What is the difference between cable conduit, cable wrap, cable sleeve and heat shrink tubing?

Engineers in a data centre examining cable management sleeve protection

From cable management sleeve to cable spiral wrap, you have a wide choice for protecting and bundling your cables. But not all serve the same purpose. This guide dives into the different types of cable protection to help you determine the electrical wire coverings best for your application. We’ll cover:

What is cable conduit?

Cable conduit, also known as electrical conduit and wire conduit, is a cable management solution. Specifically, it’s a tube-like structure made of metal or available as plastic wire tubing. Designed to encase and protect electrical cables and wires, it provides a safe and organised pathway for the cables to run through. It can be either surface-mounted or you can use conduit for underground cable. The conduit is typically designed to resist moisture, corrosion, and other environmental factors that may damage the cables.

What is conduit cable used for?

Conduit sleeving is used to manage cables where it’s necessary to carry current across several devices and terminals. It’s particularly beneficial in areas that are potentially dangerous, whether it's due to environmental or physical hazards.

Metal conduit

One advantage of conduit is that it ensures safety if wiring is frequently changed. The benefit of metal conduit – shown here – is its grounding and bonding qualities. This is critical in minimising electromagnetic interference. This electrical metal wire cover can also prevent emission of the power cables it’s housing.

Plastic conduit

Conduit is also available in plastics. A flexible cable conduit, plastic choices offer a high fatigue life. Plastics’ high impact strength enables swift recovery when crushed. It also has a high UV resistance, so it’s an excellent choice as an exterior cable conduit.

This table shows you the different types of plastics used, the advantages and examples of applications:




PVC-coated metal

Corrosion resistant

Designed to be liquid tight

Factory wiring

Connections to machines


Corrosion and chemical resistant, flexible and highly durable

Used in trenching:

Power utilities




Protection against abrasion and impact damage

Harness protection on vehicle applications

Split conduit for harnesses and hydraulic hose protection

Polypropylene (PP)

Compression strength and highly flexible

Cable assemblies

Underfloor wiring

Embedding into walls

You should also check out our Guide to conduit size charts.

Yellow shrink tubing
Spiral cable wrap

What is spiral cable wrap? 

Spiral cable wrap, or spiral sleeve for cable as some call it, provides cost-effective cable and hose protection. It’s crush resistant, flexible and easy to install. At any point in the spiral wrap, cables can be branched out, so it’s also a convenient cable management solution.

The two most popular material choices are heat-stabilised nylon and polyethylene. Heat-stabilised nylon means that the material contains a stabiliser that slows the loss of physical properties as heat increases. This makes cable wrap made of the material a heat-resistant cable sleeve.

As a plastic spiral wrap, polyethylene is a durable material. It can be bent and flexed multiple times and will still maintain its strength and integrity. Cable spiral wrap isn’t just for industrial uses but can also be used in offices and homes to organise computer wires.

How to use spiral cable wrap

By using spiral wrap for cables, you can help to extend the lifespan of cables and wires, reduce the risk of cable tangles and damage, and improve the appearance of cable runs. Its spiral design allows it to flex and move with the cables and wires while creating a protective barrier around them. This helps to prevent damage from factors such as extreme temperatures, moisture, and abrasion.

Examples of how to use black cable spiral wrap – or any colour –  include robotics and automation. These systems rely on a large number of cables and wires that need to be routed from the control system to various sensors and actuators in the robot's body. Spiral cable wrap can help to protect these cables and wires from damage caused by the robot's repetitive motion, while also keeping them organised and tidy.

You can find out more in our guide,What is robotic cable management?

Typical applications:

Spiral cable wrap



Electronic and control systems

Injection moulding machines


Packaging equipment

To learn more, see our guides: How to install cable wrap

Tubing black red and yellow

What is cable sleeve?

A cable sleeve is a protective sheath used to cover and bundle cables and wires, offering protection against abrasive environments, such as temperature changes, while optimising space. Made of a mesh material, braided cable sleeving protects your wires while conforming to irregular shapes. It cuts cleanly with a hot knife, which cauterises the new edges to prevent fraying.

Cable sleeves prevent the wires’ currents from coming into contact with other conductors. It can be used to insulate a single cable or bundle multiple cables together, providing a neat and tidy appearance while preventing them from becoming entangled and ensuring safety. They’re also suitable for applications where cable movement is needed. Types of cable sleeves include:

Expandable sleeves

Expandable braided sleeving

Expandable sleeves made of polyester offer an open weave construction that makes installation fast and easy, reducing your assembly costs. It also allows for heat and moisture to dissipate. You can bundle multiple wires and still get flexibility that allows for easy motion when needed.

