It's not only professional electricians who use wire strippers. If you plan on tackling any DIY project or repair around your home that includes wiring, you'll want to add this useful tool to your collection. As the name suggests, wire strippers are used to "strip" away the plastic coating, or jacket, from the underlying copper or aluminum wire. Because there are many sizes and types of wire strippers, Deane Biermeier, general contractor, carpenter, and member of The Spruce's Home Improvement Review Board, says, "Look for the correct size of wire strippers when purchasing, and match it to the type of wire with which you'll be working. Low-voltage wire strippers are appropriate for smaller gauge wires, while standard-size strippers work for typical household wiring."
We evaluated wire strippers based on the sturdiness of their construction, the precision of their performance, their versatility, and their overall value. Our favorite, the Klein Tools 11055 Wire Stripper and Cutter, not only cleanly strips wires in the most common gauges, it also cuts, bends, and loops wire, and can also be used to cut screws.
Here are our top choices of wire strippers in a variety of categories.
Best Overall: Klein Tools 11055 Wire Stripper and Cutter
Comfortable, ergonomic handles
Precision-ground gauge holes
Our top pick for wire strippers is a true do-it-all workhorse, the Klein Tools 11055 Wire Stripper and Cutter. This sturdy, lightweight tool cuts and strips copper solid 10- to 18-AWG wire and copper stranded 12- to 20-AWG wire, meaning you can use it for just about any wiring project around your home. This is a gauged wire stripper, and it has clearly marked, highly precise notches to hold the wires while being stripped, cut, or looped, leaving you with clean results. Not only that, its long, serrated nose makes it easy to bend, shape, or pull copper wires.
This versatile tool also has a cutter for 6-32 and 8-32 screws, allowing you to shear these fasteners without too much strain or stress. You'll appreciate the wire stripper's spring-loaded action, which makes it easier to use the tool with one hand without fatigue or effort. Plus, the handles are double-dipped in a soft, rubbery material that gives you a very comfortable nonslip grip even on long work days. At a mere 5.4 ounces and a little under 8 inches in length, these wire strippers won't take up too much space in your pocket or tool box. They even have a lock to keep them shut while stored.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best Budget: WGGE WG-015 Wire Stripper/Cutter
Cuts are not always clean
Admittedly, wire strippers aren't generally very expensive, but this multi-purpose tool from WGGE is even more of a bargain. For less than $10, you get considerable bang for your buck. You can use this wire stripper to cut, strip, or loop copper 10- to 22-AWG solid or stranded wire as well as 0.6 mm to 2.0 mm aluminum cables. Plus, the serrated nose is ideal for bending, pulling, or shaping wire, and you can also use the wire stripper to crimp wires. It can also cut screws sized 6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 4-40, 10-24, and 5-40.
This sturdy, accurate wire stripper is made from high-carbon alloy steel with insulated PVC cushioned grips for comfort and nonslip performance. At a little over 9 inches, the handle is long enough for a good grip, but not so long that you won't be able to fit it in your tool box. The wire stripper weighs only 8 ounces. It does not have a spring, but is still easy to open and close, even with one hand.
Price at time of publish: $7
Best Splurge: Knipex 10-24 AWG Automatic Wire Stripper
Self-adjusting for easy and fast use
Works even on short wires
If you need an easy to use, highly accurate, versatile tool for cutting or stripping solid, stranded, and multiple wires or cables from 10 to 24 AWG, and you don't want to be bothered with setting a size or choosing a gauge hole, then you'll appreciate the Knipex Automatic Wire Stripper, which self-adjusts to just the right size and pressure for stripping wire without fraying, nicking, or slicing into the conductor itself. There's a strip-stop setting of 6.0 to 18.0 mm so you can replicate the exact length that is stripped each and every time. It also cuts copper or aluminum wire up to 2.5 mm².
This highly precise tool is made from steel reinforced with chromium and vanadium, so it will maintain its edge and accuracy for years as long as you treat it right. It's designed with a narrow head that easily reaches into tight spots, and the handle is comfortable and easy to grip. The tool weighs less than half a pound is just over 7 inches in length, so it won't take up too much room in your tool box.
