The 5 Best Wire Strippers Reviewed
Stripping wires is one of those annoying, fiddly tasks you have to do now and again.
You have to remove the insulating layer to expose the wires whenever you splice wires together or connect to a plug or similar.
Unless you work in electronics, you generally don’t do it enough to have a specific tool for it. You probably just make do with a penknife and a set of pliers.
As I’m sure you know, this often leads to broken wires and a lot of swearing.
Even if you don’t use it often, you are much better off with a dedicated wire stripper. These tools are designed to remove the outer insulation neatly while leaving the wires intact.
Ultimately, wire strippers are a much safer option than a penknife. You will be running live electricity through these wires so you don’t want to break or weaken any of them.
Even a small fault in a line can cause devastating damage.
To help you choose a set of wire strippers that can rest in your toolbox until needed, we’ve reviewed a couple of the best options.
Hopefully, once you’ve got the lowdown you can pick a pair that works for you and your budget.
If none of the wire strippers we have chosen take your fancy, we’ve included a buyer’s guide and some FAQs. These should give you a solid idea of what you should look for in a pair of wire strippers.
In desperate need of some strippers? Save your singles and check out our top pick:
IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripper, Self-Adjusting, 8-Inch
- Automatic, self-adjusting stripping action for easy one-handed use.
- Adjustable stopper for uniform stripping length.
- Thumbwheel to adjust tension for higher gauge wires.
- Crimping function.
- Handles 10-22 AWG wires.
Best Wire Strippers
This might be the only tool you need for any and all wirework. The stripping is spot on and a host of added features makes your other tools redundant.
Irwin has been making high-quality tools since 1885 and this self-adjusting wire stripper continues the trend. Customers rave about the quality and dependability of this tool.
Like other automatic wire strippers, a tension wheel adjusts the grip of the clamps for higher gauge wires, giving you perfect cuts and strips for wires between 10-24 AWG.
The adjustable stopper allows you to select the length of the strip. Unlike some cheaper wire strippers, the adjustable stopper is very reliable giving you identical size strips every time.
For really small strips in the 1-2mm area, you will have to do it by eye as the stopper doesn’t go that small. In fairness to Irwin though, there aren’t any wire strippers with adjustable stoppers that go that small.
As well as a wire cutter nestled between the handle, these strippers also have a crimping feature. You can attach connectors and caps to stranded and non-stranded wires between 10-22 AWG as well as 7-9mm ignition terminals.
The crimping feature is color-coded so you don’t need to guess the wire gauge and it gives solid, airtight crimps every time.
Honestly, this is a perfect tool. It has a lifetime manufacturers guarantee and a reputation that is hard to beat.
Irwin takes the top spot for manual wire strippers as well as automatic ones. They just put so much into a single tool, you can’t beat them.
These wire strippers can handle 10-22 gauge wire with no issues at all. The cutting edge is induction hardened so it stays sharp for much longer than other examples. Customers are very keen to point out how enduring these wire cutters are which is a great testament to the quality of the tool.
As well as stripping, this tool can crimp, bend, cut, and loop wires. It also has a screw cutting feature which lets you size your bolts without losing the thread. The additional features perform just as well as the stripping feature so you know they’re not just a bolt-on, sales feature.
This truly is a multi-tool. You won’t need anything else for your electrical work.
The only complaint customers seem to have is the fact that it isn’t spring-loaded. For sure, this makes it a bit more awkward to use one-handed. However, considering the quality and flexibility of the tool, it’s not a massive issue.
This is a cheap tool that promises a lot. Unlike tools of a similar price, this one actually delivers on its promises! Made from high carbon alloy steel, the stripping and cutting blades hold their edge really well. Even after a lot of use and abuse, this tool strips wire perfectly.
WGGE markets the WG-015 as a multi-tool because of all of the additional features found on the tool. It can strip, cut, crimp, loop, and bend wires as well as cutting screws and bolts.
The screw cutter requires a lot of force from the user and would probably have been easier to use if the tool was spring assisted. The crimper makes good quality crimps, although the positioning of the wire color indicators is a little bit confusing.
This could have been made clearer to help the process move faster.
The lack of spring-assisted operation means that it is a bit awkward to operate one-handed and makes cutting through screws or thicker wires a bit challenging. For the price, you won’t do much better.
There are a few niggles in terms of strength and ease of use, but this tool will serve you well.
These automatic, self-adjusting wire strippers from Klein are simple but effective. Able to cut stranded, non-stranded, and household wire, this pair of wire cutters is a handy bit of kit that will save you a lot of time.
The self-adjusting clamps mean that you don’t need to know or guess what gauge wire you are working with. Simply place the wire in the groove and squeeze. If you’re working with electrical panels housing multiple wires of different sizes this tool is perfect.
These wire strippers can deal with 10-20 AWG solid wire, 10-22 AWG stranded wire, and 12/2 & 14/2 household wire. When using them on higher gauge wires there is a thumbwheel that you can turn to adjust the tension of the clamps. This stops the cutters from ripping the wire apart.
Some customers find this tension wheel to be a bit fiddly. It seems to work on a trial and error basis which is a little frustrating. There is a wire cutter built into the handle which seems to perform well.
It doesn’t match a dedicated wire cutter but it can cope with most gauges. A nice feature is an adjustable stopper which sets the size of the strip. This comes in handy when you need to tap into the middle of a wire.
Overall, these are nice and simple. They don’t have all the added features you find on some other wire strippers, but they work hard and the automatic function will save you a lot of time and effort.
