Thread Number: 40233  /  Tag: Small Appliances
When Did They Stop Using Cloth-Covered Power Cords?
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Post# 427101   6/16/2020 at 23:53 (222 days old) by OldSuck (Houston, Texas )        

I like the look of cloth cords and was thinking about using reproduction cloth wire on some old fans I restored, but I wouldnít do it if an appliance isnít possibly old enough.
I have Googled the crap out of this in every way I can think of wording it, but all my results are about residential home electrical wiring.
I would think very early 50s would probably be about the end of cloth-wrapped cords, right? Or would it be the 40s?
As always, thanks for your time.
You guys are great. 😉

Post# 427108 , Reply# 1   6/17/2020 at 03:37 (222 days old) by luxz80 (Bournemouth ,England Then Florida and back to England)        

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I have an old Oster Galaxy 10 blender I got off ebay. Think it was from either 1959 or 1960. Not too sure. I love the chrome & glass together. The front is a light blue and has all the little stars on the front panel. When it came it looked great. I did change the original cord to a black & white cloth cord as it looks 100% better and looks like it always had one. Was a N.O.S iron cord.

All the small appliances in my kitchen have cloth cords as they add more charm and appeal than the modern counterparts. Even today some appliances still have cloth covered cords. It all depends on country or manufacturer. Here in the U.K most of the irons still have the fabric cords.

I am sure there may be others but as all of my appliances are old and still work great I don't shop for new ones. I will have to look out next time I am in an appliance retailer.

Post# 427113 , Reply# 2   6/17/2020 at 09:21 (221 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        
I think it was a gradual transition...

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I don't know exact dates but the trend probably began in the 1930s but then picked up steam after the end of World War II when rubber was no longer rationed and plastics quickly became more mainstream, although the change was probably somewhat uneven. Some classes of household appliances like toasters and irons retained their cloth-wrapped cords into the late '50s and early '60s while things like lamps transitioned more quickly. My dad collected antique electric trains and the pre-war transformers pretty much all had cloth-wrapped cords while the post-war ones didn't.

It's interesting that cloth-wrapped cords seem to be making a comeback in some areas like cell phone accessories but you can't go into Lowe's or Home Depot and buy retro cloth-wrapped lamp cord by the foot anymore. I rewired a beautifulóand beastly heavyócast bronze art nouveau desk lamp a couple of years ago and after coming up empty at the aforementioned big box stores, had to order the cord online. There was nothing particularly wrong with the cord that was on it, other than it was just a modern, brown plastic cord that looked totally wrong on that lamp. I had to take the plastic cord off to tighten the nut on the bottom that held the whole thing together and I just couldn't bring myself to put it back on. The cloth wrapped cord just looks like it belongs there. The hardest part of ordering it online was the huge array of colors and patterns the vendor had to choose from. I almost went with a deep, chocolate brown to provide some contrast with the bronze but went instead with a honey color that almost perfectly matches the metal.

Post# 427128 , Reply# 3   6/17/2020 at 15:20 (221 days old) by blknblu (CT)        

You can't beat the look. I restored an old Seth Thomas clock for my mom, and put a repro "cloth covered" cord,and vintage style plug on it. Anything modern looking would not look right.

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Post# 427137 , Reply# 4   6/17/2020 at 17:29 (221 days old) by Lesinutah (Utah)        
2 things

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I believe cords and vacuum hoses went away from cloth around the same time. I bet it's cheaper to produce out of other materials.
If you go on eBay they have cloth cords for sale still. I bought a couple cloth cords for some of my older vacuums that had a newer cord. The 1948 royal upright I bought a cloth cord for and it looks really good.

Post# 427154 , Reply# 5   6/17/2020 at 21:42 (221 days old) by Hoover300 (Central Kentucky)        

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I have a 1980s English 120-220 travel iron with a cloth cord and an English plug. The cord is much thicker and more durable though.

Post# 427155 , Reply# 6   6/17/2020 at 21:48 (221 days old) by fan-of-fans (USA)        
1973 for GE irons

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I believe I was told GE went from cloth to the blue plastic cords on their irons in 1973.

Post# 427162 , Reply# 7   6/18/2020 at 02:18 (221 days old) by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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Hot things like irons and toasters kept cloth cords very late. In fact it's sort of come back into vogue with premium irons.

Vacuums had rubber cords very early on, I think they figured out that rubber is better for a cord that's regularly handled and scraped over things.

