What Is Wire-Pulling Compound (Cable Lube)?

Cable Lubrication For Pulling Wires through Conduit

Cable pulled through conduit
KVDP / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Running individual wires through conduit can be quite a task if the conduit run is long or has several bends in it.  Wire-pulling compound, often called cable lube or cable lubrication, is designed to make it easier to pull electrical wires through conduit runs. This slick, slimy compound may be a yellowish, thick, pudding-like substance, a bluish gel or a clear form. The bluish and clear gel is much thinner than the yellowish wire-pulling compound, but both work well to simply running wires through conduit, especially when there are many twists and turns in the conduit run.

To attach electrical wires for pulling, strip the wires back and wrap them through the eye of a fish tape. This will ensure the wires will not come off during the pull. Now, simply wrap the wires and the end of the fish tape with electrical tape and apply the cable lube to the wires.

To use either of these wire pulling aids, apply it generously to the head of the wires feeding into the pipe and a few feet down the length of the wire. Squirting a bit down the conduit itself can also help. Then, as the wires are fed into the pipe, continue applying a small amount of lube to the wires just before they enter the conduit. The easiest way is to squirt the fluid into the palm of one hand. Then,  as the wires pass through your hand and into the conduit, they are being lubricated. Try to keep the other hand free of the lubrication so you can still grip the cable lube bottle and the wire for feeding.

As you approach the end of the wire pull or when the wire pulling gets easier, you can stop applying the lube. At this point, most of the wire and conduit have been lubricated enough to finish the wire pull with ease.

Types of Cable Lube

Spray-type cable lubricant: Spray lubricant is an innovative approach to cable lubrication.

The lubricant is concentrated, so all that is needed is a thin film for immediate tension reduction. Spray the cable to coat jacket or inject it directly into the conduit.

Wire-pulling gel: Wire-pulling lubricant gel makes pulling jobs smoother and safer, saving time and money. The thick formula applies faster without messy runs or drips, minimizing preparation time. A low coefficient of friction means less wire damage and equipment wear for improved safety. The colorless formula does not stain wire and cable jackets. Compatibility with most wire and cable jackets allows for varied applications.

Wire-pulling compound: Wire-pulling compound, often called cable lube, is designed to make it easier to pull electrical wires through conduit runs. It reduces the coefficient of friction between wires and conduits, reducing the chances of damaging the wire jackets. 

What Is Wire-Pulling Compound Made Of?

Wire pulling compound, or cable lube, is available from many manufacturers. It is made out of a polymer and is electrically neutral, making it safe for electrical work.

 These substances often dry colorless and create a slick coating around the wires, easing pulling them through conduit by reducing friction.

How To Use Wire-Pulling Compound

Wire pulling compound is added to the wires as they are being pulled into the conduit. The person feeding the wires makes sure they go straight into the conduit, using one hand to lube the wires as well. Spray-type lubricant can be sprayed onto the wires directly as it is being fed, leaving your hands free of the slippery substance.

How Much Lube Should Be Used?

Lubricate the head of the pull very liberally, and generously add more lube every few feet when starting the pull. From there,  you can add some every five feet, less towards the end of the pull.

Is Wire Pulling Compound Safe?

Cable lube can be applied to all types of electrical cables and data cables without worries. It is non-toxic, does not require skin protection, is non-corrosive and is odorless. However, because it is so slippery, be cautious not to get any on your shoes.  Ladder work is especially hazardous.

What About Cleanup?

Cleanup is simple and easy with wire-pulling compound. It easily washes up with soap and water and leaves no residue.

Pro Tips For Pulling Cable With Wire-Pulling Lube

  • Strip wire sheathing and connect the wires to the pulling rope or fish tape.
  • Apply an adequate amount of electrical tape over the stripped wires attached to the fish tape to help for easy entrance into the conduit. 
  • Allow for adequate clearance between the wires and the conduit. 
  • Calculate the wire jam ratio, which involves the thickness of the wires stacked next to each other as they make a turn within a bend in the pipe. 
  • Use a suitable cable lubrication in an adequate amount to allow the wires to pull with ease.
  • If you are using a pulling pulley, position it at an angle so the wire is fed into the conduit's center, not at a sharp angle that can damage the wire insulation.
  • Keep wires or cables straight and steady as they are being pulled in the conduit.