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Fix a Stuck or Broken Zipper with Ease

Zippers are not items we regularly think about, but, when they become stuck or broken, it is very frustrating. Fortunately, now you have all the tips and tricks you need to fix a problematic zipper quickly and easily.

chic woman wearing a leather jacket

When you stop to think about it, zippers are used on so many of our belongings. Purses, suitcases, jackets, backpacks and shoes all have zippers. Zippers are great for making sure items stay closed, but it can be very aggravating when they get stuck or break.

But there is no need to discard an item simply because the zipper is misbehaving. We have a few tips to help repair a zipper and save your belongings and your sanity.

General Zipper Tips

Problems with zippers are very common, especially since we open and close some items like purses many times a day. And unfortunately, some zippers seem to have a significantly lower life expectancy than the items themselves. So it is helpful to know how to fix a broken or stuck zipper.

Stuck Zippers

Graphite lubrication is the best solution for this problem. You can either purchase a graphite stick or use a Number 2 pencil.
Start by rubbing the graphite stick or pencil up and down the zipper’s teeth for about 15-20 seconds, or simply keep it in place in the area that is stuck. Gently move the slider along the teeth to check for a smooth motion. If the slider's movement is still not smooth, try repeating the procedure.

Remember that when using graphite, or really any type of lubrication, it is best to place a paper towel behind the zipper. This should prevent the lubricant getting on the item.

Another way to efficiently remedy a stuck zipper is with laundry soap. Mix a small amount of laundry soap with a bit of water, and dip a cotton ball or swab in the solution. Use the cotton swab to coat the zipper's teeth. The solution should work as a lubricant and help move the slider along the zipper.

Alternative products that can lubricate stuck zippers include lip balm, baby powder, vaseline, glass cleaner, talc powder, or even wax paper if you’re in a pinch. However, be careful with these options as some of them may stain certain fabrics.

Separated Zippers

To fix a separated zipper, you will need to clean the teeth of the zipper. Zipper build-up forms as a result of dirt, dust, or other substances that the zipper comes into contact with. After build-up forms, it keeps the zipper from staying together. To remove the build-up, combine soap and water in a small dish, and stir until you start to see suds form. Dip a clean rag into the soapy water and wipe down the zipper's teeth. Now, grab a fresh rag, run it under some clean water and wipe away the soapy residue from the zipper. The clean zipper should now stay together.

Broken Zippers

If the zipper slider is made out of plastic or destroyed beyond repair, you will likely need a new one. Retrieve a slider from a bag or a jacket you no longer use, or order one online.

repairing the zip on a pair of pants with pliers

But if that is not the case, simply grab a pair of pliers and repair the zipper yourself. Using your pliers, remove the little iron stopper of the top of the zipper. The iron stopper is on the same side as the slider. After the stopper is gone, remove the zipper slider. Use the pliers to bend the slider back to its original shape by gently pressing on each side of the slider. Put the slider back, and with the help of your pliers, reattach the iron stopper.

Clothing Zippers

Most jeans, jackets and coats have zippers, as well as some shirts and sweaters, so these tips may come in handy. If you are wearing a jacket when its zipper gets stuck, remain calm and take the jacket off, over your head. This will prevent further damage caused by tugging on the zipper and accidental rips. Once you have the jacket off, you use the tips above to fix the stuck zipper. And, if you have a piece of clothing with a problematic zipper, try washing it. This will remove any dirt, grime, or other objects that may be keeping your zipper from closing.

Sporting Goods Zippers

a woman outdoors in a zippered yellow jacket

It’s common to find zippers on sporting goods and camping gear such as tents, wetsuits, and golf bags. Unfortunately, these items are expensive to replace, so knowing how to care for these items and repair a problematic zipper is beneficial.

Tips for Sporting Goods Zippers

  • Keep zippers free of dirt, sand, grit, and especially salt.
  • Clean and dry zippers after every use, or at least rinse them with fresh water and dry them completely after every exposure to debris.
  • If you notice corrosion on a zipper (white film around the slider or teeth), use a combination of boiled water and white vinegar to scrub the teeth of the zipper. You can use a toothbrush to make sure you remove any salt build-up or debris and follow with a good rinse. Make sure to complete this cleaning process by lubricating the zipper.

Backpack Zippers

Many zipper problems you experience on a backpack can be solved by following the tips above. But one challenge that occurs more frequently with backpacks is when a zipper’s teeth lose its place, causing a wrinkle in the zipper. To realign the zipper's teeth, and without removing any parts of the zipper, use pliers to gently press the teeth of the zipper, until they are back in place.

the top view of a brown material backpack with a zip


1. What is the best way to fix a stuck zipper?

Stuck zippers are best remedied with the use of a lubricant. Graphite lubrication works best, including Number 2 pencils, but there are many alternatives, such as baby powder, talc powder, laundry soap, glass cleaners, or even vaseline. Apply one of these to the stuck zipper, and it should slide with ease.

2. Is it better to fix or replace a zipper?

Although there are situations that require a zipper be replaced, many times you can fix a zipper yourself. Unless the zipper is plastic or damaged beyond repair, you can attempt to fix it using the techniques listed above.

hands pulling up a zip on a pair of brown leather boots

Zippers are not items we regularly think about, but, when they become stuck or broken, it is very frustrating. Fortunately, now you have all the tips and tricks you need to fix a problematic zipper quickly and easily.

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