The Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of Heat Shrink

The Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of Heat Shrink

Have you ever used heat shrink and it didn't come out as you planned, didn't turn out like your buddy's, or just plain didn't work right for you?

You're not alone. You also have nothing to be embarrassed about. Perhaps you don't know where you went wrong, or maybe you do. Either way, there are other people out there having the same problems as you. We promise.

Here are 10 of the most common things to do and not do when using heat shrink.

1. Do Buy The Correct Size

It's first on the list for a reason. Think of it like the cardinal rule of shrink tube. The most important consideration for every project will always be, "How big?" Choose too small and your seal may be uneven and prone to tearing. Select a size too large and you may have leaks or loose, incomplete seals.

Here's an exclusive industry secret to help you get perfect sizing on every project.

Assume and expect to use 75% of the listed shrink potential.

For example, when you heat a 2-inch tube with a shrink ratio of 2:1 it shrinks down to half its original size and leaves you with a 1-inch finished product. It has 1 inch of shrink potential and you get 75% of that. So it would deliver a perfect final fit on surfaces that are 1.25 inches or larger. For smaller coverage, you'd get a more exacting seal by selecting a higher ratio shrink tube.

If you keep this tip in mind when designing and shopping for your next heat shrink, you'll always end up with an ideal, impenetrable seal. Learn more about how to size your heat shrink.

2. Don't Overheat

Too much heat is another common application mistake. Telltale signs of this are melting through or discoloration of the tubing. If the molecules that make up the heat shrink tube have been overheated, they don't retain their tensile strength or elasticity. This leads to weakened structural integrity, cracking, or splitting. Connections are not as safe or secure inside heat shrink that has been roasted and toasted too long.

3. Do Rotate While Shrinking

While we're talking about proper heat application, let's not forget this major factor. When you're applying heat to a shrink tube, it's crucial to rotate the source of the heat around the tube's entire surface. If your finished tube looks lumpy or even, you almost assuredly have uneven wall thickness, which is a prime indication of unevenly applied heat. Whether you forgot to rotate or accidentally applied heat to only one side, those wiggly seals and wonky walls won't provide much in the way of protection. Make sure to apply that heat nice, level, and all the way around your tube to give your connections the longest-lasting and strongest seal possible.

4. Don't Store Improperly

Make sure to store all your heat activated products someplace cool and dry. Air conditioned or climate-controlled storage is ideal. Ensure products aren't folded on themselves or smashed on top of each other. If left in a car, attic, or outdoor shed without ventilation, especially in the summertime, products may fuse to themselves. This is especially true with PVC and heat tape.

5. Do Use a Heat Gun on Heavier Walls

Here's one last trick about the heating process. When you're dealing with a bigger, sturdier product make sure to apply using a heat gun. This applies to any heat shrink bigger than 3 ⁄ 4 inch or when you're using heavy wall adhesive lined heat shrink tubing. These types of tubes are designed to be more rugged and durable, which means they'll need a little more 'oomph' to properly activate.

While a butane torch will work just fine for your smaller projects, heat guns are specially designed for precise heat applications. They provide faster and more even heating. For the best control, opt for a heat gun with a deflector that sends the heat around to the other side and guarantees a smooth application even on the toughest of tubes.

6. Don't Underestimate an End Cap

You don't have to be an electrician or garage monkey to appreciate the marvels of heat shrink products. Heat shrink end caps are an ingenious way to seal and protect the end of pretty much anything round.

End caps have been making quite the splash in fitness centers and home gyms as stoppers and hand guards for battle ropes. These adhesive lined little wonders are perfect for:

  • Fixing splintered gardening tools
  • Adding protection for hands and palms
  • Reducing scratches on furniture legs
  • Babyproofing
  • Securing parts of swingsets and jungle gyms

Like we said, don't underestimate an end cap.

7. Do Keep It Forever

Although you have to find a place to store your heat shrink that stays relatively cool, after that it lasts forever. Both general-purpose heat shrink and the adhesive lined dual wall heat shrink are made with stable, long-lasting materials. They have an essentially eternal shelf life. That means once you buy them, they'll last until you need them. They don't decay over time, get old and brittle, become stale and dull, or wear out. So whether you bought it last month or last year, when you use it, your heat shrink will still provide you with peak performance.

8. Don't Reach For It and Be Out

Of course, when you go to reach for the heat shrink you bought last month or last year, it better still be there. Nothing is worse than being elbow-deep in a project and reaching for your heat shrink only to find're out. It takes no tools or training to install. Its compact, convenient design makes applications quick and cost-effective.

From cable management to crafting to fishing lures and audio improvements, heat shrink tube is a utilitarian player in any toolbox or diy-ers arsenal. Take home a heat shrink kit (or 2…or 5) and stash them where you'll need them so the next time you've got something to connect, fasten, secure, or seal you'll be ready.

9. Do Show It Off

Not all heat shrink tubing is made to work behind the scenes. The most common, standard-use heat shrink tube is 2:1 polyolefin tubing and it comes in 12 colors. The glossy version comes in 15 colors. Up the ante by adding custom printing and labeling.

Heat shrink tubing allows you to color code, identify, and organize to your heart's content. From luggage tags to 'which wire is which', heat shrink tubing is a clear, easy way to add a polished, professional finish to any project.

10. Don't Hesitate To Ask

Whether you're just starting to plan your next project or are scratching your head at your last application that went wrong, heat shrink shouldn't be intimidating to use. It provides superior connections, safer seals, sturdier protection, and longer-lasting support than other fastening methods like solder and twist-n-tape.

If you find yourself (or your heat shrink) stuck in a problem at any point during an installation or when looking over any past applications, don't hesitate to get help.

Our Learning Center is full of informative, insightful blogs and helpful videos.

Or ask us a question directly via email, phone call, or our online form where you can get yourself connected to a real-life heat shrink expert who's always reliable and ready to help.

The Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of Heat Shrink