Knowing how to fix a zipper is perhaps one of the most useful fashion hacks you will ever learn. Reason being, almost every dress, jacket, skirt and pair of trousers in your wardrobe has at least one zip. But it isn't always an easy fix. In fact, broken zippers are arguably the most awkward fashion piece to repair because, the more you try and move the slider up and down (in various states of distress), the more broken the zip can often become.
While you can take a bung zipper to your local alterations shop for a replacement, if you're on your way out and your dress or bag suddenly break, you want a quick and simple solution. Plus, with many shops closed until mid-April, taking it to an expert might not even be an option so you might actually have to fix the zipper yourself.
Here, as part of our ongoing 'How to' Style Lab series, we round up the best zipper repair tricks using household items such as Vaseline, pencils and even nail polish - depending on what you have lying around.
Scroll down for easy, fast solutions to get you on your way again.
There could be multiple reasons for your zipper breaking. First, let's make sure we know the names for each part of a zip (including the teeth, slider and puller) so the instructions for how to fix it are as clear as possible:
If the zip separates or comes undone after fastening
1. Use pliers
Does your zipper seem to work properly but then, as soon as it's fastened, all the teeth come undone? I so, the problem is the slider (AKA - the piece that's meant to lock the teeth together). Over time, these sliders start to loosen and gape, which makes them less effective at fixing the teeth in place. While you can take your garment to a tailor to replace the entire zipper, there is a simple, more affordable hack you can try first (because nobody wants to fork out on a whole new zip if you can easily fix the one you already have).
While the slider is still attached to the garment, reach for a pair of pliers. The part of the slider that attaches to the puller (on the outwards facing side of the garment), is called the top plate. The part of the slider that faces in the inwards side of the garment is then called the bottom plate. Use your tweezers to pinch the top and bottom plate together to help restore the slider to its original, tighter shape. An easy way to gauge whether the pliers are working is to check that the gap between the two places (where the teeth live) is getting smaller.
Be careful not to press too hard at once as too much pressure can break the slider. The aim is to do this gradually, compressing the plates on either side of the puller until it's right.
Watch this video to see the full process:
If the slider comes off the track
2. Grab a screwdriver
If one or both sides of the slider come off the track, the zipper doesn't necessarily need replacing, the slider just needs reattaching. To do this, you first need to find the 'bottom' of the zip. The bottom of the zip is, typically, the end closest to the floor when you're wearing the garment. If you can't tell which is the right side, look for the end with a square tab of fabric after the zip finishes.
Then, feed the teeth from that end into the slider. If you need extra leverage to push the teeth into place, use a flathead screwdriver. Once the teeth are inside both sides of the slider, use the puller to move it up and down the track to lock it in place.
If the zip is stuck:
3. Use tweezers
First, check to see if there's anything caught in the zip, like another garment or even rogue fibres. If possible, remove these obstructions by hand before retrying the zip.
If, however, the stuck object still won't move, try going in with a pair of tweezers to slowly pull the blockage out of the teeth. Sometimes softly wiggling the puller up and down as you tug on the slider can also help dislodge tougher items.
4. Use a pencil or washing-up liquid
If the zip still won't move, don't lose faith. You might need to give it a little extra help. Start by using a pencil to coat the teeth surrounding the lodge with a light coating of graphite - this will act as a lubricant to help facilitate a smooth run. If that fails, try a small amount of washing up liquid, to further aid the slider move up and down the teeth.
5. Try Vaseline
If the pencil and washing up liquid don't work, or if you're worried they might stain your clothing, try Vaseline instead. Start by reaching for a cotton bud, coating the outside of the bud with a light layer of Vaseline. Then, use the cotton bud to work the jelly into the teeth surrounding the stoppage. The idea is that the Vaseline will help remove any smaller items that may be stuck in the zip.
If your zip is missing teeth:
Zippers that are missing teeth can be particularly fiddly to fix so we recommend taking your garment to a tailor to repair this specific issue. In the meantime, scroll down to see our quick fixes until you have time to get to the alterations shop.
If your zip won't stay up:
6. Use pliers
If your zip keeps falling down, it often means that the teeth have either been dislodged or worn away. Start by closely inspecting the zip itself to determine if any of the teeth are simply out are out of alignment. If so, use a set of pliers to slowly bend the rogue teeth back into position. Alternatively, if they all appear to be in the correct place, move onto the next step.
7. Try nail polish
If you suspect the teeth have worn down from too much use (yep, it happens), a trick that might work is painting the teeth with clear nail polish. This will effectively thicken the teeth which can help restore the zip to its former working glory. If you find that the zip still doesn't fasten after your first coat of polish it might be worth trying another coat or two.
Note: Make sure you allow enough time for each layer to dry properly before going in over the top with another coat, otherwise the teeth will become sticky and rough.
8. Use a paper clip
If all else fails and you can't seem to get the pesky zip to stay in place, you might need to replace the zipper entirely. Until then, a short term fix involves feeding a paper clip into this loop on the slider:
Then, hook the other side of the paper clip over the button or clasp as the top of the zipper to hold the whole thing in place.
9. Or a safety pin
Alternatively, if you have a safety pin handy, simple pin either side of the zip closed, like this:
These aren't long term solutions, but can come in super handy if your zip breaks while you're out and about or if you don't have time to get them repaired.
To prevent your zipper from breaking again, remember:
10. Don't yank it
The best way to avoid breaking your zipper is by making sure you don't use too much force to fasten it. Instead, use steady, consistent pulls to guide the sliders up and down the zip. If you have to start tugging really hard to get the puller to move, stop and reevaluate.
11. Make sure the zip is not under too much pressure
If you're trying to fasten a bag that's overflowing or jeans that are too small, it's entirely possible the zip will buckle when there's too much pressure pulling the teeth apart. The trick here is to avoid forcing the zip. When there's a significant amount of resistance sliding the zipper closed this is often a sign that, even if you manage to close it, the zip might still break. Instead, try emptying your bag, or taking your clothes to the alteration shop to see if there's any way they can make the item fit better (chances are, if the zip is too tight to fasten, the piece of clothing isn't particularly comfortable to wear either), which could hit two birds with the one stone.
And there you have it, our go-to tips and tricks for fixing a broken zipper.
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