22 in.||250 lbs.|
|24 in.||175 lbs.|
|28 in.||175 lbs.|
|32 in.||175 lbs.|
|36 in.||50 to 175 lbs.|
|40 in.||250 lbs.|
|48 in.||175 lbs.|
|60 in.||175 to 250 lbs.|
As you can see from the table above, there is a positive relationship between the length of a zip tie and its tensile strength. However, the width of a zip tie also plays a role on its resistance to breaking under tension. Zip ties generally measure 0.2 and 0.34 inches along the cable tie section before the tapered section of the tail.
Are Zip Ties Reusable?
The tongue of a zip tie will usually be held in place by the flat side of a tooth. If you want to disengage the zip tie, you will have to use a toothpick or a similarly narrow object to push the tongue out of the way, allowing you to slip the cable tie section back out of the tie head.
Unless you use another type of zip tie with a releasable buckle, you will have to try the toothpick method to undo a zip tie or snip it off entirely.
Types of Zip Ties
The most common material used to make zip ties is nylon, an engineered plastic that can withstand temperatures as low as -40°F and up to 180°F for brief periods of time. Nylon zip are used for several light-duty and industrial applications, such as keeping computer cables in order and keeping car parts together.
Another common material is stainless steel, which can withstand extremely low and high temperatures at a much greater scale than nylon. You will usually find stainless-steel zip ties used exclusively in industrial settings.
Belt Zip Ties
Nylon zip ties are generally non-reusable. After fastening the tongue of the zip tie over the teeth and snipping off the remaining section of the tail, you will usually have to snip the whole thing off if you want to rearrange the anchored objects. Belt cable ties are the complete opposite. They have a quick-releasing mechanism on the cable tie head that allows you to tighten or loosen the cable tie.
Push Mount Zip Ties
The only difference between this type of zip tie and traditional nylon zip ties is that the tie head can be mounted onto a vertical object. This can be done using screws. Industrial-strength adhesive or pushing the mounting section into a pre-drilled hole.
Marker Zip Tie
This type of zip tie has a flat rectangular portion around the tie head that lets you add notes to the zip tie. That way, you will know what cables the zip tie is holding together. You might need to add a label to the rectangular portion before adding notes.
Double Headed Zip Tie
The tie head on this type of zip tie comes with 2 tongues. This design allows you to separate 2 bundles of cables without connecting multiple zip ties.
Beaded Zip Tie
This type of zip tie uses beads instead of serrated teeth. It works exactly like a traditional nylon zip tie, but the beads are slightly larger to prevent the zip tie from becoming undone. Beaded zip ties are usually used for shipping and packaging purposes.