How to Unstick and Fix a Broken Zipper

Gray sweater with broken zipper being fixed

The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

A broken or stuck zipper can ruin your favorite garment. You can save your clothing item with a few supplies, a couple of tools, and a little patience. Continue reading to learn how to fix a broken zipper easily or unstick a jammed zipper.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 small needle-nosed pliers
  • 1 hand sewing needle
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 pencil

Materials

  • 1 spool of strong thread
  • 1 bar of soap
  • 1 bottle of WD-40 lubricant

Instructions

Materials and tools to fix a broken or stuck zipper

The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

How to Fix a Broken or Separated Zipper

  1. 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.)

    Pliers removing bottom stop from bottom of zipper band

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  2. 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".

    Tip

    Make a note of where any broken, missing, or damaged teeth are located and mark the area with a pin or needle.

    Pull tab brought to bottom of zipper

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  3. 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.

    Zipper teeth realigned smoothly on mesh

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  4. Reposition the Zipper Pull

    Move the slider up to the top of the zipper, closing as many teeth as possible.

    Pull tab slid up to top of zipper

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  5. 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.

    Black thread inserted into sewing needle

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  6. 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.

    Tip

    Always make sure the zipper pull or slider is above the spot you are making repairs.

    New stop created at bottom of zipper with thread

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  7. 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.

    New stop sewn with black thread above damaged teeth

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  8. Secure Thread

    When you have finished sewing, push the needle to the wrong side of the zipper, tie a knot and snip off any excess thread.

    Excess thread cut with scissors

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

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.

  1. Stop Struggling

    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.

    Stuck zipper while being pulled up

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  2. 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.

    Tip

    Hold the zipper slider by the body, which is closer to the zipper teeth, rather than the little pull tab. This will provide more power and control.

    Fabric caught in zipper being pulled away

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  3. Realign the Zipper Teeth

    If the teeth of the zipper look out of place, use your finger to smooth them back together, if possible.

    Zipper teeth smoothed out and realigned

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

  4. 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.

    Gray jacket zipped up with fabric moved away

    The Spruce / Georgia Lloyd

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

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