It always seems to happen to your favorite dress, jeans, jacket or purse: you go to open or close the zipper and suddenly the track separates, the slider falls off or the zipper is just plain stuck. A broken zipper is a frustrating experience for sure, but luckily it’s not a death sentence for a garment or piece of gear. “With a zipper it’s a 50-50 chance of it being something really easy to fix,” says Claire Beaumont, a clothing repair expert and educator in California. Here tips from Beaumont and other clothing experts on how to fix a zipper that came off, got stuck has separated and more.
How to fix a zipper slider that came off
If the slider has come off the zipper tape, but the zipper teeth remain intact, you can try getting the original slider back on. “It is best to start with one side of the zipper and get the slider on track one side at a time,” says Conor Lang, part of the repair team at Rugged Thread, an outdoor clothing and gear repair business based in Bend, Oregon. If it won’t go on, you may need to replace the slider, which is a repair you can do yourself (see ‘how to fix a zipper that separates’ below). “If there is damage to the zipper tape or zipper teeth you will need to replace the entire zipper for a long-term solution,” adds Lang.
Another easy way? Enlist a fork! This Reddit video shows just how easy it is
To fix a zipper that separated
If your zipper constantly separates and you don’t see any damage to the zipper teeth, it’s probably due to a worn-out slider. Your old zipper will be labeled with its type and size (it’ll say something like ‘YKK 5C’), so you can find the right size replacement slider. You can also buy a kit with multiple sliders and top stops like Zipper Rescue (Buy from Amazon, $13.95) or Gear Aid (Buy from Amazon, $14.15). Alternatively, Beaumont suggests you look to see if there are other same-size zippers on the garment. “Sometimes what I’ll do is borrow a zipper slider from a pocket, for example, and use it on the center front of a jacket,” she says.
To take off the old slider, first remove the top stopper on the male side of the zipper tape (use a pair of hobby nippers to pull it off). Slide off the old slider; then slide on a new slider, and use needle note pliers to clip the new top stop onto the zipper tape.
This video shows the process clearly:
Quick fix: Beaumont notes that sometimes you can gently pinch the slider closed with some pliers for a temporary repair, but ultimately, you’ll probably want to replace the slider.
To fix a stuck zipper
“First thing to note when fixing a stuck zipper, avoid forcing it, as this can damage the teeth,” says Lang. Instead, gently tug on both sides of the fabric just above where the zipper is stuck to relieve tension. If it doesn’t come free, Lang says to make sure no fabric is caught in the slider (If it is, gently coax it out using tweezers). “Move it up and down slowly until it’s free,” Lang advises.
Another option: Often times a zipper gets stuck due to a lack of lubrication. An easy way to lubricate is without staining your clothes? Grab a ChapStick (the wax is a lubricant) and simply rub it up and down below the zipper tracks, then gently pull the zipper up and down. To see it, and other zipper-lubricating tips in action, click on the video below:
To fix a zipper on jeans
The zipper on a pair of jeans may or may not be a DIY-able repair. “Sometimes I’ll see that the slider is just living on one side of the zipper tape because there’s been too much force pulling pants on and off,” says Beaumont. In which case, she says it just needs to be slid back on to the other side.
Another common problem? Broken or bent teeth. If they are on the bottom of the track, the fix is simple. Just grab a plier and remove one or two teeth (including the broken ones) from each side below the zipper slide. Reattach the slide in the open space then zip up. Finish by stitching the open space together, and voila! Click on the video below to watch the easy how-to in action. But note that if too many teeth are damaged farther up on the track, the zipper will need to be replaced, says Beaumont, which is likely a job for an experienced seamstress.
For even more tips of fixing things at home, click through the links below!