CB21-023 - how to use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun

How to use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun

Having heat shrink tubing that you can’t use without a heat gun can be frustrating. Your heat gun may no longer work or you may not find a use for one other than this one job. Either way, you’re in luck because I can tell you how to use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun. 

To use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun, use another heat source such as a hair dryer or lighter. Alternatives like a soldering iron or even matches can get the job done in a pinch. 

If you have options for using heat shrink tubing without a heat gun you’ll always be ready to get your project done. You can avoid buying a heat gun if you don’t need it for anything else. 

So, take a look at this article to see a few options for heating shrink tubing. Then find some ways to use that shrink tubing.

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How to use heat shrink tubing

A heat shrink tube is usually used to insulate wires or for environmental protection. With delicate wiring jobs, it’s important to use a safe controlled heat source. 

Use heat shrink tubing to cover exposed wire, bundle wire, or for other creative uses.

  • Fishing line
  • Labels
  • To bind shoe strings 
  • Wrapping iPhone cords
  • Wrapping tools, large tools like hammers and creating handles.
  • Create gripping on pens, clippers, and other small handheld tools

To get the tubing to work simply heat it and the tube shrinks and wraps around the object you want to cover.  

How to use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun

To use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun, find an alternative heat source like a hairdryer. Be careful to apply heat to the shrink tube as evenly as possible. Applying uneven heat will cause the shrink to wrap unevenly around your wire or material.

A heat shrink tube is a thermoplastic tube that shrinks when you expose it to heat, so any heat source directed onto the tube would cause it to shrink. This means as long as you can control the heat in the right direction the tube will begin to do its job. 

To heat without a heat gun take your heat source and move it in a pattern along the length of the tube. Be aware that you may have uneven results and a heat gun will work best for control.

A heat gun is the safest option because the heat is highly controlled, but any high heat source will shrink the tube. 

If you are trying to keep wires together you may need the precision a heat gun offers. However if you are crafting, decorating, making bracelets, or keeping your iPhone cord together with flair you can risk shrinking unevenly. 

What can I use instead of a heat gun?

Instead of a heat gun, use an alternative heat source you can control. A hairdryer or soldering iron are options that will help you control the heat you apply to a project. 

The best heat source for the job depends on how you plan to use your shrink tubes. You don’t want to use an open flame on the wrong material, so be careful when choosing your heat source. 

To be safe, choose the lowest heat setting possible, but keep in mind shrink tubes require a good amount of heat to work. Different size tubing will also only shrink so far. The correct size tube for the job is just as important as applying the right amount of heat. 

The different materials used to make heat shrink tubing can also help you determine when it’s better to use more or less heat. Heat tubes may be made of Polyolefin which is best with gentle heat methods like a hairdryer or Teflon which can withstand a bit more heat from a butane torch.

Here are some different options to use instead of a heat gun.

A Lighter

If you are using your heat shrink tubing for art projects and need to shrink them without using wires, try using a lighter. The heat will shrink the tubing directly where you need it to. However when using the open flame be careful because you can melt the tube if you hold the flame too close for too long. Take your time and be precise. 

Hair Dryer

A hair dryer is the best option because you can hold it similar to a heat gun. The excess air can make the job more tricky depending on the way you are using your tubing. However, the heat source can be well controlled and you can hold the hair dryer closer or further away when necessary to target heat. 

Hair dryers may not all get hot enough to shrink the tube, so be aware of the type of tubing you are using. If you find it’s not enough heat, turn the heat to its highest setting and rotate as close as you can to the heating tube. 

Soldering Iron

A soldering iron has the heat you need to shrink tubing easily, but like a lighter be careful of irons that use an open flame. 

A soldering iron can have a small controlled flame so hold it as close as you can to the tubing without touching it. Slowly drag the iron down the length of the tube to get it to shrink one part at a time. 

Unlike the wide heat from a hair dryer, It may take a while if you are trying to shrink a long piece of tubing.

A small butane torch

Use a butane torch in a similar way as a soldering iron. A butane torch gives you more heat, so you’ll have to be careful and set the torch carefully. You’ll be able to heat larger materials faster, but be careful not to melt the tubing. 

Alcohol burner

An alcohol burner works if you’d like to keep your heat source in one place while you move your shink tube. You can hold your tubing over the burner and slowly move the tube up and down to attempt to get an even shrink across the tube. It may be easier to pull the tubing away in this method to avoid overheating. 


Matches are an option for small tubing. Using matches means you won’t have a lot of time to move across the heat tube as the match burns away. This method has the most option of giving you uneven heating, but it will work if you have patience and a small area to cover. 

Summary: How to use heat shrink tubing without a heat gun

While a heat gun will offer you the best controlled and even heat source, other options can work. Whether you are heating a tube across the wire or making an art project you can heat your shrink tubing without a heat gun. 

For high heat situations, try using a butane torch and for low heat use a blow dryer. To determine what kind of heat source will work best, consider the material and the size of your tubing. Polyolefin and PVC tubing will take less heat and less time to shrink than Teflon.

If you choose to use open flame sources like matches, lighters, and alcohol burners, don’t get too close. Don’t let the flame touch the shrink tube directly or it will burn. 

Take your time and consider what you need to get the job done. If you’ve got a heat gun use it, but if not all is not lost. You can kick up the heat one way or another.