How to Unstick and Fix a Broken Zipper

Use Graphite to Lubricate the Zipper


Zippers are great for keeping your clothes closed, but they can also break down over time. A broken zipper can be an annoying problem that makes it difficult to wear favorite clothing items. Luckily, there are several ways to fix a stuck zipper without replacing it or throwing out the item of clothing. 

With a few tools and some creativity, you can fix zipper problems ranging from a stuck zipper, broken zippers, stuck zippers, and any other problem related to the zipper.

What You’ll Need

  • Strong thread
  • Bar of soap
  • WD-40 lubricant
  • Small needle-nosed pliers
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Scissors
  • Graphite Pencil
  • Small flathead screwdriver

How to Fix a Stuck Zipper

Use Graphite to Lubricate the Zipper

Use a graphite pencil to lubricate the zipper. Graphite is a dry lubricant that can act as an alternative to liquid lubricants like WD-40. To use graphite, put some on a cotton ball or paper towel and wipe it along the troublesome part of the zipper. Work the zipper up and down. Before moving on, wipe away any excess graphite, so it doesn’t get transferred to other clothing items when the zipper is closed.

Use Graphite to Lubricate the Zipper
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Apply Laundry Soap and Wax

When the graphite pencil doesn’t work, don’t add more graphite; instead, add a dab of laundry soap to your stuck zipper. The soap will add an extra level of lubrication that will help unstick the zipper. 

Apply Laundry Soap and Wax
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You can also use lubricating substances such as chapstick and lip balm to fix your zipper. If you don’t have any on hand, try a little unscented block of paraffin wax from a candle instead. If you’re worried about these lubricants staining your fabric, you can turn to petroleum jelly. 

Add a fingertip’s worth of petroleum jelly to the teeth of the zipper and gently rub it in – but only on the side facing your clothing or fabric. This will add a little extra oomph to the graphite’s powers and make sure that your clothes stay stain-free.

Wash Your Item and Add More Lubricant

After the zipper seems to be moving more smoothly, you’ll probably want to clean your clothing or bag. Wash it as directed on the tag and add a little lubricant right after or while it’s still wet. This way, just like chapstick on a zipper, the petroleum jelly will transfer itself from the fabric itself to the zipper.

How to Fix a Broken Zipper

Remove the Zipper Stop

For you to get the slider back on track, you’ll need to remove the zipper’s stop at the top. You can gently pull it off with your fingers and put a new one on if necessary after you have fixed the slider. 

Remove the Zipper Stop
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On the other hand, you can use pliers to get a good grip by prying off the zipper’s bottom stop or the little band of metal or plastic at the bottom of the zipper teeth. Use the pliers to slightly stretch the openings of the metal stoppers and wiggle them free. You can also use a flathead screwdriver if you don’t have pliers.

Position the Zipper Pull

Before you try to fix a broken zipper, look at it from the front and determine which way it should move. The stoppers that hold the pull open should face away from each other when the slider is fully closed. You might have to loosen or remove clothing from one side of the zipper if you can’t see a difference between closed and half-closed.

Once you’ve removed the metal or plastic, stop, use the pull tab to move the zipper slider back and forth. If it doesn’t move easily, spray the zipper with a lubricant. Lubricants can make an old zipper function like new, but they won’t work if the teeth are worn out or bent.

Adjust the Slider and Rearrange the Teeth

Realign the zipper teeth so that they all mesh smoothly. If you can’t mesh them, mark the spot where there is a problem aligning the teeth. After that, reposition the zipper pull by moving the slider to that spot.

Thread the Sewing Needle

Using your sewing machine, thread the sewing needle with heavy-duty thread and tie a knot at the tail of the thread. If your zipper doesn’t have teeth on both sides, you’ll need to sew it with two separate needles.

To keep the stitches as small as possible, move slowly. Insert one threaded needle into each stitch along the length of the zipper. Remove the sewing from the machine, leaving about an inch of thread on each side.

Create a New Zipper Stop

Pull the thread up through the zipper, leaving the knot on the top surface. Add another zigzag stitch to secure the stop. You can make six or seven stitches across the bottom of the zipper where you’ve removed the old zipper stop to create a new zipper stop made out of the thread.

Zippers With Teeth on Both Sides

Replace the slider by repositioning it over both sides of the original tape. Using a sewing machine, move slowly and sew a few stitches along each side to create a new zipper stop between the teeth. Pinch the metal stop on the same side as the old slider with needle nose pliers or tweezers. 

Use one hand to hold it steady while pulling the slider off with your other hand. Slide the new replacement slider onto both sides of the tape before pinching and removing any excess tape. Make sure that each piece of tape is flush against its neighbor when you are done.

Take Off the Bottom Stop to Repair the Missing Teeth

To deal with the missing bottom teeth, you have to remove the old bottom stop. Hold your cloth firmly and pull the stops off. After that, remove the tack at the base of the zipper using a seam ripper. This is very important because you need to fix all the zipper’s teeth before your zipper works correctly.

Repair Above Damaged Teeth

You can also replace a zipper slider above one of the damaged teeth. This is perfect for when you cannot find replacement teeth at the same size as your other teeth or if it’s too much work to re-sew over the existing holes. Use this method only when there are no missing teeth below the location of the break.

Pinching the zipper tape on either side of the break with a pair of pliers will hold it in place while you work. Unzip your zipper all the way to expose the teeth. Thread the needle with about an inch of thread and tie a knot on each end of the thread.

 Sew each stitch between two teeth, removing any slack in your thread after each pull. Make sure you whipstitch the lower part of the zipper teeth to keep the zipper from gaping open.

Use Paper Clip

A paper clip can be used in lieu of a needle and thread. While it won’t look quite as nice, this method is easier and faster than the sewing method and will probably work in a pinch when you don’t have a needle and thread handy.

Use a Key Ring to Secure Slipping Pants Zipper Pull

Slipping pants zippers are one of the frustrating types of zipper problems. To create a temporary fix, salvage it by attaching a key ring onto your zipper pull. Feed one end of the key ring through the hole in the tab and attach it with another small key ring or paper clip.

How to Prevent Your Zipper from Breaking Again

Don’t Yank it

The best way to avoid breaking your zipper is to ensure you apply too much force to it as you use it. Instead, use steady and consistent pulls to guide the sliders up and down the teeth instead of using sharp, jerky movements.

Keep it Clean

Keeping your zipper clean will ensure that the slider doesn’t get stuck on grime or any strands of fabric that might accumulate in its teeth. If your zipper gets jammed up with gunk, you’re much more likely to yank at it and cause it to break.

Make Sure the Zip is Not Under Too Much Pressure

If you’re fastening a bag that’s overflowing or jeans that are too small, the entire zip will buckle when there is too much pressure pulling the teeth apart.

FAQs on How to Unstick and Fix a Broken Zipper

How do you lubricate a zipper?

Before you pull the zipper down, lightly lubricate it with a bit of wax or bar soap to make sure the slider moves smoothly. Another good idea is to zip up your jacket after applying some beeswax to it.

How do you fix a stuck tooth on a metal zipper?

To solve the problem with one broken tooth in a metal zipper, try remedying it with a pair of pliers and rocking the tooth back and forth while pulling on the zipper.

Final Thought on How to Unstick and Fix a Broken Zipper

As you can see, unsticking and fixing a broken zipper can be achieved in a number of ways, and you don’t need to take your jacket and pants to a store for expensive repairs. With the right tools and items, you can always go back to using them again with no hassles.



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