A cable compound is a material, usually petroleum-based, used to fill an electrical cable to limit intrusion from water and to provide extra insulation. Numerous types of cable including electrical and phone lines can be filled with cable compound by manufacturers and installers to protect the integrity of the line. The cable is also tightly jacketed to add another layer of insulation and protection, and to increase the duration between maintenance sessions, as the cable should remain stable and durable for an extended period of time with the extra protection.
Cable compounds can come in the form of viscous oils, waxes, or gels. Some gel compounds are known as “icky-pick,” a reference in part to their unpleasant flavor, which is designed to deter animals that might otherwise nibble into electrical cabling. Animal damage can be expensive to repair and in some cases causes serious problems with the line, because it may create shorts and other malfunctions. Moisture can also be a significant issue, especially in areas with corrosive rain or high salt content in the air, as this can eat through outer insulation and expose the interior of the cable.
All cable compound products are engineered with very high electrical resistance. If stray voltage develops because the insulation around the conductors breaks down, the compound will contain it. This prevents damage to neighboring conductors as well as other lines, if the exterior insulation begins to break down. The cable compound fills the line completely, filling air pockets that might otherwise form during manufacturing.
These products are available from a range of manufacturers, including companies that can customize particular products for specific uses. These custom products may come with flavoring to make them unpleasant to the taste, or additives that make them particularly plastic, sticky, or flexible, depending on the application. These firms work with utility companies, electronics manufacturers, and similar companies to meet their needs.
Consumers rarely interact with cable compound. Usually the utility is responsible for lines up to a house or other structure, and interior wiring doesn't require the same level of protection because moisture should not be a significant issue. In the event consumers do find themselves working with cable compound, it can help to wear gloves and protective garments, because it can be messy. Solvents may be required to remove it from skin, hair, and clothing in some cases; suitable cleaning products are often available from hardware and home supply stores.