How to Fix a Zipper

Whether you need to repair a splitting zipper, replace a zipper slider or lubricate the zipper teeth, we have easy solutions to help you fix a zipper without going to a tailor.

Close-up of unrecognizable black woman packing small travel bag in bedroom

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Overfilling a zippered bag puts undue stress on the teeth of your zipper.

Photo by: Getty Images/Grace Cary

Getty Images/Grace Cary

Overfilling a zippered bag puts undue stress on the teeth of your zipper.

Whether they're on your favorite hoodie, outerwear, suitcase, purse or camping tent, zippers often break at the most inconvenient times! Sometimes zippers break prematurely or never work quite right due to a manufacturer's defect. But for the most part, they just give out over time due to normal wear and tear.

Dirt and debris can damage a zipper, while straining a zipper due to overstuffing a bag, for example, can also cause a zipper's untimely demise. Using excessive force can cause a zipper to misalign, snag or even break off. So before you get frustrated with a zipper and start tugging away, remember that being gentle can prevent a problem. There are better ways to get your zipper working again.

Zippers often need to fixed because:

  • zipper is hard to slide
  • zipper is misaligned
  • slider falls off one side (or both sides!)
  • zipper separates
  • slider pull breaks off
  • teeth are damaged

Learning how to fix a zipper means you'll be able to extend the life of some of your favorite clothing items and reduce waste. You might find that a tailor can help you make the most difficult repairs, but many common issues can be managed with just a few simple tools and materials. Use the following guides to help you make swift zipper repairs.

You'll Need

  • needle-nose pliers
  • lubricant (graphite or WD-40)
  • tweezers
  • cotton ball (if using WD-40)

How to Fix a Splitting Zipper

Over time, the slider that draws both sides of the zipper together can loosen, causing the "bite" of the zipper to weaken. When the bite of the teeth is weak, the zipper separates with little to no effort.

  1. Use the needle-nose pliers to pinch the sides of the slider that grip the zipper
  2. The pinch should be enough to make the bite tighter, but don't over-tighten it.
  3. Continue to run the zipper up and down the garment until the slider is tight enough to keep the teeth fixed together.
Pliers are used to pinch the zipper slider and fix a broken jacket.

How to Tighten a Broken Zipper Slider

Tighten a zipper slider with needle-nose pliers if a zipper slides open too easily.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Tighten a zipper slider with needle-nose pliers if a zipper slides open too easily.

Fixing a Broken Zipper by Replacing the Slider

Replacing a slider on your zipper might be necessary if the slider falls off its track if it's broken or misaligned, or if it can't be tightened and no longer keeps the zipper teeth locked in place.

  1. Unzip the item and use needle-nose pliers to remove the zipper stop (it's located at the end where the zipper is supposed to finish its completed run).
  2. Pull the slider past the end of the zipper where you removed the stop.
  3. If your slider is still in good shape, you can now thread it back onto the zipper. Make sure the slider is facing right-side up. Put the left side of the zipper into the left opening and the right side into the right opening.
  4. Push the zipper slider back down to the base of the zipper, then reverse course and allow it to realign on the zipper teeth, clamping both sides of the zipper together again.
  5. Reinstall a new zipper stop in the same spot you removed the old one. You can purchase a tiny metal stop or create your own stop using a needle and thread.
Removing the zipper stop from jeans with a pair of pliers.

Removing a Zipper Stop from Jeans

When fixing a zipper by replacing the slider, use needle-nose pliers to remove the slider.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

When fixing a zipper by replacing the slider, use needle-nose pliers to remove the slider.

How to Free a Stuck Zipper

If your zipper is sliding reluctantly or is visibly snagged, proceed carefully and with a delicate touch. You can either free the zipper by hand or lubricate the zipper track.

  • Retract the zipper to try to free the blockage. If necessary, you might have to use your fingers or tweezers to free the obstruction.
  • If the zipper is hard to slide but isn't obstructed, you can likely fix it with some lubrication. Rub a graphite pencil on the area around the slider. Then, slide it back and forth across the pencil markings to help lubricate the slider. Also, you can put a dab of WD-40 lubricant on a cotton ball and lightly rub it onto the zipper. The lubricant will distribute into the teeth and make it easier to move the slider.
A pencil lubricates the zipper on a suitcase.

Use Graphite or WD-40 to Lubricate a Zipper Track

Use graphite or another lubricant, like WD-40, to make it easier for a tough zipper to slide open and closed.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Use graphite or another lubricant, like WD-40, to make it easier for a tough zipper to slide open and closed.

Maintaining Your Zipper

Extend the life of your zipper and keep it well-functioning by following these key practices.

  • Use a soft cloth to remove dirt. Avoid scrubbing so you don't damage the surrounding fabric.
  • Check for fraying fabric around the edges of the zipper. You can use scissors to remove loose threads or a needle and thread to repair tears in the fabric that threaten to snag the zipper.
  • Be gentle and avoid overstuffing bags. Prevent damage by avoiding excessive force and pressure when opening or closing zippers.
  • Store your garments and items with zippers unzipped. This helps to reduce tension on the zipper and its teeth.
  • Hang garments with zippers instead of folding them. Folding zippers can cause creasing and buckling around the zipper area.
hang garments with zippers

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Store your garments unzipped to prevent damage.

Photo by: Getty Images/E Murray

Getty Images/E Murray

Store your garments unzipped to prevent damage.

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