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7 unexpected uses for cable ties

Cable ties aren't only for cable management. Here are seven other uses for cable ties around the house.

Cable or zip ties are typically used for securing the mess of cables under your desk or behind the television. But their usefulness extends far beyond cable management.

The lightweight, cheap and strong ties can be used for a number of things around the house. Here are seven uses for zip ties you might not have thought of yet.

Remove a broken cork from wine bottle

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If you have no corkscrew on hand or have somehow broken the cork trying to get to your wine, all you need to enjoy it is a few large cable ties.

Create a loop with two or three medium- or large ties, push the cork down into the bottle and use the loop to fish out the floating cork (or bits of cork). It can take some practice to figure out how to wedge the cork between the two sides of the loop, and it requires some force to pull the cork out, but it works surprisingly well.

Impromptu child safety

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If you need to keep children out of a cabinet or two, you don't need to purchase a child lock, at least not for a temporary solution. Just run a cable tie through two adjacent handles or around two knobs and pull tight.

You'll need to cut the tie off to access the cabinet later, so it's not a great long-term solution. But it will keep the little hands out in a pinch.

Tamper indicator

Using the same idea, you can use cable ties as a tamper indicator for a number of things. Run a cable tie between the loops on two zippers of a backpack or duffel bag when traveling. Run one through the zippers of your tent door when you're away from your campsite. Or drill a hole through the handle and lid of a storage bin to "lock" it.

While these ties won't do much for theft prevention -- anyone with a knife, scissors or even fingernail clippers can still get into your stuff -- just having them in place will act as a deterrent or a quick indicator that someone has messed with your stuff.

In the garden

For plants that need to be staked, you can help keep them upright as they grow with cable ties. Loosely wrap a cable tie around your tomato plant or a small sapling and a staked rod. You may also want to staple the cable ties in place to keep them from sliding up and down the stake.

Just remember to not tie the plant too tight, to give it room to grow and move freely. And also remember to remove or adjust the ties as the plant grows.

Unclog a drain

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You can also use cable ties to clear out a clogged drain.

If you've got an extra long cable tie, you might be able to get by with just one. If all you have is smaller ties, you'll need to string a few of them together to reach the clog. In most cases, you need between 18 inches (45.7 centimeters) and 2 feet (61 centimeters). But if needed, you can always add length by adding more ties.

After you've connected all the ties, you need a pair of scissors or cutting pliers to create diagonal cuts along the length of the bottommost tie. The cuts should be angled upwards and staggered. Then bend the edges made by the cuts outward with a pair of pliers to create barbs.

Feed this down into the drain and, assuming the clog has been caused by hair or other small buildup, it should grab or jostle loose whatever is clogging the drain and remove it when you pull the ties back out.

Hanging decorations

For hanging temporary decorations, cable ties are a fantastic option. The standard black or white may not blend in with the decorations very well, but cable ties now come in an array of colors. Green goes particularly well with Christmas decor. Brown and orange might go better with Thanksgiving decorations. Cable ties are particularly great for hanging wreaths, string lights and garland.

Emergency traction

If your car is stuck in the snow and you've got a handful of cable ties on hand, they might just help you get unstuck, as Instructables user movemaine shows. Use the smaller ties to create grips or treads on the larger ties, which you will wrap around the wheel and tire.

These makeshift "snow chains" certainly aren't a replacement for the real deal and they will likely break off shortly after your car gets moving. But they're essentially a less rugged, DIY version of these emergency anti-skid chains.