Price at time of publish: $44
Best Adjustable: Jonard Tools WS-5 Adjustable Wire Stripper
Excellent for replicating cuts on multiple wires
Lightweight and compact
Requires a screwdriver to change the adjustable setting
If you often work with delicate, small wires, such as those used in electronic devices, then you'll appreciate the accuracy of the Jonard Tools WS-5 Adjustable Wire Stripper, which lets you strip or cut solid or stranded wire from 10 to 30 AWG. That means you can use the same wire stripper for most household electrical repairs, as well as working on your electronic devices. This wire stripper has an adjustable screw that lets you set the tool to just the right size for the wire. It also has a looping hole for solid wire.
Made from high-carbon steel, these are sturdy wire clippers that will last for years. The handle has a vinyl, cushioned nonslip grip, and there's a spring for extra ease and comfort when using the tool for long work sessions. Weighing only 2.5 ounces and measuring a mere 5 inches in length, you can carry this wire stripper in your pocket or toss it into your tool box.
Price at time of publish: $9
Best Multi-Purpose: Irwin Vise-Grip Wire Stripping Tool
Not spring loaded
If you want a multi-purpose tool for your electrician's kit, then it's hard to go wrong with the Irwin Vise-Grip Wire Stripping Tool. Use it to cut, crimp, or strip solid or stranded 10- to 22-AWG wires. You can also use it to loop or pull wire, all without damage to the internal conductors of the wire. It also cleanly cuts bolts sizes 6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 5-40, 10-24, and 4-40. All cutting edges of the tool are induction-hardened, meaning it will stay sharp and accurate through use after use after use.
The handles of the wire stripper are designed for both comfort and secure grip, so your hands won't get tired even if your project requires lots of wire stripping or cutting. At 8.5 inches, this tool is long enough to hold securely, as well as reach into tight spots. And it only weighs 3 ounces, so it won't weigh your pocket down. With its reasonable price, this is a fine addition to your tool box.
Price at time of publish: $14
Best Gauged: Dowell Wire Stripper/Cutter Tool
Very reasonable price
Accurate strips and cuts
If you just want a basic gauged wire stripper, then check out the Dowell Wire Stripper/Cutter Tool. This extremely reasonably priced wire stripper handles copper and aluminum solid or stranded wires that are between 10 and 22 AWG. Plus, it makes clean cuts across wires without leaving any ragged edges. The spring makes it easy to use these wire strippers with one hand; just insert your wire, squeeze, and pull.
The comfortable rubberized handles keep your grip secure even if your hands are wet or oily. And at 7 inches in length and just a little more than 4 ounces, this compact and light tool is ideal to carry in your pocket or on your tool belt. When not in use, there's a lock to keep the wire strippers closed.
Price at time of publish: $6
Best Automatic: Irwin Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Strippers
Automatically adjusts to wire gauge
Comfortable, ergonomic handle
The Irwin Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper takes the guesswork out of stripping wire: Just insert your wire into the jaws, squeeze, and voila! Perfect stripped wire without a bit of effort on your part. You can strip insulated or non-insulated wires that are 10 to 24 AWG, and cut or crimp them as well. There's also a stop setting to control the length of your strips. Note that for 22- or 24-AWG wires, there's a micro-adjust knob for the most precise performance in stripping these very thin wires.
Like other Vise-Grip products, the handles of these wire strippers are ergonomically designed with a ProTouch grip that minimizes fatigue. This is a very precise and eay-to-use wire stripper that lets you work quickly without having to bother adjusting the tool for wire size. The wire stripper is 8 inches long and weighs a little more than half a pound.
Price at time of publish: $26
Best for Data Cables: DataShark 70029 Universal Cutter/Stripper for Flat or Round Cable
Strips and cuts most types of cable used for home theater, computers, or phones
Directions are not detailed
Can cut your finger if not careful
If you need a wire stripper for use on cables connecting to your home entertainment system or computer, then you'll find that the DataShark Universal Cutter/Stripper can handle most common cables used for these purposes. Use it to strip or cut most ethernet, coaxial, or flat phone cables. The tool is spring-loaded for easy closing and opening, and has an adjustable screw for setting the depth of your cut, meaning you can use it with a wide range of cable sizes.
