Nylon zip ties are a supremely useful little invention — a practical way to join almost anything together. Although they originated as a tool for the workshop, they're useful in thousands of unexpected and imaginative ways. The internet is filled with examples, but we've curated a small sample of our favorite uses to help spark your own imagination.
1. Securing Vines to Trellises in Your Garden
Training vines up a trellis is one of the standard techniques in any gardener's playbook, but some plants are more cooperative than others. Some decorative vines and vegetables are perfectly capable of clinging to any support on their own, but others — like tomatoes and squash — need to be secured to their cage or trellis. Zip ties provide an easy, reliable and weatherproof way to do that. Just wrap the tie loosely around the vine and then the trellis, and pull it until it locks. Don't pull it tight, though, because your plant will need room to grow.
2. Organize Your Cords and Cables
One of the unhappy side effects of a home filled with electronics is a home filled with cables to support those electronics. Power cords, data cables, audio and video cables, speaker wire and charger cords can add up to a big-time mess behind your desk or your entertainment stand. Bringing order out of the chaos is as simple as gathering related cables together, and securing them to each other — or optionally, the furniture — with zip ties. Pull 'em tight for things like power bars that shouldn't move, or leave some slack for items that will get shifted. For bonus points, use colored zip ties to color-code the bundles of wires.
3. Tamper-Evident Security for Your Luggage
Most luggage comes with some sort of lock, but those aren't always meaningful. They're often easy to pick, and of course once they've been closed again you can't tell that they've been opened. Someone could easily steal from your bag, or — even worse — put something illegal or dangerous in your bag. Securing the bag's zippers and flaps with zip ties adds an extra level of security. Someone could still cut the zip tie, but you'll see immediately that the bag has been tampered with and can take appropriate steps to protect yourself or report a theft.
4. Reliable, Inexpensive Emergency Childproofing
Parents of small children invest a lot of time and thought into "child-proofing" their home, by placing dangerous items out of reach and "child-proofing" cupboards and drawers with with various kinds of locks. That luxury isn't always available when you're visiting, or staying in a vacation rental, which means you'll need to improvise. Instead of bringing along a suitcase full of child-proof locks, just through a pack of zip ties in your bag. They'll work just as well for securing doors and drawers, and you can simply discard them when you're done.
5. Hanging Tools and Other Items
In a well-organized workspace, every tool has a place and hangs there neatly. In the real world, that's sometimes challenging. Tools may have a hole through the grip for hanging, but they won't always fit properly on your hooks. Zip ties to the rescue! Just thread a zip tie through the hole in the handle, and make a loop with it. The loop will let the tool hang neatly on a hook, but won't get in your way when you're actually using it. The same method works just as well with kitchen implements, as well.
6. Never Lose a Hubcap
New cars often have decorative wheels instead of traditional hubcaps, but you'll still see them on many vehicles. Losing one can be an annoyance, especially if yours are rare or custom, but it's an annoyance you can avoid with a few zip ties. Just use four or five ties to secure each cap to the underlying wheel, and then stash the rest of the bag inside your car. When you need to replace or repair a tire they can be cut away easily, and in the meantime your hubcaps will stay exactly where they belong.
7. An Emergency, DIY Shoelace
Having a shoelace break is inconvenient at any time, and it's especially awkward when you're out hiking, camping or halfway through a several-mile run. Keeping spare laces on hand for all your different footwear would be a pain — not to mention the chances of having the right spare at a given moment — but zip ties are a universal replacement. As long as you have a couple of zip ties tucked into a pocket or backpack, you can use them to keep any shoe or boot in place until you get back home.
8. DIY Crampons for Winter Traction
Walking on snow and ice is a chancy business, and just one slip can leave even the most athletic people with injuries. Many companies make strap-on crampons for your shoes and boots, to reduce the risk, but you may not always have them with you when you need them. On those days, you can create your own DIY crampons by making zip-tie loops to go on the bottom of your soles, then joining them and attaching them to your shoes with additional zip ties. They may not look as impressive as the store-bought kind, but they're inexpensive and functional.
9. Hanging Holiday Decorations
Whether you put up just a few lights or an entire elaborate display, hanging decorations is a way to express your enjoyment of any given holiday. Securing those lights and decorations often takes a lot of nails, staples or hooks, and over time that can take its toll on your siding, soffits and fascia. A better option is to use zip ties to secure wreaths, sparkling lights, dangling pumpkins or other seasonal decor to your existing hooks, brackets and fixtures. They're easy to put up, easy to cut down, and completely impervious to wind and weather.
10. Emergency Repair for Straps or Handles
If there's one thing you should never travel without, it's a few zip ties. Aside from all their other handy uses, zip ties are sturdy enough to serve as an emergency repair for almost any belt, strap or handle. Whether it's on your purse, a suitcase or a backpack, you'll almost always be able to find a spot to loop a zip tie through the broken ends of the strap or handle and cinch it up tight. You can even use one as an emergency fix for the belt around your waist, if that should fail.
11. DIY Zip-Tie Crafts
One of the most unexpected byproducts of zip ties' popularity is their versatility for crafting. With a few packages of brightly-colored zip ties, you can create anything from place mats and wall hangings to practical items like lampshades to match any decor. A quick internet search along the lines of "DIY zip time lampshade" — or any other project you have in mind — should show you lots of tutorials, or you can search craft-oriented sites like Pinterest to narrow down the potential results.