Zippers are not just a functional part of clothes, they are also a trendy and stylish design embellishment. But, a broken or stuck zipper can lead to one of life's most embarrassing moments and ruin a perfectly good garment. Learn how to fix a broken zipper and unstick a jammed zipper more easily.
How to Fix a Broken or Separated Zipper
The only tools you need to get started on the repair of a broken zipper are a pair of small needle-nosed pliers, a sewing needle, strong thread, and scissors.
- 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.)
- 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 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.
- Move the slider up to the top of the zipper, closing as many teeth as possible.
- 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.
- 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. (Always make sure the zipper pull or slider is above the spot you are making repairs.)
- 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!
- Remove the garment if possible and examine the problem.
- If there is fabric caught in the zipper, gently pull it away. Apply a pulling motion to 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 slider and gradually slide the zipper pull tab up or down for the final release. Holding the zipper slider by the body, which is closer to the zipper teeth, rather than the little pull tab will provide more power.
- If the teeth of the zipper look out of place, use your finger to smooth them back together, if possible.
- 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 aren't moving smoothly, rub the teeth with the lead of a Number 2 pencil. The "lead" is actually graphite and it 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.
You can also use a bit of WD-40 lubricant to 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.
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 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.
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.