Updated on August 26, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
When a zipper doesn’t close on a perfectly well-made, well-fitting dress or your favorite bag, nothing can be more frustrating. Bags, shoes, skirts, dresses, blouses, pants – those zippers are everywhere. As perfect fasteners, they win hands down.
Though they are usually very resilient and work smoothly most of the time, at times zippers develop some glitches.
I know I should close the zippers before putting clothes into the washing machine but as I am always in a hurry I keep forgetting this golden rule and invariably gets those zip problems on my clothes and accessories.
Sometimes zippers slide down on their own, without any assistance from you; then the Zippers refuse to close, their teeth stop interlocking; sometimes they start getting jammed. Then when the zipper is pulled up it just refuses to move. Sometimes the zipper-pull itself comes off.
If any of this happens to my best fitting jeans I will freak out. Because replacing zipper on jeans, is a project I would not tackle on a very good day. Do not think of giving up and throwing the clothing to the garbage pile or get ready for a trip to the nearby tailor for a full zip replacement.
The scenarios described earlier – even the ever frustrating broken or jammed zippers can be repaired to an extent. But let me warn you,sometimes they are beyond these quick fixes- you will have to replace them. The metal zippers are seemingly sturdy looking but they get into problems as much as the plastic ones.
Check out this post on the different kinds of zippers you will commonly find in garments and accessories
How does a zipper work?
Before trying to repair faulty zippers, Let us first see how a zipper operates.
The zipper has two sides with teeth and both have to be in perfect alignment for it to work properly.
When you pull up the pull tab of a zipper, the slider is moved over the teeth, and the teeth on either side of the zipper interlock and creates the continuous chain. The slider is stopped at the top by a stopper -otherwise, it will come off the chain easily as it is moved up the teeth. In a separating zipper, you will have to start by joining the two separate sides of the zipper and lock it within a pin and then continue joining the teeth by pulling the pull tab. With a non-separating zipper, the ends are already joined with a stopper.
How to fix broken zipper : 10 repair solutions
1. Zipper opens all too soon
The horror of this scenario doesnot have to be described. Who wants their fly open?
The solution is a simple common sense one. The zipper pull usually has a locking mechanism that prevents it from sliding down.
Use this after closing the zipper teeth.
You will hear a small teeny weeny snapping sound when the pull is down and the zipper locking system is locked in. Now the zipper would not come open unless you pull it up and force it down.
2. Zipper is still loose ( on pants) and comes down frequently
If the zipper still comes down all too soon, Use the easy quick fix of tying the pull tab to the pant button with a small ring or a plastic band. Easy quick fix idea.
A permanent solution is to use the plier to tighten the slider on the teeth.
3. Zipper teeth separate after you zip them up
You zip it, but the garment is still open. Everything about the zipper may look beautiful as it did earlier- it is just open under the closing zipper pull. What can be more frustrating?
This is a zipper slider problem and you need to repair the slider to fix this. (The alternative is to replace the whole zip which is a lot of trouble )
This is a problem that happens with use. The slider gets worn or loose or wide apart ; a small gap in the slider is enough for the zipper to refuse to close. Consequently, the teeth will not mesh together to close the zip.
How to repair the zipper slider
There are three gaps in the zipper slider which you can adjust for fixing this problem. Side gaps on either side of the slider have to be narrowed with the plier. Then the up and down position has to be narrowed.
These gaps should be forced down with a plier for the slider to work properly. Gently coarse the slider tight. Do not make this too tight on the first try. Make a small adjustment, test the slider, then if further tightening is needed, do it
Checkout this video which shows you how to.
4. The zipper is fully separated
This problem happens on unstiched zippers, like the one in the picture below. The slider slips down opening the whole zipper into two separate teeth strips.
The two teeth now has to be inserted inside the grooves of the slider.
For that, widen the grooves on the sides of the slider with the plier. Sometimes you do not have to. Just insert the teeth carefully inside on both sides.
It is a little difficult to hold on to the zipper edges as you try to get the slider up. You can keep masking tape on the side edges (not touching the teeth at all) as pulling tabs.
First get one edge up the slider.
After this do the other side of the slider.
Now pull it up holding the masking tape. You will find it easier this way.
If the teeth does not align and if it does not close properly, you will have to use the plier to lessen the gap; do the adjustments mentioned above. After this try to get the slider up and now everything will be as it should be.