Honestly, cords are sort of a disposable item when it comes to vintage appliances. Just use whatever you like, and the next 'custodian' of the appliance will do the same.

Post# 427268 , Reply# 8   6/19/2020 at 10:41 (219 days old) by OldSuck (Houston, Texas )        

Maybe that was just for irons?
I can see hanging on to cloth cords for irons.
Can you imagine what kind of insurance claims might have come from accidentally setting hot irons down on plastic cords that melted?

Post# 427306 , Reply# 9   6/19/2020 at 14:07 (219 days old) by fan-of-fans (USA)        

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My guess is the older rubber cords were not able to withstand high temperatures, so it took awhile for them to develop a suitable material.

If you notice a lot of the older cords up through the 70s were often thinner wire/insulation compared to what they usually use now. Especially on lower wattage things like fans, clocks and radios.

I like the repro cloth covered cords, I have a few on antique fans. I even have a 1940s Emerson with the original cloth cord and rounded plug. To me they just don't look right on fans made in the 1950s or newer, to me those should have rubber/plastic cords, but to most they would be fine.

Lately I have noticed in stores power strips and extension cords with striped fabric cords. I too wish you could buy cloth covered wire at stores, you have to order it online from a supplier or lamp restoration place. There are some nice ornate plugs you can get too.

I also like the small molded plugs that appliances with rubber/plastic cords had in the 1950s-70s. If you notice after the late 70s or so they started using larger plugs with more protection at the prong end. The only thing I dislike about the old molded plugs is they are harder to grip than the ones used today, particularly if the outlet itself is tight.

Post# 427578 , Reply# 10   6/23/2020 at 15:40 (215 days old) by Kirbysthebest (Midwest)        
I may be off base

But with heating appliances, were the cloth covered cords not insulated with asbestos? I had heard that is why they did away with cloth cords, the asbestos was not good for us.

Post# 427600 , Reply# 11   6/24/2020 at 01:23 (215 days old) by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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The cords used on hot appliances like heaters, irons, coffee pots, and toasters, usually were filled with asbestos to protect the wires from heat. However, the cords not used on hot stuff didn't really have any reason to be insulated with asbestos. Not to say that they never had any in them. I bet asbestos was used as a reinforcing material in the rubber of some cords. It was a wonder material, and cheap as dirt. That's why it was in everything.

But I think cloth cords died out for reasons besides asbestos. Heater cords could easily have been made with mineral wool or fiberglass. I think they just went out of fashion, plus plastic technology got better so plastic could replace cloth-wrapped rubber, and be made cheaper and better.

Post# 428378 , Reply# 12   7/9/2020 at 18:05 (199 days old) by Jo (Dallas,TX)        
I bought a cloth covered extension cord recently

Was in Aldi grocery shopping and in their aisle with home items was a display of cloth covered extension cords. Rather neat I thought so I threw one in the cart for the heck of it. I keep it in my travel bag for use with chargers when I travel as often places I stay donít have enough plugs for 2 to 3 items so the extension cord gives me three outlets using one wall outlet which might be in an inconvenient place for charging so the extension cord part adds to the flexibility. Anyway, I get a lot of comments on it actually from friends or relatives when Iím visiting and they come in to the room where I have my things set up for the visit.

I think they phased these out because the fabric would fray sooner than the device would fail and also plastic and rubber cords became more advanced and a better and less expensive more durable option.


Post# 428395 , Reply# 13   7/10/2020 at 07:26 (198 days old) by bikerray (Middle Earth)        

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I think once things started being made in China the cloth covered stuff disappeared.

Post# 428763 , Reply# 14   7/19/2020 at 16:46 (189 days old) by 2011hoover700 (owosso michigan)        

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Here's a place that sells cloth covered cords and they even sell vintage style plugs if no one mentioned it yet.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO 2011hoover700's LINK

Post# 428765 , Reply# 15   7/19/2020 at 16:55 (189 days old) by kevhallett (Grasby)        

You can still get cloth covered flex, it is still used on electric irons and such as it has heat resisting properties, but on other appliances, it isnít often seen on new appliances, but can still be purchased.

Post# 428766 , Reply# 16   7/19/2020 at 17:37 (189 days old) by fan-of-fans (USA)        

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"Here's a place that sells cloth covered cords and they even sell vintage style plugs if no one mentioned it yet."

Very cool! I knew about them, but thought they had closed down. Looks like they are back with some new stuff!

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