Never let a broken zipper be the reason you discard an entire item, because fixing it yourself is a lot easier than you might think. In most cases, a broken, stubborn or stuck zipper can be remedied using just some household lubricant, a pair of pliers, and a little patience. Here are a couple of common zipper problems and some simple solutions.
How to Unjam a Zipper
If the slider is stuck and won’t move, the most common reason is because something—most likely fabric or thread—is wedged in the teeth, or caught in the slider. This is also the easiest problem to remedy.
- Before you do anything else, investigate. Turn the clothing or bag inside out and follow along the zipper lines to see if there is any fabric you can remove by tugging it away. A pair of tweezers comes in handy if there’s a piece of fabric you’re not able to get a good hold on in the process.
- Next, color the zipper teeth with a graphite pencil. Run the lead all over the zipper (front and back), a few inches above and below the slider. This lubricates the teeth and should help to unstick the zipper.
- If you’ve got a pretty significant jam, you’re going to have to up your lubrication game. Household items that work as lubricants for stuck zippers include: baby powder, talc powder, lip balm, vaseline, bar soap, glass cleaner and even wax paper if you’re in a pinch. Consider the fabric your item is made from when choosing a lubricant (you definitely don’t want to stain it) and apply all along the zipper teeth in the same fashion you applied the graphite pencil. Give the slider a tug and you should be good to go.
The Zipper Teeth Keep Popping Open
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can finagle your zipper back into place on the fly, by relieving whatever tension is causing the teeth to burst open, just proceed with caution to risk further damage. A popped zipper doesn’t necessarily mean doomsday for your garment, here are a few diagnostics you can run before taking the item in to have the zipper replaced:
- Check the teeth. Stretch the zipper out, giving it a gentle tug and pull. Smooth everything out so it properly aligns, then try tuning the slider along the teeth.
- Run one of the following lubricants along the teeth: graphite pencil, zipper glide, bar soap, lip balm, baby powder, Zipper Glide, or wax (wax paper works in a pinch).
- If the zipper still won’t stay closed, take a closer look at the teeth, there may be a few that need straightening out individually with needle nose pliers. Once you’ve got the teeth back in place, lubricate, and try the slider again.
How to Replace a Broken Zipper Slider
Replacing a slider is surprisingly simple. If there isn’t a stamped number on the back of your slider, bring it along when you go to the sewing supplies store so you can measure it up to other sliders at the store and select exactly what you need. Sliders and top stops (the metal part at the bottom of the zipper that keeps the slider from running off the tracks) can be purchased together. There are all different kinds of replacement zippers, but this universal kit is great if you’re not sure exactly what you need.
- Use pliers to remove the existing “top stop” from your garment and move the slider up and off the zipper. (If your slider is stuck in “locked” position, use something small like a paper clip to stick under the pull tap loop and pop the lock open to remove the slider.)
- Feed the new slider onto the teeth starting at the point where you removed the top stop.
- Using pliers, replace the top stop you removed with the new one that came with your slider.
How to Make a Zipper Slide Easier
If you find yourself at the losing end of a stuck zipper, reach for a bar of soap. Rub the stuff over the teeth of the zipper, and gently tug to make it give way. If that doesn’t work, move onto other types of lubricant, like pencil lead, glass cleaner, or petroleum jelly.
How to Replace a Zipper Pull Tab
Fixing a zipper pull tab is as easy as finding something to replace the original one you lost or damaged. There are quite a few things you can swap an old one out with to get it pulling again:
- In a pinch, you can slide a paperclip or a key ring onto the slider.
- Keep it simple with nylon zipper sliders.
- Prepare for heavy duty usage with zipper tags.
- If you’re feelin’ fancy, try searching “zipper charms” on Amazon for everything from monogram tags to tiny cartoon characters in all shapes, materials, and sizes.
How to Keep a Zipper From Sliding Down
Why does this only ever seem to happen with jeans and pants!? Well, the short answer is because they get a lot of wear and tear, and the more you tug at your zipper, the greater chance you have of lifting the locking mechanism out of place. On brass zippers, there is a tiny silver “finger” on the pull that sets down into the zipper teeth and locks once you push the zip up your pants and push the tab down into place. If this finger is pulled out of place, it can’t properly hold onto the teeth and do its job. If you’re dealing with this issue, we have good news: not only do we have three temporary fixes for you, we also have one amazing permanent fix that doesn’t require you to take your jeans in to have the entire zipper replaced.
- Attach a key ring through the opening in the zipper tab, zip up your zipper, and hook the key right around your pants button. Once you button your pants, the key ring is virtually invisible.
- Weave a rubber band through the opening in the zipper tab, then hook the two loops of the rubber band around your pants button.
- Spray some hairspray (the thickest, gooey-est stuff you can find) along the last inch or so of the zipper teeth. The hairspray will start to build up, making it difficult to pull the zipper all the way up. Once it’s up, it should stay up for as long as you need it to: just be sure you’re prepared with one of the methods from above to get it unstuck when you’re ready to shimmy outta those pants.
- Using a pair of needle nose pliers, press down on the silver elbow so that there is no gap between it and the brass part of the zipper it’s laying on. Continue to hold the silver elbow in place with your needle nose pliers, and with another pair of pliers, squeeze the two little brass arms (located on each side of the silver elbow) so that they’re snugged up nice and tight, holding it in place. Check out this video for further instructions.
And then, of course, there’s always the option of taking your zipper to a tailor, shoe repair shop, or dry cleaner to have it replaced—but where’s the fun in that? This small task is simple and not very time consuming at all, so be brave, give it a try, and add a new skill to your list.