How to Fix a Broken Zipper

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Zippers are not only a functional part of clothes, they are also a trendy and stylish design embellishment. But, a broken zipper can be one of life's most embarrassing moments and ruin a perfectly good garment. Learn how to fix a broken zipper and unstick one more easily.

How to Fix a Broken or Separated Zipper

The only tools you need to get started in fixing a broken zipper are a pair of small needle-nosed pliers, a sewing needle, strong thread, and scissors.

  1. Using the pliers to get a good grip, pry off the zipper's metal 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.)
  2. Once the metal or plastic stop is removed, move the zipper slider all the way to the bottom of the zipper, below the last "teeth".
  3. Realign the zipper teeth so that they all mesh smoothly. If you can't get them to all mesh smoothly, make a note as to where there is a problem aligning the teeth.
  4. Move the slider up to the top of the zipper, closing as many teeth as possible.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 the old stop was to create a new stop made out of the thread. If the teeth of the zipper are damaged up higher on the zipper, sew the new stop just above the damage. This will shorten the length of the zipper but will make it stay closed.
  1. 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 teeth become a bit worn. But there is usually something you can do to save the day.

  1. If you begin to feel the zipper getting stuck and not moving smoothly, STOP zipping before you make it worse!
  2. Remove the garment if possible and examine the problem.
  3. If there is fabric caught in the zipper, gently pull it away. Pull at the fabric, not 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 pull and gradually slide the zipper pull up or down for the final release. Holding the zipper pull by the body, which is close to the zipper teeth, rather than the little handle will provide more power.
  4. If the teeth of the zipper look out of place, use your finger to smooth them back together.
  5. 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.

For metal zippers that don't move smoothly, rub the teeth with the lead of a Number 2 pencil. The "lead" is actually graphite and it will help lubricate the metal and help the zipper guide move more smoothly. You can also use a bit of WD-40 lubricant to make metal zippers move more smoothly. Apply carefully so prevent staining the fabric of the garment.

When All Else Fails

Sometimes, nothing will save a broken zipper.

Rather than toss 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 by pricing the cost of the zipper and the cost of paying a seamstress and/or the cost of your own time.

Keep the Zip In Your Zipper

To protect zippers and keep them working well, always close them completely and turn garments inside out before washing.