For more than 120 years, zippers have been helping keep pants and dresses in place and fastening bags and purses. The handy edge-to-edge closure they provide has a lot of benefits over, for example, buttons. The gaps created by buttons or snaps always pull apart under pressure. These convenient tools work amazingly well – until they don’t. A broken zipper quickly goes from convenience to hassle. Or in some cases even a literal pain in the neck when back zipper catches skin or hair. If you’re struggling to pull a broken zipper together or reset some zipper teeth, here’s 11 ways on how to fix a zipper to get you back on track.
How to Fix a Zipper That Isn’t Fastening – Grab the Pliers.
A zipper consists of two parts. There’s the moving “shuttle” called a slider and the interlocking teeth that form the zipper track. The idea is that pulling the slider up forces the teeth through each side of the slider and the teeth interlock. If you’ve ever used zip-top plastic bags in the kitchen, the same principle applies. You push one side into the other in a way that locks them together.
If the top and bottom of a slider have worked apart over time, they won’t exert the right pressure on the teeth to force them closed. However, you can correct this.
Using a pair of pliers, squeeze the top and bottom of a zipper pull together, until it sets the zipper track teeth together. Make sure to do this incrementally (think of it like biting into a biscuit with your teeth – squeeze the flat edges of the shuttle together, not the open “business ends” at the top and bottom) and check frequently to see if it’s working.
A Disconnected Zipper – Try a Screwdriver.
Since you already have your toolbox out, a slender screwdriver can be a great help! If your zipper track slides out of the shuttle use a screwdriver to get it back in. In a functioning zipper, there are two sides loaded into a closed zipper: the permanently-attached side of the track that never leaves the shuttle, and the other side that is fed into it when you zip up.
If the usually permanently-attached side has come undone, a screwdriver – preferably a flat-headed style – can help you realign the wayward side of the track. Just use the tip of the screwdriver to gently work the detached track back into the left side of the zipper. This smart little trick is how to fix a zipper while saving your fingernails from getting chipped and your fingertips from getting pinched.
A Stuck Zipper – Tweezers Help.
The metal teeth of your zipper are intended to fit together precisely. Otherwise you’d have an unpleasant draft right down your torso whenever you wore a coat. That works well, except when it doesn’t! Stray threads from your clothing, parts of your undergarments, and other debris can get caught in the track. Particularly if you zip up in a hurry. Patience is the name of the game, both for avoiding these slip-ups and for disentangling them when they happen.
Grab a pair of tweezers and examine the track where the zipper is stuck or sticking. The chances are you’ll see a thread or obstruction you may be able to remove with your tweezers. Once your zipper is working again just trim the stray threads. And remember to zip up more slowly to keep it from happening again.
Broken Zipper Teeth – Call in the experts.
While home remedies work for many of the functional issues zippers have, some problems are simply beyond a well-stocked kitchen junk drawer. Because zippers are such a precision-oriented fastener, missing teeth aren’t just an inconvenience, they’re something your zipper can’t overcome. If you notice your metal or plastic zipper track is missing one or more teeth, you’re best taking it to a tailor for replacing. Unfortunately, there are no “quick fixes” for creating new zipper track teeth, it’s replacement or nothing.
A Zipper that Won’t Stay Up – Use a key ring.
If using a pair of pliers has failed to make your zipper zip better, try a temporary solution. This will help avoid embarrassing “wardrobe malfunctions” while wearing your favourite jeans. Get a metal split-ring key chain ring and use a butter knife or staple remover to open the key ring. Then simply slide it onto your zipper tab.
Then zip up your jeans and sandwich the key ring between the button and button hole. This allows the fastener to hold it into place while keeping it hidden from view. Voila: no more open fly!
A Straining Bag Zipper – Rearrange your bag.
We’ve all been there – you’re a great vacation, a conference, a visit “back home” – your clothes are a little less neatly packed on the return trip and you’ve got plenty of souvenirs stuffed in there too. Your zipper is under some serious pressure, and the sides and top of your bag are bowed out – it’s just not zipping up!