These sleeves for cables also come in polyphenylene. This type is meant for high temperature cable assemblies and has high chemical resistance, low wear and dimensional and low moisture stability.


Anti-abrasion braided cable sleeve

Also called braided wiring loom, this sleeve has 300% more abrasion resistance than the standard polyester expandable sleeve. Made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), it’s also resistant to UV radiation and chemical degradation. Ideal as underground cable sleeves. 


Another excellent sleeve with abrasion resistance are braided cable sleeves made of polyester. It cuts easily with scissors without fraying, which makes them ideal for out in the field, when you don’t have access to a hot knife.

You can learn more in our Guide to braided cable sleeving.

Self closing braided sleeve

Self-closing cable braided sleeve

Self-closing braided sleeve is yet another option. Once the cables are inside the sleeve, it self-closes around them, eliminating the need for additional fasteners. It’s self-closing 25% overlap design makes them easy to install and access, reducing labour costs. The design provides a secure fit that protects the cables from damage caused by abrasion, impact, and other environmental factors. A popular material choice for this cable sleeving is PET for its light weight and abrasion resistance.

Thermal protection sleeve

Heat protection sleeves for cables

Another take on a braided option is the thermal protection sleeve, also known as heat resistant cable sleeving, cable heat-protection cable sleeve or heat-resistant wire sleeve. Made of Nomex™ fibre for high-performance applications, these heat resistant sleeves for wires and cables offer thermal protection. With high-abrasion resistance, they have an operating temperature range between -196°C to 350°C.

How to use braided cable sleeve

You’ll find braided sleeving for cables used in a wide range of industrial machinery applications and manufacturing equipment, just to name a few of its uses. It can help to protect cables and wires from damage caused by high speeds and repetitive motion, while also organising and optimising cable space.

Use this table as a guide on how to best use the different types of braided cable sheath. We’ve also included a few other sleeves.

Ideal uses for braided cable sleeves

Expandable sleeves



Computer power cords

General purpose electrical use

Anti-abrasion braided cable sleeve


Welding machines

Hydraulic lines on heavy equipment


Rubber hoses

Underground uses

Braided cable sleeves

Machine tools


Automated equipment

Self-closing braided sleeve

Industrial machinery


Automotive industry

Thermal protection sleeve

Hydraulics (hoses)

Military wiring

Aerospace wiring


Heat shrink tubing

Heat shrink tubing is a type of cable insulation sleeve. More to the point, it encases wires or cables in plastic tubes. A heat gun is used to shrink the tubes to form a close-fitting casing.

Heat shrink tubing material is typically made of polyolefin for these reasons:

  • Extremely durable
  • Flexible
  • Available in different colours for colour coding to help with organising cables
  • High UV resistance
  • Resists chemicals
  • Excellent electrical properties
Cable sleeving

Shrink wrap cable sleeving does something other cable sleeves don’t, and that's to provide strain relief. Cables and wires are often strained because they’re either not long enough or they’re stuffed into limited spaces, damaging the cables and wires and shortening their lifespan. Heat shrink tubing can significantly lessen the strain to keep your cables and wires performing as intended.

Clear tubing

In addition to colours, you can get clear tubing. Clear heat-shrink tubing is your best option when flame retardancy isn’t important, but electrical insulation and mechanical performance matter. It has a polished surface, which adds to the aesthetics of the final application.

How to use heat shrink tubing

Once the heat shrink wrap tubing has shrunk and conforms to the cable or wire, it provides protection against moisture, abrasion, and other environmental factors. It can also be used to create a watertight seal or insulate electrical connections and wires.

Here are the areas where heat shrink tubing is best used:

Heat shrink tubing, colours

Wireless and Telecoms

Cable TV



Heat shrink tubing, clear




When to use each

There’s some overlap with the capabilities of cable conduit, spiral cable wrap, cable sleeves and heat shrink tubing. For instance, each can offer strain relief to some degree, but heat shrink tubing is best for this. It creates the tightest fit around cables and wires, preventing them from bending or stretching too much, and absorbing mechanical stress.

If strain relief is a priority, you can add other cable management solutions to help. We suggest you check out our Guide to cable strain relief.

Here’s what each one generally offers:

At a glance


Cable conduit

Spiral cable wrap

Braided cable sleeve

Heat shrink tubing

Protect and bundle cables

Branch cables







Strain relief




Allow freedom of movement




Carry current between several devices




Download free CADs and try before you buy

Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download. You can also request free samples to ensure the product you’ve chosen is exactly what you need. 

If you’re not quite sure which solution will work best for your application, our experts are always happy to advise you. Whatever your requirements, you can depend on fast despatch. Request your free samples or download free CADs now.


Email us at sales@essentracomponents.co.uk or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 0345 528 0474.