How to repair a ZIPPER : 10 zip problems & solutions for fixing them

Solution to different types of zipper problems like repairing a broken slider, shortening a too long slider

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. 

zipper problems solutions

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? 

how to fix a zipper on jeans - just press it down to lock it

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. 

keep the zipper lock down at all times to prevent it opening accidentally

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

zip 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. 

zip repair when the zipper is fully separated

The two teeth now has to be inserted inside the grooves of the slider.

zipper repaired by inserting the slider through the zipper teeth

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.

fix zipper problems

After this do the other side of the slider. 

fix zipper problems

Now pull it up holding the masking tape. You will find it easier this way.

solve zipper glitches

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.

zipper is stuck on tarnish - put a little oil on the exact spot with a q tip or something.

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

zipper end repair

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.

remove the zipper ends with a plier to repair a long zipper

Now you need to remove the metal stoppers from the cut off piece with the plier and attach it where you want it.

fix a zipper which is too long by changing the place of the zipper end and cutting off the extra

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.

Related posts : 15 Different types of zippers ; You may want to have a look at the posts on sewing pant fly zipper ; sewing zippers; sewing invisible zippersewing exposed zipper.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

18 thoughts on “How to repair a ZIPPER : 10 zip problems & solutions for fixing them”

  1. This was great! I have an expensive pair of dressage riding boots and got “stuck” in the right boot. I took them home and cleaned them expecting to have to go to the cobbler. I stumbled across this article and tried the W-D 40 and then followed up after watching the video, by gently tightening the lower portion of the zipper pull. I had little faith it would work, but wahlah! The zipper is working great again. Thank you!

  2. Your article here online was very helpful to me today, and I greatly appreciate it. Zipper on Levis pulled all the way up, and yet none of the teeth had meshed. It was what you wrote here (that I found through a Google search) that gave me the key information I needed, saved me from having to read anything further, and, at least at the moment anyway, the zipper is zipped!

  3. My grandson was unzipping a jacket when he managed to get one side (the one that gets inserted into the slider) seven inches lower than the other side. It zips and unzips the rest of the way and all the teeth catch. Any thoughts?

  4. My zipper in my suitcase was not sewed close enough to the edge of the case , it opens up about 6 inches and I need to fix it . What is the best adhesive to use?

  5. Thank you so much – tip #3 saved my trousers! (and saved me having to try replacing either the zip or the trousers). Much appreciated

  6. i have a new pair of shorts and the zipper when i have them on and sit the zipper pulls apart under the puller right down to the bottom stop. so i pull the puller right down to the stopper thinking i have closed all the teeth, pull the puller up 2inches and test to pull apart the teeth from under the puller down to the stopper. they don’t come open, so i put the shorts on again sit down and no problem, i get up walk around, and go sit, THEN IT IS OPEN AGAIN UNDER THE PULLER DOWN TO THE STOPPER !!!!!!!!!!

  7. Great suggestions! Unfortunately, my coil zippered jacket looks like it will need a new zipper, or become a pull-over. Thank you for such a useful post.

  8. I’m disassembling a small project so I can use the zipper for something else. I accidently pulled the zipper pull off of the tape and can’t get it back on. Any advice? The bottom of the zipper is enclosed and I am trying to put the pull on at the top. The tape is completely closed and functional otherwise.

  9. What about a double zipper when the stop was misfed. I can’t get it to move. If I struggle, I can get the zipper to separate but still can’t move the zipper foot.

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