Are Cable Management Boxes Safe Or Risky?

Cable management boxes are a very popular way to organize a mess of cables at your desk. They are simply plastic containers that have cable entry and exit holes. 

Cable Management Box 12 x 5 x 4.5in

They can hold and conceal your power strip along with all the connected plugs for a clean and minimal look.

Are Cable Management Boxes Safe?

Whenever you cram a bunch of electrical connections into one small box, it’s a valid question to ask: is this safe?

The short answer is, yes cable management boxes are mostly safe, however, there are general safety precautions you should follow. This includes avoiding cable kinking and completely plugging in all connections.

Read all use instructions and warnings that came with your cable management box to find if there are any major limitations. 

Notice how I said they are mostly safe. In this article, we’re going to talk about what some risks are.

Main Risks of Cable Management Boxes

Excess Heat Build Up

The first risk with any electronics is heat. Simple plug connections do not generate much heat at all, so we don’t have to worry about those. 

Other electronics like power supplies tend to warm up when in use. Whether it’s a big power brick or a high-current USB wall charger, some heat buildup is typically expected. 

Especially in today’s world of fast-charging devices, power supply bricks can get pretty hot. 

Usually, these power supplies that heat up are exposed to fresh air. However, when using a cable management box, they are in a semi-enclosed box. This means less heat can be dissipated through the air. 

This has some risk, but the risk is relatively low. They should be able to stay in a plastic enclosure without burning anything. 

Most typical plastics can withstand temperatures up to 80 degrees Celsius (or 175 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s pretty hot, and not typical of electronics you would conceal in a cable management box. 

Thermal Image of Electronics In Cable Management Box

I had a thermal camera lying around so I took a quick photo of my unenclosed power strip connections. There is also a 130-watt Dell power brick in this image.

Are Cable Management Boxes Safe

You can quickly tell that the power brick for my laptop is the hottest item in this image. The camera automatically chose the highest temperature location which was at the center of the brick.

The maximum temperature in this image is 35.3 degrees Celsius. That is well below any risky temperatures for a cable management box.

How To Avoid Heat Build Up

Here’s a pro tip, if you have any electronics that have a heat vent or a small powered fan, do not put these in a cable management box.

Those are meant to be exposed to free air. Performance can suffer and the risk goes up when placed in a box. If these items are operating at a higher ambient temperature than rated, they can struggle and degrade the electronic’s life.

Cable Kinking

Because we are stuffing so much into cable management boxes, another risk is cable kinking. 

Cable kinking is when a cable is bent at such a sharp angle that it can cause damage to the cable, resulting in reduced performance or complete failure.

Electrical cables have conductive metal wires inside surrounded by an insulating material. Typically a soft plastic. 

A sharp forced bend in a power cable can damage the conductive wires on the inside, and also compromise the insulation layer. If your insulation layer rips, it will expose the conductive wires, which can be very dangerous. 

Damaged conductors in a cable can begin arcing which has led to fires in the past. Especially if this occurs with 110V AC connections (even more dangerous if you are using 240V AC).

To avoid any risks here, do not let your electrical wires bend sharply in your cable management box!

Do not bend cables more than they were designed to be bent. All cables have a natural resistance to them which should give you a good idea of how much they can be bent. 

For example, coaxial cables are typically pretty stiff. That means they shouldn’t be bent very much. If you need to manage these cables, wrap them in an appropriate-sized loop. 

How To Avoid Cable Kinking

Your cables should have a slight amount of tension and resistance when placed in a loop. 

Pro tip here: manufacturers always ship their cables and cords within the allowable bend radius.

They need the cables to stay compact so their product packaging stays affordable. They only bend them to the safe limit, or else you would get damaged cables right off the bat. 

Copy the manufacturers here and only bend your cables to the amount they arrived in, not more. This is a decent rule of thumb. 

A pro-pro tip, if you don’t remember what the cable looked like when you got it, look up an unboxing video on youtube. There is an unboxing video for almost every product out there! 

Short-Circuiting In Cable Management Boxes

Short-circuiting is when you have electricity flowing through a shorter path unintentionally. 

With all of the connections in a cable management box, a short circuit is a risk that needs to be addressed.

Mostly, electrical plugs are designed to be very safe and hard to short-circuit without external factors. It is these external factors that we have to worry about here. 

For example, we just talked about cable kinking, and how that could potentially expose a conducting cable. If that touches another metal in your cable management box, it will certainly cause a short. 

Also, debris landing in your cable management box, like an old staple or a paperclip, could pose a risk. Those items are conductive, and if they land anywhere between two conductors, you can have a short.

How To Avoid Short Circuiting

This risk of short-circuiting in your cable box goes down significantly if you do the following:

  • Keep your cable management box clean.
  • Keep the lid on the management box to avoid items falling in. 
  • Completely press in all plug connections so there is no gap that exposes the plug’s metal contacts.
  • Check cables and ensure they do not have any damaged insulation that reveals the conductive wire. 
  • Don’t kink cables or do anything that can damage the cable’s insulation.
  • Add plug caps to unused outlets. This way nothing can contact the live connections.

Are Wooden Cable Management Boxes Safe?

Wood cable management boxes are nearly as safe as plastic boxes. We mentioned that plastic boxes would be expected to melt around 80 C or 175 F. 

Wood on the other hand can be exposed to heat up to 400 F before actually catching fire

Because cable management boxes are enclosed, they have a limited amount of oxygen, which will make them less likely to grow into a full fire. 

Wooden Cable Management Box

This wooden cord organizer is made from wood to hide annoying cords. It has an internal dimension of 13¾'' (L) X 4¾'' (W) X 3½'' (H) and can conceal power cords, surge protectors, and chargers.

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If there is an item in your cable management box that does actually catch fire, a wooden box could act as fuel here. This is hardly worth talking about, as the temperatures in a cable management box should not get very high. 

Advantages Of Cable Management Boxes

For the most part, cable management boxes are great tools for cable organization. Here are their main benefits. 

Cable Management Box 12 x 5 x 4.5in

This cable management box accommodates power strips < 12" in length and has double directional outlets for power strips and three smaller cutouts for USB/tablet/cell phone cords. The lid keeps cables tidy, and dust-free, and protects pets from electrical equipment.

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Keep Connections Safely Closed Off

Cable management boxes hide all of your connections in one place. If you have small children that are very curious or pets that like to chew on cables, cable management boxes make these connections inaccessible. 

This makes your high-voltage and high-risk connections safely out of reach.  

cable management box with open lid

Cable organization

A cleanly cable-managed desk is a beautiful sight to see. If you are looking for a guide, check out our article on cable management.

Cable management boxes do a great job of hiding those ugly groups of cables. I personally mount my power strip under my desk. However, if you have to keep your power strip on the floor for some reason, a cable management box is a hard-to-beat concealer of cables.

Protection From Dirt/Dust/Debris

Management boxes also keep dirt and dust away from your connections. Less cleaning is required when you keep all your connections in an enclosed box. 

Just make sure you are using the lid that came with your cable management box.

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Dasun

I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

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