If the zipper comes off on pants or jeans, you may have to cut off the bottom edge of one zipper edge and then try to pull up the slider, as described earlier. After you have got the slider up and moving and the teeth is aligned properly, use instant glue to fix the place where you cut it out.
5. Zipper slider is broken
The slider has to be replaced.Check out the video for more on this.
6. Zipper teeth are stuck on something
Yes, this is one of the most common scenarios and usually very easy to fix. First and foremost check if it is a hair or a thread.
Hair is almost invisible so check thoroughly. May be the zipper is stuck on the side cloth or some lint.
Some swear on applying hair conditioner on the zipper teeth to make it smooth and silky (in operating). If it is tarnish from the zipper itself or someother gunk, a drop of oil smoothens it out and your zipper is sliding smoothly again.
The worst case is if the zipper teeth are not aligned properly. This is a case when you may have to take out the slider and replace it or replace the whole zipper. A trip to the tailoring shop may be imminent.
7. The zipper teeth closing slowly, with some reluctance
This may be due to the teeth getting worn or due to some friction. You may have to slightly lubricate it for smooth movement. Some candle wax or petroleum jelly or even your lip balm (colorless) can do the trick. Do this without the teeth getting clogged up in wax or whatever you decide to apply.
8. How to fix a missing zipper pull tab
If you do not have the Zipper pull tab, it is not the end of the world. A Pull is not absolutely necessary to close the zipper but it makes it easy to close.
If the pull is broken you can replace the whole slider with the pull, ofcourse. But If you do not want to replace the whole slider thing, get a metal ring or Just twist a small thin floral wire in the shape of the pull and attach. Easy peasy.
9. Zipper teeth missing
If this is in the middle of the zipper you will have to replace the whole zip. There is no way around it.
But if it is a jeans/pants and the bottom teeth is missing there is a quick fix way as mentioned in this article here. But seems like this is not permanent as, if once the teeth is pulled off there is a chance of it being pulled off again. So sooner than later, you may want to solve the problem that caused it.
10. Shorten a too long zipper or Zipper stop is loose
If you want to shorten the zipper to a length you want the process is simple – Cut the zipper to the length you want from the bottom. This will cut off the stoppers as well.
Now you need to remove the metal stoppers from the cut off piece with the plier and attach it where you want it.
Zipper stoppers are given at the top and at the end of the zippers for a reason. These are small metal bands attached to the teeth to stop the slider from sliding past these stoppers.
These metal stoppers can be easily displaced to anywhere you want with the help of the plier. Just pry their teeth open and remove and keep it where you want them; a little bit of force applied with the plier is enough to reattach the bands.
If your zipper do not have the metal stoppers, or you do not want to reattach it, you may have to use the hand sewing needle and thread to make stopping stitches at the bottom of the zippers – basically a bar tacking stitch across the zipper teeth. The sliders are called sliders for a reason. They are waiting to slide down from the zipper. These stitches will easily stop them in their place
If you have a separating zipper do not try this method. If you alter the bottom end, it will no longer separate.
How to shorten a Molded Tooth Zipper?
These zippers have incredibly strong molded teeth fused directly onto the tape of the zipper. If you want to shorten this zipper, Cut off the top portion accurately – the teeth should be numbered. If you have the kind of top stop with grooves for the teeth -good. Just slide in the teeth and tighten with a plier.
If you do not have this type of top stop, you will have to remove the teeth. Grip the teeth above the mark with a pair of pliers and pull at the teeth. It will come off. Take your top stop and squeeze it in place above the last tooth on each side.
How to Shorten a continuous coil Zipper?
You cannot pull out the teeth with this zipper – you will have to cut it out. Clip the front part of the coil in half, just stopping short of cutting the zipper tape. Take your top stop and squeeze it into place above the last tooth on each side making sure that the last piece of the coil is crimped under the top stop
Finally. if nothing works you may want to replace the whole zipper
How to replace the zipper?
First have a look at how the original zipper you want to remove is attached. Take a photo if you have a short memory. Remember everything.
Remove the zipper now carefully armed with a seam ripper, etc
You may want to hand stitch the new zipper or atleast baste it with hand stitches and then stitch it finally.
The top edge is usually folded down.
If machine sewing, a zipper foot is attached so that you can sew close to the zipper teeth. With the ordinary presser foot this is not possible.