How to Fix a Zipper That's Stuck, Broken, or Won't Pull at All
Plus, a tailor shares tips for what to do if it needs replacing altogether.
The term "zipper," named for the sound it makes, doesn't seem an appropriate moniker when the fastener itself gets stuck. The most common reason for a jammed zipper is that the interior lining of the garment is trapped between the slider (the mechanism that runs up and down) and the teeth.
The most effective solution, says Mike Roussell, owner of The Tailor Shop in Stowe, Vermont, is to push the slider down again. Applying a lubricant to the teeth will often help. A variety of household objects can fix a stuck zipper: A bit of bar soap, clear lip balm, or the point of a graphite pencil can all act as lubricants. Use one hand to keep a firm grip on the material stuck in the zipper and the other to hold the slider. Work it down one tooth at a time, resetting your grip on the material and tucking it out of the way as needed. Usually, this method is successful.
If the teeth are no longer aligned, first close the zipper; you may have to tug a bit. Then remove the metal "stops" at the top of the zipper using pliers, and take off the slide. Now you can realign the teeth manually. Put the slide back on, and reattach the top stops.
If you're not able to fix the problem with these tips, part or all of the zipper may need to be replaced. A tailor can put on a new zipper or fix a slider that has come loose from the teeth. And in the future, when preparing clothes for the washer, remove hardware like pins, buckles, close snaps, and zippers, to prevent snags and abrasion. Former wardrobe supervisor for NBC's Today show Claudia Kaneb keeps a stick of Zipper Ease Lubricant ($4.99, amazon.com) in her kit and runs it over metal zippers every time garments are dry-cleaned or every few times they're washed. "If you're pulling too hard on the zipper, you're dragging on it, and before you know it you're missing teeth," she says.