Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (2023)

The typical desk, entertainment center, utility closet, or junk drawer houses a tangle of wires and cables. These rat’s nests not only look unsightly but also create obstacles. You can never tell which device connects to which socket. Finding the cord you need from storage becomes a real chore. Heaven forbid you accidentally yank the plug of something important while it's running an update. Organizing your electronics cords not only makes your space look tidy but also keeps everything working efficiently.

Certainly, the easiest way to simplify your cord and cable situation is to go wireless wherever possible. To do that, you'll need a good router.

Try as you might, though, you're never going to cut all the cables. Take control of the ones you need by streamlining them. Secure them to the back of your desk or along baseboards so they aren't dangling all over the place. Make them easier to access and label the important ones.

You don't need to blow an entire paycheck buying knickknacks from an organization store to get the job done, either. Most of the supplies you need are already in your home. At most, you might drop a couple of dollars online or at a hardware store. (Support your local hardware store!)

Here are some of my favorite ways to organize cables and cords.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (1)

(Image: pixabay)

1. Fasten Cables to Walls With Coaxial Cable Staples

When cable or Internet technicians hook up service, they usually pop dozens of coaxial cable staples into your wall. These little fasteners go by a few names: coaxial cable staples, nail-ins, or clips; cable wire clips; plastic or polyethylene coaxial staples, and so on. They make the cords run flush along the baseboard or wherever the wires need to go, like up and around doorways and window frames. Coaxial cable staples keep cables in place securely and neatly. There's no reason you can't use them for your own tidying up projects.

The going rate is about $3 for a pack of 20. They usually come in black or white. Use them on any surface where you don't mind pounding a few nails (see the next tip for a nail-free option). Think about not only the walls, but also the underside or the back of a wooden desk or media center. These little clips are an ideal solution for when you're sure you know exactly where the wires should go, and they're unlikely to move any time soon. Tip: Remember to remove the clips and wires from your walls if you're going to paint them.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (2)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

2. Guide Cords Along Delicate Surfaces With Command Strips

I move house a lot, and because of that, I'm a huge fan of Command Brand products from 3M. The company makes hooks that adhere practically anywhere and don't damage the surface when you remove them (well, nine out of 10 come off cleanly). You can use them the same way you use coaxial cable clips but without putting any holes in your walls or furniture.

Buy a few hooks in thecord clip(Opens in a new window)style that are the right size for your cables. Then stick them along the underside or back edge of a desk, the rear of a media cabinet, or wherever you need to guide cords and keep them out of the way. Another reason Command hooks work well is that you can remove the cords easily without removing the hooks—which you can't do with coaxial cable nail-ins. The Command brand ones are more expensive than nail-in clips and cost between $8 and $9 for a pack of four.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (3)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

3. Secure Bundles of Cables With Zip Ties or One-Wraps

Zip ties, sometimes also called cable ties, are your best friend when you need to get a mess of wires under control quickly. They're essential for media centers with a bunch of cords all jutting out of the same purge protector or snaking around the back of a television set. When one cable is much longer than others, you can loop it over itself once or twice before cinching it with the zip tie.

Be careful not to create kinks in your cords when you tie them because it can damage the wiring inside.

An alternative to zip ties, which I use all the time, are Velcro One-Wraps. They are small strips of hook-and-loop fabric that you use to bundle or organize cords in the same way you might with zip ties. The advantage of One-Wraps is they're reusable. They're also ideal for wrapping up little cables that you might carry with you, like a phone charger.

You can find packs of 20 to 100 cable ties in a variety of colors and lengths from hardware stores or online, from $1.99 to $5.99. We usually think of zip ties as being plastic, but you can also find metal ones that hold up better outdoors. Velcro One-Wraps come in a variety of size and color options, but expect to pay about $4 for a pack of 5 for the size that's right for home electronics cords and cables.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (4)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

4. Use Painter's Tape in a Pinch

When you're out of cable ties or One-Wraps and need a short-term solution for organizing cables, painter's tape or masking tape can help tame them. Use painter's tape to hold cords against the back of a desk, a wall, or the underside of a table without worrying about damaging the surface. The only problem with painter's tape is it doesn't hold forever. Depending on the type of surface, how clean it is, and the humidity, the tape may hold for weeks or just a few hours. If you're nervous about a surface that has a delicate varnish, press and remove a length of tape to your skin a few times before using it. The natural oils on your skin make the tape less adhesive.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (5)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

5. Set Up Enough Power Strips

You can't organize all your electronic equipment and its cables in an area if you don't have enough room to plug in everything. Power strips and surge protectors are must-have items for keeping cords tidy. Consider mounting them using double-sided mounting tape or Velcro strips to the underside of a desk or back of a hutch to keep them neatly out of view.

I like surge protectors that come with a shutoff switch so that I can fully power down all my gadgets to be a little greener. This reduces the so-called phantom load: the low-level power suck from LEDs and other non-essential electrical components when devices are technically off but still drawing power. Even better, you can now buy asmart power stripand turn it off remotely.

Recommended by Our Editors

10 Cheap and Easy Ways to Level Up Your Home Office

20 Tips for Working From Home

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (8)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

6. Label Your Cords

Use alabel makerto identify your cables. A perfectly good one for home use costs only about $30, although you can easily spend hundreds of dollars for something that’s top-of-the-line. Labels come in handy for all kinds of electronics, especially in large households or for people who attend a lot of conferences, where identical laptop chargers and phone cables are easily mixed up.

When entering text into the label maker, add a long blank space at the end so when it's printed, you can fold the two ends around the cord and attach the sticky sides together. One side will have your text and the other side will be blank. Or enter your text twice with a double space in between to have it appear on both sides.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (9)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

Here's a great DIY/reuse solution: Save bread bag tags and use them to label the cords and wires on your modem, Wi-Fi routers, or a crowded surge protector. To be honest, I'm not crazy about this solution since it looks cheap. It is practically free, however, and if the wires you want to label aren't in public view, it'll do.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (10)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

8. Store Unused Cables in a Shoe Rack

In garages, utility closets, and the like, use a hanging shoe rack to store your unused wires, cords, and cables. Each pouch is the perfect size for one wound length of cord you'd find in a home or small office. You can fill any extra slots with other small home-improvement equipment, such as containers of nails or even lightweight tools.

Clean Up Your Messy Cables With These 9 Simple Tips (11)

(Photo: Jill Duffy)

9. No Shoe Rack? Bundle Cords in Toilet Paper Rolls

This trick keeps your cords neat and tidy when not in use and prevents them from tangling. When you finish a roll of toilet paper or paper towels, keep the cardboard roll. Then wind your cables loosely (binding them too tightly can damage the wires inside) and slide them into an empty roll.

Toilet paper rolls work well for shorter cables and paper towel rolls work better for bigger, longer ones, such as extension cords. You can now stash the cords in a box, bag, or anywhere else you like.

Safety First

Any time you're working with electronics and power sources, keep an eye out for potential fire hazards. Be mindful of solutions that put cords under too much stress, which could cause them to break or fray. For example, don't run cables under a carpet, and never wind or bend consumer cables repeatedly or too tightly. Don't put paper or other flammable materials too close to an outlet either. And unless you're a certified electrician, don’t mess around with your home's electrical circuitry; this article refers only to consumer-level cables and cords, not electrical wiring.

Like What You're Reading?

Sign up for Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.


Thanks for signing up!

Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!

Sign up for other newsletters

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated: 03/21/2023

Views: 6032

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.