This is a simple tool that gets the job done. If you want a cheap, no-fuss wire cutter, then you can’t go wrong here. Able to strip wires between 10-22 AWG, the Dowell wire stripper is a reliable tool that will fit neatly into your toolbox.
Made from stainless steel, it’s not the strongest wire stripper on the market but it is lightweight. This combined with the spring-assisted operation will prevent fatigue in bigger jobs.
The spring-assist allows you to use the tool easily one-handed and gives you an extra bit of power when stripping or cutting lower gauge wires.
This wire stripper also has a crimping nose that can be used to attach connectors and caps to your wire. To be honest, the crimper is not really up to scratch. It uses a one-size-fits-all crimping pattern that leaves you with loose crips.
Considering the low cost of this wire stripper, it does a good enough job. It won’t win any competitions against the bigger, more respected brands, but it does the job.
Best Wire Strippers Buying Guide
Working with wires and electricity is inherently dangerous. You need to be aware of the risks and also how to manage them.
Having the right tools for the job is one of the most important ways to mitigate risk. Knowing how to choose the right tool for the job is the first step.
So what makes a good quality pair of wire strippers?
Wires are measured according to their diameter, which is the distance from one side to the other. Instead of listing wires by this diameter measurement, they are given a gauge.
The smaller the diameter, the bigger the gauge. Here, in America, we use the American Wire Gauge (AWG) system which has 39 different gauges. 0 gauge is the largest size while 39 is the smallest.
Most wire strippers are designed to handle a range of gauges. Generally, this range falls in the middle of the AWG.
If you have a project that uses particularly small or large wires, you need to check that the wire strippers you buy will be able to do the job. You might need to choose wire strippers that are designed for small electronics for higher gauge wires, for example.
For general household wiring, you’ll be looking at 12 or 14 gauge wires. For appliances, you’ll be working with slightly smaller wiring about 10-6 gauge.
You should never strip a live wire. Theoretically then, you don’t need to worry about whether your wire strippers are insulated. In practice, we all know that mistakes happen.
If you want to stay this side of death, you need to make sure that your wire strippers are properly insulated.
The handles of your strippers should be rubber-coated or use other non-conductive materials like polypropylene.I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to prioritize safety with wire strippers. You may not live to regret skimping on safety with these tools.
Comfort may not be high on your list of priorities and if you are just using the wire strippers now and again, this is understandable. If you have a lot of wires to strip then you do want a pair that is going to feel comfortable after prolonged use.
Tired hands make mistakes so comfort becomes an issue of safety when we are talking about wire strippers. Things to look out for are ergonomically shaped handles, spring assisted operation and grippy texture.
A lot of wire strippers are actually multi-purpose tools. They can do lots of things with your wires that will make your work easier.
Below is a list of common features and functions that can be found on wire strippers. You might not need them all but you can pick and choose what works for you.
- Pliers- many wire strippers have a plier nose on the very tip. This helps straighten wires and shape them.
- Cutter – often wire strippers have a cutter blade in the very middle near the handles. These can cut straight through wires with the insulation still on.
- Loop – wire strippers sometimes have holes on the sides which you can use to create wire loops for attaching to pins or screws within a circuit.
- Screw cutter – Sometimes wire strippers will have an extra set of holes near the join. These are designed to cut threaded screws down to size.
- Crimper – usually found between the handles of the strippers, the crimping function allows you to crimp wires and connectors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you strip wires with pliers?
Yes, it is possible but not recommended.
To strip wires using pliers you need to cut the insulaion with a knife. Often this leads to nicked wires or wires that are cut through. One or two mugged wires in a bundle can be lethal. A damaged wire doesn’t have the same resistance as normal. It can overheat very easily and this leads to electrical fires.
Another problem with using pliers is that you generally have to grip the insulation harder to get the right purchase. This, in turn, pulls on the wires and can damage them. Again, you end up with electrical fire which is less than ideal.
You are always better off using a wire stripper tool. They are designed to cut cleanly through the insulation but not the wires. A neat cut through the insulation means that you don’t need to tug hard on the wire to get rid of the outer casing.
How much wire should I strip?
This really depends on what you are using the wire for. If you need to loop the wire around a connector, like in a light switch, you need to strip enough so that the whole loop is bare.If you are putting a connector cap on the end of the wire, you should strip the wire so that the connector is in contact with bare wire.
To splice wires together you only need about an inch or so. Generally, you recover the join so the more you strip the more you’ll have to recover. It is never a good idea to have exposed wires outside of the connecting points.
Having bare wires increases the risk of electrocution and electrical fires. If you’ve stripped too much, cut the end of the wire down to size. A bit of wasted wire is nothing compared to the devastation of an electrical fire or death by electrocution.
Automatic or manual wire strippers?
There are two different types of wire strippers and which one you choose is largely based on your personal preference. Manual wire strippers will cut into the outer insulation once you clamp them shut.
You then need to pull on the wire to remove the insulation. It’s not a difficult task but if you have lots of wire to strip it can get tiring.
Automatic strippers are still hand-held tools, but instead of putting the wire into a hole, you place the wire horizontally across the head of the tool. When you squeeze the handles, two clamps hold either end of the wire and pull the insulation apart.
What is great about automatic wire strippers is that you don’t even need to know what gauge wire you’re working with. The clams self-adjust to the size of the wire.
Which one you go with depends on your budget and what kind of work you are doing. Automatic wire strippers tend to be more expensive but they are also more tactile allowing you to do mid-cuts to expose wire in the middle of the length.
If you have a lot of wires to cut, then automatic wire strippers will save you some time and effort but if it’s a one-off job, you can get away with manual strippers.