While this is a handy tool if you are setting up a home computer system, landline phone, or stereo system, be aware that the instructions are not detailed and assume that you already have experience in cutting or stripping these sorts of communications cables. It also has very sharp blades that can easily cut your finger if you aren't careful. Still, this is a handy tool if you are willing to learn how to use it.
Price at time of publish: $12
Best Precision: Eclipse Tools CP-301G Precision Wire Stripper
Cuts and strips very fine wires
Very reasonably priced
If you work with electronic equipment, including hobbies such as model railroads, then you need wire strippers that are able to handle the very fine wires used in these devices. The Eclipse Tools Precision Wire Stripper is just such a tool. It cuts and strips copper wire that's between 20 and 30 AWG, which is very thin. Despite the delicacy of these wires, the Eclipse Tools wire stripper cleanly removes the jacket without damaging the conductor underneath.
These small, reasonably priced gauged wire strippers have soft handles that are easy to grip even if your hands get sweaty, and a spring for easy opening of the tool. There's also a lock to keep the strippers closed when not in use. Not everyone needs a precision wire stripper like this one, but if you do, it's hard to beat the value and performance of this 4-ounce tool.
Price at time of publish: $5
If you want a highly precise, easy-to-use wire stripper that strips, cuts, loops, pulls, and shapes copper and aluminum wire, and also cuts screws, then you’ll like the Klein Tools 11055 Wire Stripper and Cutter. But if you need a wire stripper for the very fine wires used in electronic devices, then you’ll find that Eclipse Tools Precision Wire Stripper, which can cut or strip wires as small as 30 AWG, is the right choice.
What to Look for in Wire Strippers
In the US, wire thickness, or gauge, is typically measured in American Wire Gauge (AWG), which is a standardized measurement system that ranges from 0000 to 40. Counterintuitively, the higher the number, the thinner the wire. So for example, a 10-gauge wire is thinner than a 20-gauge wire.
Most basic household electrical wiring is 12- or 14-gauge. However, large appliances, such as stoves, air conditioners, and water heaters, use thicker wire, typically either 6-, 8-, or 10-gauge. And electronic devices can use much thinner wire, some as small as 20- to 30-gauge.
As a general rule, a wire stripper that can handle 10- to 22-gauge will cover most basic household needs, and this is a very common range for these tools. However, if you’ll be working with wire that’s much smaller or larger than average, you’ll need a wire stripper designed to handle those gauges.
Wire Stripper Type
There are three basic types of wire strippers: gauged, adjustable, and automatic.
Gauged wire strippers are the most basic type. These tools have small notches carved out on the edge of the cutting blade. Each notch corresponds to a different gauge of wire. This is the most basic type of wire stripper, and you’ll find models in a wide range of sizes. To use a gauged wire stripper, you must match the gauge of your wire to the appropriate notch on the stripper. Go too big or too small, and you’ll likely end up with a damaged or cut wire, instead of a smooth removal of the jacket.But as long as your wire stripper matches the size of the wires you are stripping, you can work very quickly once you have a bit of experience.
Adjustable wire strippers have just one notch, but allow you to adjust the tool to the specific gauge of wire you’ll be stripping. This is convenient if you work with a range of wire sizes, but if you forget to readjust the setting before switching wires, you might end up damaging or cutting the wire instead of merely stripping it.
Automatic or self-adjusting wire strippers are the fastest type of wire stripper, but also generally the most expensive. These tools “sense” the gauge of wire being stripped, thanks to small spring-loaded teeth in the blade, and automatically adjust to the correct size. That means you don't have to have a separate wire stripper for a range of wire gauges, nor do you need to spend time adjusting the tool to your wire size.
