A broken or stuck zipper can ruin your favorite garment. If you want to learn how to fix a zipper that separates or comes off on one side, you can save your clothing item with a few supplies, a couple of tools, and a little patience.
How do you get a zipper back on track? A zipper can get back on track as easy as gently moving the zipper up and down on the track to get it readjusted. Try a spritz of WD-40 to oil it up. If it still doesn't budge, use a pin or needle and stick it into the zipper or along the track to get it to move or force it back together.
Continue reading to learn how to fix a zipper slider easily or unstick a jammed zipper on jeans, pants, a backpack, a bag, or more.
Equipment / Tools
- 1 small needle-nosed pliers
- 1 hand sewing needle
- 1 pair of scissors
- 1 pencil
- 1 spool of strong thread
- 1 bar of soap
- 1 bottle of WD-40 lubricant
How to Fix a Broken or Separated Zipper
Remove the Bottom Stop from the Zipper
Using the pliers to get a good grip, pry off the zipper's bottom stop or the little band of metal or plastic at the bottom of the zipper teeth. (If you don't have pliers, you can usually pry it off with a flat head screwdriver or the end of a kitchen knife.)
Position the Zipper Pull
Once the metal or plastic stop is removed, use the pull tab to move the zipper slider all the way to the bottom of the zipper, below the last "teeth".
Realign the Zipper Teeth
Realign the zipper teeth so that they all mesh smoothly. If you can't get them to all mesh smoothly, mark the spot where there is a problem aligning the teeth. The teeth may be damaged at that spot and will never align properly.
Reposition the Zipper Pull
Move the slider up to the top of the zipper, closing as many teeth as possible.
Thread the Sewing Needle
Thread the sewing needle with heavy thread or fine-weight monofilament fishing line and tie a knot at the end. If you don't have heavy (buttonhole) thread, double the thread and then tie the knot at the end of both strands.
Create a New Zipper Stop
Pull the thread up through the zipper leaving the knot on the wrong side of the zipper. Make six or seven stitches across the bottom of the zipper where you removed the old stop to create a new stop made out of the thread.
Repair Above Damaged Teeth
If the teeth of the zipper are damaged higher on the zipper, move the pull slider above the damaged area and sew the new stop just above the damaged teeth. This will shorten the length of the zipper but will make it stay closed. You may need to whipstitch over the lower part of the zipper teeth to keep the zipper from gaping open.
When you have finished sewing, push the needle to the wrong side of the zipper, tie a knot and snip off any excess thread.
How to Unstick a Zipper
Zippers can get stuck for several reasons. They may snag on a bit of fabric or one of the teeth gets out of line or the metal or plastic teeth break or become a bit worn. But there is usually something you can do to save the day.
If you begin to feel the zipper getting stuck and not moving smoothly, STOP zipping before you make it worse! If you are wearing the garment, Remove it if possible and examine the problem.
Slowly Retract the Fabric
If there is fabric caught in the zipper, gently pull it away. Apply a pulling motion to the fabric, not the zipper. Use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to get a better grip.
Do not pull on the zipper. Pulling on the zipper may separate the teeth, especially on zippers with plastic or nylon teeth. Slowly ease the fabric out of the zipper slider and gradually slide the zipper pull tab up or down for the final release.
Realign the Zipper Teeth
If the teeth of the zipper look out of place, use your finger to smooth them back together, if possible.
Inspect the Zipper and Garment
Before rezipping, check along the zipper to be sure that the fabric is moved away from the zipper and that any loose threads have been removed.
When All Else Fails
Sometimes, nothing will save a broken zipper. Rather than tossing the garment, replace the zipper yourself or hire a seamstress to help you. This is especially worthwhile if the garment is expensive. Weigh the cost of replacement vs. tossing the garment by pricing the cost of the zipper, the cost of paying a seamstress, and/or the cost of your own time.
Tips to Keep the Zip in Your Zipper
- Proper storage: To protect zippers and keep them working well, always close them completely and turn garments inside out before washing them.
- Graphite pencil trick: For metal zippers that aren't moving smoothly, rub the teeth with the lead of a No. 2 pencil. The "lead" is graphite and will help lubricate the metal teeth and help the zipper slider move more smoothly. Rubbing the zipper teeth with a bar of soap will do the same thing.
- Lubricate with WD-40: WD-40 lubricant can help metal zippers move more smoothly. Spray the lubricant on a cotton swab and apply it carefully to prevent staining the fabric of the garment.
- Use a fork: A fork is helpful for temporarily getting a zipper back on a garment that has entirely separated from the garment. Using this method, you will get the teeth to mesh together, but the moment you unzip it, the zipper will come off again.