Tidy durable cable labels with clear heat shrink tubing

By | August 19, 2017

You always want to label the ends of your cables. Here is an easy method for tidy-looking, durable labels for the ends of your cables using a common label maker (or just strips of paper and a pen) and clear heat shrink tubing. Note that since I am using heat shrink tubing, this particular method only works for cables that aren’t already terminated with some kind of connector that is too big for the tubing to fit over.

If you prefer a video, scroll to the end.

Note: All the Amazon links in the next section are affiliate links which means I will get a small referral fee (at no additional charge to you) if you buy something after following my link.

You will need:

  • Something to make labels with. I use a Brother P-Touch Label Maker (mine is a much older model) with 1/2″ TZ-Tape for almost everything. You can use whatever label maker you already have or even just write your labels on little strips of paper.
  • Clear heat-shrink tubing. I have this Clear Heat Shrink Tubing Kit which is pretty inexpensive and works fine for my purposes. For reference, the 5mm tubing works for 18/2 shielded cable, the 1.5mm for a single 18awg wire, 6mm works for cat5/cat5e/cat6 cable and the 10mm works for shielded cat6a cable.
  • A heat source to shrink the tubing. I have a DEWALT Heat Gun that works really well. Some people use the side of a soldering iron (electric or butane). A hair dryer might work (often they are not hot enough), depending on the exact hair dryer and the exact heat shrink tubing.
  • Some cables that need labeling. Like I said before, the heat shrink tubing usually has to go on the cable before any kind of connector or other termination is applied, although you might be able to get the tubing over small connectors.

Once you have your materials together, it’s pretty straightforward:

  1. Print or write your label and cut it to size.
  2. Apply the label to the cable.
  3. Slide the heat shrink tubing over the label (This may coincide with step 2 if you are using strips of paper or other non-adhesive labels).
  4. Shrink the tubing.

The tubing will protect the label for years, keeping it from falling off or getting damaged.

Some tips for best results:

  • Use the smallest diameter heat shrink tubing that will fit over your cable.
  • Make sure the heat shrink tubing extends a little beyond the edge of your labels to make sure your label won’t slide around. This is especially important if you are using non-adhesive labels or if your label wraps completely around the cable.
  • Don’t touch the hot end of the heat gun. It hurts.


Below is a picture of some more cables labeled with this method. The tubing I used for each cable are as follows:

  • Cat6A (shielded) – 10mm tubing
  • Cat 6 – 6mm tubing
  • Cat 5e – 5mm tubing
  • Cat 3 – 5mm tubing
  • 8 awg THHN – 6mm tubing
  • 12 awg THHN – 3mm tubing
  • 22 awg, 4 conductor (22/4) shielded – 5mm tubing
  • 18 awg, 2 conductor (18/2) shielded – 5mm tubing
  • 18 awg single wire – 1.5mm tubing
  • 26 awg, 6 conductor flat – 6mm tubing

If you use this method for a project, I’d love to hear about it (and see pictures). You can comment on this post or contact me @jasondoolittle on Twitter


There’s also a video