Wire or Cable
The terms “wire” and “cable” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are actually different things that require different strippers, so before choosing a wire stripper, you need to know exactly what it is you’ll be stripping or cutting. Large cables require a different stripper than thin wires.
As a rough guideline, a wire is a single strand of conductive metal covered with a plastic covering, called a jacket. Most wire is either copper or aluminum. A cable is multiple wires bunched or braided together and covered with a jacket. Cable size is often indicated with two numbers: the first indicates the gauge of the internal wires, the second tells you how many of those wires are inside the cable. So for example, a cable that is 14-2 has two 14-gauge wires underneath the jacket.
Wires are often color-coded as to their use, with white indicating a neutral wire, green indicating a ground wire, and black, red, or blue/yellow meaning the wire is hot, or carrying electrical current.
There are solid wires and stranded wires. As the name suggests, solid wire is one piece of copper or aluminum, while stranded wire has multiple very thin strands bunched together inside the jacket. Because solid wire is slightly thinner than stranded wire, many gauged wire strippers give you notches for both types of wire.
There are numerous types of cables. Some of the most commonly used cables in the typical home include:
- NM-B, which is a nonmetallic cable that is very often used for basic residential wiring.
- UF cable is often buried or used in damp areas. It is similar to NM-B cable, but is mostly used to run electricity to outdoor fixtures or garages.
- MC cable, meaning “metal clad” cable is used in unfinished areas or occasionally inside walls.
- Coaxial cable is used for video or television equipment.
- HDMI cable is used for audio and video equipment, such as in a home theater.
- Ethernet cable, also called category 5e or just cat-5e, is used for computer networks, phones, and similar equipment.
Other Features to Consider
Comfort: If you’ll be using your wire strippers a lot, a comfortable handle that is easy to grip will make your job easier. Look for rubberized handles to provide a bit of cushioning.
Spring-loaded: A spring-loaded handle is another feature that makes it more comfortable to use wire strippers for lengthy work sessions. This is especially useful if you want to be able to use the tool with just one hand.
Multi-purpose: Some wire strippers do more than just strip wire. Multi-purpose wire stripers usually also can be used to crimp wire or cut nuts or screws.
What are wire strippers used for?
Wire strippers are a must-have for any project involving wiring, such as setting up a home entertainment system, repairing a lamp, or installing a new electrical outlet. Removing the jacket, or plastic coating, around a wire or cable exposes the inner wires so you can easily connect them to the electrical system.
What size wire strippers do I need?
The right size of wire stripper depends on the type of projects you’ll be using them for. But as a general rule, if you are using the wire strippers for basic tasks around your house, then a wire stripper designed to handle wire’s with gauges from 10 to 22 is the most useful size. If you’ll be working with very fine wires used in delicate electronic equipment, however, you may need a wire stripper that can handle up to 30-gauge wire.
How do I use gauged wire strippers?
Start by matching the wire’s gauge to the same-size notch on the wire crimper. Place the wire into the notch so that the end of the wire sticks out an inch or two, depending on how much exposed wire you are going to need. Gently squeeze the wire clippers shut so the blade cuts into the wire’s jacket. Maintain pressure on the wire clipper handles as you pull the jacket off the wire.
What’s the fastest way to strip wire?
With experience, you can use any type of wire stripper to strip wire quickly and effectively, but for most people, especially those new to work with wires, an automatic, or self-adjusting, wire stripper is the quickest way to go.
Can’t I just use a knife to strip wire?
While it is certainly possible to strip wire or cable with a sharp knife, there’s a good chance that you’ll nick, fray, or entirely cut through the wire, rather than merely stripping away the jacket. Plus, you run the risk of cutting yourself accidentally. As there are very inexpensive wire strippers available, it’s best to add this tool to your tool kit before starting on any project involving wire or cable.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Michelle Ullman is the home improvement/tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs around the house and yard.
For this roundup, she considered dozens of wire strippers, evaluating each for effectiveness, versatility, ease of use, and accuracy, as well as value. She also considered feedback from customers, both positive and negative, and received further input and advice from Deane Biermeier, a general contractor and member of The Spruce's Home Improvement Review Board.