The key to fixing this issue is uniformity. The “bowed out” areas are putting strain on the track and are likely to pull the fabric zipper track edges out from the sides, even if the zipper itself doesn’t break. Repack your bag or suitcase to give the zipper a smooth, flat course to follow, and consider shipping a box of your less-important belongings back home to reduce overall capacity in your bag.
A Sticking Zipper – How to Fix a Zipper With a little Beeswax.
While most people might reach for something like WD-40 to help a metal-on-metal issue like a stuck zipper, you don’t want to accidentally over-lubricate, either. If that happens, the zipper won’t stay up, which will render it fairly useless until the lubricant can be cleaned off.
Instead, take a hunk of beeswax or a beeswax candle, and gently run it up and down the edges of the zipper teeth a few times. You only want a light coating, not hunks of beeswax in the teeth, so use a gentle touch. Zip your zipper up and down a few times to get the coating into the teeth, and you should feel a little less resistance.
How To Fix A Zipper – The cotton ball and Vaseline method.
While beeswax is handy to have, not everyone keeps a chunk in the house. Most homes, however, have Vaseline and some sort of cotton pad, ball, or piece of scrap cloth. Like the beeswax method, the key here is a light touch.
Don’t apply the Vaseline directly to the zipper track. This will either gum it up or over-lubricate it. Just put a small dab on the cotton and slide it up and down the zipper teeth a few times. Again, like the beeswax, you’ll want to zip up and down a few times to work it in.
A Broken Zipper Tab – Check your office drawers for a paperclip.
You go to zip up your jacket, bag, or jeans and – oh no! – the zipper tab breaks off right in your fingertips. You likely don’t have a spare bag of zipper pulls in your pocket either. So how to fix a zipper in the moment? Thankfully, a simple paper clip will do the trick.
Bend the paper clip open a little. Then thread the wire through the holes in the top of the zipper shuttle. Finally, bend it back into place once the paper clip is threaded. Your paper clip will serve as a quick fix until you can either find a replacement zipper tab (available at most clothing and craft stores) or take your garment or bag to a tailor for a zipper track replacement.
Zipper Teeth that Aren’t Locking – A clear-polish “manicure” can help.
If you notice that your zipper teeth are “gapping” or pulling apart, particularly on older zippers, the metal of the teeth may have worn down from frequent use. Even though most zippers are made of fairly durable metals, the wear-and-tear of metal-on-metal will smooth the edges of the interlocking teeth, making them likely to disengage under strain.
A quick, careful application of some clear nail polish to the edges of the teeth can help thicken them up. It will also cause them to sit more securely in an interlocking zipper track. Only use one light coat at a time and allow to dry thoroughly before you attempt to zip up. You don’t want to accidentally paint your zipper teeth together.
A Broken Zipper Slider – Get a pair of pliers and a new slider.
While a paper clip or even a safety pin can stand in for a lost or broken zipper tab, the slider poses a little bit more of an issue. If your slider is bent, broken, damaged, or even falls completely off, you’ll need a new one. Be sure to examine the rest of the mechanism, too. If teeth are damaged, the “feeder tab” at the right bottom side of the track is missing, and so on, you’ll probably just want to replace the entire zipper.
If only the slider is damaged, however, get a replacement from a craft store and use the pliers to gently open the left side of it a little. Thread the left side of your zipper track through the left side of the slider. Then use the pliers to crimp the left side of the slider back into proper position around it. Feed the right side of the zipper track through as you normally would when zipping up, and move up and down a few times to make sure it “takes” properly. Try adding a tiny bit of beeswax or Vaseline if necessary to help it along.
When you’re having issues with your zipper, you can’t enjoy your favourite clothes and bags properly. Enjoy your wardrobe and storage again, hassle-free, with these 11 smart tips for fixing zipper issues. Happy zipping!
If you’ve enjoyed reading how to fix a broken zipper, then check out the our other useful ‘how to’ articles here.