How to Fix a Zip
A broken zip can be frustrating and prematurely end the use of a beloved garment. Learn how to fix a zip with these tips.
- Washing-up liquid, petroleum jelly or a zip lubricant
- Graphite stick or HB pencil
- Cotton wool ball or cloth
- Cleaning rag
- Needle-nose pliers
- A new zip slider (optional)
If you go to zip up a jacket to find that it won't budge, or worse, there's a gaping hole where it should be fastened, don't stress. Sure, a broken zip is frustrating, but it shouldn't be cause for alarm. With the right tools and a little know-how, you can fix a broken zip at home.
To fix a zip, it helps to first know how a zip works. Here are the main components:
- The slider is the mechanism that moves along the zip's teeth and locks them together.
- The pull is the dangling fixture that you use to move the zip up and down.
- The teeth are the plastic or metal pins along the zip that fasten it together.
- The top stop and bottom stop are the plastic or metal pieces at the top and bottom of the zip that prevent the slider from moving past the ends of the zip.
Some zips have a more complex mechanism for the bottom stop, involving a retaining box on one side and an insertion pin on the other. This style is more complex than the standard bottom-stop design, so it's best not to remove these pieces to repair your zip (however, you can remove the top stops to access broken components).
Here are some common tricks for how to fix a broken zip.
If the Zip is Stuck
First, avoid yanking on the zip—this could inadvertently damage the teeth. Check to see if any materials, like fabric or thread, are stuck in the zip. Use your hands or tweezers to remove any items blocking the zip.
If there are no obvious obstructions, lubricate the teeth with a graphite stick or an HB pencil to allow the slider to freely move. Simply rub a graphite stick over the teeth around the slider and then gently wiggle the slider until it moves.
If the zip remains stuck, mix a few drops of washing-up liquid with water and apply the mixture to the zip slider and teeth using a cotton wool ball or cloth. Gently pull on the slider to see if it moves.
Petroleum jelly can also serve as a zip lubricant. Apply it sparingly along the zip teeth around the slider. You don't need more than a 5p coin-sized amount. It helps to apply the lubricant with a cotton wool ball or cotton bud. Alternatively, you could use a zip lubricant to clean and lubricate the teeth.
If the Zip Won't Fasten
Sometimes, the zip won't fasten as you pull the slider. This can happen if there are faulty teeth, a worn slider or dirty components. If this is the case, follow the steps below
- Make sure the teeth are aligned.
Start by inspecting the teeth for damage. If any teeth are bent, straighten them with your fingers (for plastic teeth) or needle-nose pliers (for metal teeth).
- Repair the slider, if needed.
If that doesn't do the trick, inspect the slider for signs of wear. With repeated use, the slider can start to gape open, which can cause the zip to break.
First, while the slider is still on the zip, check to see if both openings (each end that the teeth thread into) are the same size. If either opening is too wide, it won't be able to seal the teeth together properly. Use pliers to gently squeeze each opening back to its original size. You can also position the slider between the pliers and squeeze it inwards to compress the slider.
If you can't fix the slider while it is in place, remove the top stops by grabbing them with the pliers and giving them a hearty tug. Then, slide the slider off the zip and examine it. If the slider appears warped and you can't reshape it, you can buy a new one at a fabric store or online.
To replace the slider, thread the top teeth of both sides of the zip through the slider. Then, slide it up and down to ensure it works. Replace the top stops. For each piece, position it in its original place and then squeeze it firmly with pliers to secure it. Give it a little wiggle to make sure it's tightly fastened.
- Clean the components.
Dirt or build-up can prevent a zip from closing. Mix a few drops of washing-up liquid with water. Dip a cleaning rag into the solution and then rub it over the length of the zip on both the front and back. Then, try to move the slider.
If you're still struggling to fasten your zip or move the slider, you may have to take your garment to an alteration shop.
If Your Zip Won't Stay Closed
If your zip won't stay closed, try to fix the zip's parts with the tips above. But if you have an urgent outfit emergency, this quick fix can work temporarily. Thread a paper clip through the zip slider to act as a pull. Then, zip it to the top and latch the other side of the paper clip to the fastener. This should hold the zip in place until you can repair or replace it.
Words by Hannah Singleton