Yes, we’re back to talking about nylon cable ties today. Yesterday we wrote about how to cut them flush during installation, and a few months ago we talked more about all-in-one tightening and trimming nylon cable tie tools.
Today, let’s talk a bit about how to cut nylon zip ties, such as those shown above. That’s a Tekton 200-piece assortment ($6 via Amazon), by the way. Sorry, I’ve got to name the product since I used the image, although it does look like a handy kit to keep around.
We’re not talking about trimming cable ties, cutting them flush, or anything of the sort. Here, let’s focus on how to get cable ties cut and removed as quickly and easily as possible.
Option 0: Use the right tool.
As Visbert pointed out in a comment, there are special tools designed just for cutting cable ties. But, unless you deal with cable ties on a daily basis, you’re probably not going to have such a tool available.
Option 1: Use any cutting tool.
Strong scissors, a knife (cut away from yourself), diagonal cutters, or any other durable cutters will work. The thicker the cable tie, the tougher the tool needed to cut through it.
I’ve used angled tip cutters, wire cutters, medical-style shears (which are a lot cheaper than you might think), utility cutters, fancy Japanese-made EDC scissors, and some sweet Midwest metal-cutting snips.
Option 2: Break ’em!
Basically, nylon cable ties are very strong in one direction, but they typically don’t respond well to twisting motions.
If the nylon tie is thin enough, you can grab it with pliers, give a quick sharp twist, and the tie will break. You obviously wouldn’t do this if the tie is around soft or delicate materials.
For example, if you need to remove a zip tie that’s around soft compressed air tubing, don’t try to break it, as doing so might mar or otherwise damage the tubing. Using precision cutters and a steady hand would probably yield better results.
Oh, and I should tell you to wear safety glasses or other proper PPE in case a piece of the tie flies off and hits you in the face. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but could happen to you.
Grab, twist, break. That’s all it usually takes.
Sometimes this is effective on medium-sized zip ties too. The largest zip ties? You know the ones – they sell in 18″ lengths and are the size of your pinky. Those you probably couldn’t cut or break easily.
If I want to pull a zip tie off in one motion, I might grab the lock head. Twist, pull, and the entire zip tie is removed. Sometimes. Usually? This isn’t always easy to pull off. Plus, this part is usually in an inaccessible place.
You might think this to be an obvious tip, and if not, I bet you cannot wait to try it out.
When opening up kids toys, new tool cases that are zip tied closed, or other such things that are often zip tied in place, I don’t bother reaching for cutters most times. I just whip out some pliers (often a multi-tool) and with a *snap* *snap* *snap*, all the ties are broken free.
Do you know a better way of cutting or otherwise removing nylon cable ties?