If you've ever owned a slinky, you eventually got it hopelessly tangled and threw it away. This was basically a law of the universe... until now.
In this article, you'll learn the 3 methods that will allow you to quickly and easily untangle even the tangliest of slinky tangles.
If you can, watch the above video, which will walk you through each step of the process.
First, let's get a couple things straight. (See what I did there?)
1. The sooner you stop playing with it, the easier it will be to untangle.
Do not continue to play with a tangled slinky. Do not allow a child or an intoxicated adult to continue to play with a tangled slinky. And under no circumstances should anyone attempt what I call the Traditional Untangling Method: randomly pulling on it and hoping for the best.
2. A badly tangled metal Slinky® may be untangled, but will probably never return to its original shape.
Sorry to crush your hopes of recovering your $3 investment, but the original metal Slinky® is not designed to last. It is designed to make a delightful slinkity sound, and then get permanently bent so you have to buy a new one.
Unlike most things, where metal is generally superior and longer-lasting, plastic is king when it comes to slinkies. Metal is rigid, which is great for a lot of things, but not for a thing whose whole purpose is to be as flexible as possible.
A metal Slinky® will quickly become permanently bent when stretched too far.
How far is too far? Even the most basic of slinky manipulation moves will create a permanent bend in a traditional metal Slinky®.
However, a plastic slinky with thick enough coils, such as any of our Magic Springs, will be able to endure even the most brutal tangling and untangling without suffering any permanent damage.
Furthermore, the ends of a metal Slinky® will most likely be sealed with a pesky little safety bracket to prevent you from stabbing anyone with it.
This bracket also prevents our first two untangling methods from working, so if you have a traditional metal Slinky®, scroll straight down to the Foolproof Method. Or just throw it away and buy a Magic Spring.
Now, without further ado...
The Spinning Method
The Spinning Method is by far the easiest method.
It will work best on a fresh tangle that hasn't been exacerbated by a misguided individual attempting the Traditional Untangling Method.
It will also untangle 2 slinkies that are stuck together.
But again, it will not work on a metal Slinky® with the anti-stabbing bracket attached.
The Spinning Method goes like this:
1. Grab the end that is furthest from the tangle in one hand.
Try to hold as many of the non-tangled coils in that hand as you can.
2. Start slowly rotating your hand in counterclockwise circles.
With luck, this will cause the tangle to migrate toward the end and slide off.
Without luck, you will reach a point where it actually seems to be getting more tangled. In this case, proceed to step 3.
3. Start slowly rotating your hand in clockwise circles.
Again, if you reach a point where it seems to be getting more tangled, go back to step 2.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as needed.
Repeating steps 2 and 3 once or twice will cause most tangles to disappear.
However, if your tangle was particularly bad, you may be left with a few of what I call loop-de-loops.
A loop-de-loop is an inversion of the direction of the slinky's winding.
In other words, if you follow the path of the slinky in one direction, it will double back on itself before continuing forward.
To eliminate loop-de-loops, you'll want to proceed to...
The Unwinding Method
This method will work on any tangle that you can stick your hand all the way through, from the end. It will not work on a metal Slinky® with the anti-stabbing bracket attached.
1. Grab the end that is furthest from the tangle in your left hand.
Grab as many non-tangled coils as you can.
2. Stick your right hand through the other end of the slinky, so that the tips of your fingers go past the entire tangle.
3. Bring the fingertips of your right hand to the outside of the slinky.
4. Rotate your right wrist clockwise.
(Say that five times fast. Or don't, it's your life.)
Make sure to keep your fingertips sticking out of the slinky.
This should cause the entire tangle to slide toward your right hand, unless your slinky was wound in the other direction when it was created, in which case you should rotate your wrist counterclockwise.
However, this is rarer than a cat that has its mind made up about whether it wants to be inside or outside.
The important thing is that as you rotate your wrist, the tangle slides towards your right hand, and eventually off the end.
As you rotate your right wrist, you will want to periodically grab more coils in your left hand to make the process easier.
But what if you have a tangle that appears completely hopeless?
Like your life, your slinky tangle probably isn't as hopeless as it seems.
Unless your slinky is metal, in which case it is as hopeless as it seems.
If your metal Slinky® looks like the above one, I recommend throwing it away, turning it into art, or melting it down and forging a battle axe... just in case.
But if you're REALLY attached to your metal Slinky®, the following method will allow you to untangle it. It will be terribly and permanently stretched out, but it will be untangled.
Finally, I present to you...
The Foolproof Method
The Foolproof Method is the most complex, but it will solve literally any tangle.
The gist of the Foolproof Method is this: starting at one end, we're going to steadily grow the untangled portion of the slinky by putting coils where they want to go.
But first, it's time for some more JARGON! (Yay!)
We've already gone over loop-de-loops, which are one element of slinky tangles.
The other element that all tangles are comprised of is hook points.
A hook point is where two different sections of the slinky have become hooked together.
In the above example of a hook point, the yellowish coil on top has become hooked with a blue coil and a yellow coil.
Hook points are most commonly composed of 2 or 3 coils, like the above one.
Your hopeless tangle is likely comprised of many separate hook points.
The Foolproof Method is a method of eliminating all of these hook points, one by one. It goes like this:
1. Find one end of the slinky and grip it in your right hand.
Let the slinky dangle downwards from your right hand.
2. Follow the path of the slinky downward from your right hand, until you find the first hook point.
3. Collect all of the coils between your right hand and the first hook point, and lock them in your right hand.
Keep these coils locked in your right hand for the duration of this exercise. You'll be passing them through the hook point, and you don't want them to become hooked on any other coils.
4. Stick the fingers of your left hand through the first hook point, from the left.
You're using your left hand to create an opening, so that you can put the coils in your right hand where they want to go (through the hook point).
5. Pass the coils in your right hand to your left hand, through the hook point.
If you followed these instructions correctly, you will have eliminated one hook point! Congratulations.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 until no more hook points remain.
At this stage, your slinky may be fully untangled. But there's a good chance it has some loop-de-loops left.
On a plastic slinky (or a metal Slinky® without the anti-stabbing bracket), simply use the Unwinding Method to eliminate these loop-de-loops. Ta-da! Your slinky should be good as new.
To eliminate a loop-de-loop on a metal Slinky®, grip with both hands as close to the loop-de-loop as you can, and twist each side counterclockwise as far as possible.
Ta-da! You should now be left with a perfectly untangled, hopelessly stretched-out metal Slinky®.