DIY Repurposing

Yes, It’s Possible to Undo a Zip Tie—Here’s How

Contrary to popular belief, zip ties can be undone and reused.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
Black zip ties on a pink table.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Zip ties come in handy for a variety of tasks around the house. They are commonly used for cable management, but also offer more surprising uses, such as childproofing, unclogging drains, and even keeping food packages closed. 

Many people falsely assume that you need to use scissors, a utility knife, or a special zip tie removal tool once the zip tie’s purpose has been served. What they don’t realize is that there are reusable zip ties that can be untied. Once you learn how to undo a zip tie, you can save it and use it again. Just remember, a reused zip tie won’t be as strong as a brand new one, but it will still be usable for a variety of tasks.

Before You Begin

A cluster of black cable ties bound together sit next to one locked cable tie of the same brand and type.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Before learning how to undo zip ties, it is important to have a basic understanding of how they work. The long end of a zip tie is fed through the cube-shaped locking mechanism. As the end is fed through, the locking mechanism prevents it from sliding back, allowing the zip tie to do its job and hold whatever you’re using it for.

STEP 1: Locate the locking mechanism.

Two white zip ties of different widths are locked around one of two thin metal poles running horizontally.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re trying to undo light or heavy duty zip ties, the first step is always the same. You need to find the locking mechanism. Locate the cube-shaped portion of the tie and look for a tiny locking pin. This pin should be towards the bottom of the cube, just below the strip of the cable tie. 

STEP 2: Press down on the pin to release the ratchet.

After you’ve located the zip tie lock, press down on the locking pin to release it. Because of how small it is, you’ll likely need to use something long and skinny to depress the pin enough to release it. A needle or opened-up paperclip both can work well as a zip tie opener. One of these pointy tools can also help loosen zip ties if you don’t need to fully remove them.

STEP 3: Pull the end of the zip tie through the locking mechanism.

Continue depressing the locking pin with the needle or paperclip as you pull the end through the locking mechanism. This may be easier with large zip ties, but with some fine motor coordination, it is also possible with smaller ones. Now the zip tie is ready to be reused for another project.

Final Thoughts

A person is holding a cluster of four undone zip ties in front of a red-orange backdrop.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Learning how to release zip ties makes it possible to reuse them for other needs, saving you money and cutting back on single-use waste. If you want to be able to reuse your zip ties, refrain from trimming them. 

Also, remember that while you can use a zip tie again, the teeth will wear down and won’t be able to keep everything as tightly secured. Monitor your zip ties for signs of wear. Opt for a new zip tie for items that could pose a safety hazard, and save the reused ones for lightweight tasks.