What should you do with old RG6 cable?

I know this guy. He’s got maybe 500 feet of old RG6 cable spooled up in his shed. I’m talking stuff that old cable companies strung, antenna cable, cable that came with stuff that wasn’t used. It’s an impressive amount of cable and it took him decades to build it all up.

I’m kind of curious if he’ll ever find a use for it. But I get it, I hoard stuff too sometimes. Never know when you’ll need an adapter to go from 75-ohm BNC to PL-259. Just because I haven’t needed one since 1987 doesn’t mean I won’t need one tomorrow.

Seriously though, is there a downside to keeping old RG6 cable?

It’s the real world and stuff degrades

Even with the best care, RG6 cable is going to degrade over time. The outer jacket could get brittle with sun and heat exposure. The dielectric, which is that white foam stuff in the middle, can break down. Even the copper won’t last forever in pristine form. No cable is 100% air tight and eventually the copper is going to oxidize, turning first dull brown then green, by which time it will be utterly useless for carrying signal.

The amount of time it takes for a cable to go from pristine to useless really depends. In a dry, temperature controlled environment like your home, it can take 25 or 30 years before a cable gives up. Outside though, especially in the brutal southwestern heat, I’ve seen cables that were ready to be replaced in 5 years.

Be aware

If you’re going to save old cable, or anything that carries signal or electricity, you probably ought to make a habit of taking a look at it every couple of years. A cable that worked great just 5 years ago might have turned into an oxidized mess. It’s more worrisome if that cable is carrying current. While electrical wires tend to hold up for an insanely long time in the walls, there’s no promising that a wire you have hanging in the garage will.

Keep your cables as long as you want, I’d say, but be prepared that they may not be really good when you need them. When you think about it that way, maybe you don’t need to keep that paint-spattered RG6 cable from 25 years ago. Maybe you’re just better off buying something new when it’s necessary.

Luckily for you, the best professional-grade cable can be found at one place: The fine folks at SolidSignal.com. You can get the exact length you need, brand shiny new, exactly when you need it and there’s no need to go through the cycle of hoarding, inspecting, and culling for all of those old cables so long left behind by installers.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.