Dude your barn door is open and your letting the cows out! This was a favorite grade school joke when someone forgot to zip up their zipper on their pants. A broken or stuck zipper can make your jeans, pants, or jackets virtually useless. Most of the time people will throw away the piece of clothing before considering how easy it is to fix. Follow these quick and easy tips to fix a zipper and bring back new life into your clothing.
- needle and thread
- needle nose pliers
- pencil or candle
- seam ripper and replacement zipper (only if replacing zipper)
- sewing machine
If you zipper is merely stuck there are a few things you can do to fix it.
- First start by removing or pulling out any fabric caught in the zipper. Zippers tend to get stuck on things like jackets, sleeping bags, or pillow cases because they usually will have some fabric that overlaps the zipper.
- Take a pencil and rub the lead on the zipper’s teeth. As zippers age and become worn out they can be difficult to open and close. Lead is an excellent dry lubricant to help lubricate the surface of the teeth. If you’re piece of clothing is white or a light color I would suggest trying another lubricant like a candle as the lead can stain the fabric. The wax and oils in a candle are a very effective alternative to lubricate the teeth.
- After removing any caught fabric and applying some lubricant, work the zipper back and forth. This may require some force and patience. Once the zipper frees up make sure to apply some more lubricant where the zipper was stuck.
- Visually inspect your zipper for any broken teeth. If some teeth are missing a trick is to make sure you always open or close the zipper fast as the momentum will usually keep the teeth aligned. If a number of teeth are missing you will probably have to replace the zipper as discussed below.
Fixing a Zipper Missing Teeth
Over time a zipper may lose some teeth due to wear and tear. If the missing teeth are near the lower third of the zipper you can still repair the zipper without a visit to the dentist. If the missing teeth are near the end of the zipper (end where the slider is when the sipper is closed) I would replace the entire zipper. As you can see in the picture to the right the missing teeth, highlighted in the grey box, are near the bottom of the zipper. Follow these steps to repair a zipper missing teeth.
- This will only work on zippers that don’t need to be fully opened. It’s a perfect fix for a pair of pants with a zipper missing some teeth. If you try this on a jacket you will have put the jacket on over your head like a t-shirt.
- Do your best to align all the teeth properly around the missing teeth. If it’s necessary you can use a needle nose pliers to pull of the bumper (metal stop that prevents the slider from coming off) at the bottom of the zipper which can make aligning the teeth easier.
- Take a thread and needle and make several stitches a few teeth above the missing teeth. I’d suggest some thicker thread and several stitches as this is going to act as your new bumper.Make sure to make several stitches to firmly secure the zipper.
- If you removed the number at the bottom of the zipper to realign the teeth make sure you also place some stitches where the bumper was to firmly secure the zipper.
Replacing a Zipper
When all else fails you will have to replace the zipper. It’s an easy fix that just about anyone can do.
- Purchase a zipper at your local fabric store. Try your best to match the zipper color and length of your current zipper.
- Remove the bumper at the bottom of the zipper with a needle nose pliers. This may require some force to remove but don’t worry about damaging it as you will be completely replacing the zipper. You may want to try a screw driver or blunt butter knife if you don’t have a needle nose pliers handy.
- Working with a seam ripper, remove the stitching holding the damaged zipper in place. Once all the stitching is removed simply pull the old zipper out.
- Inspect the seams to make sure there is no damage that needs to be repaired before adding the new zipper.
- Make sure your new zipper is the same length as the old one. If it isn’t trim the new zipper down to get it to the appropriate length.
- Usually your new zipper with will come with instructions on how to install the zipper but if they don’t simply realign the new zipper and tack it into place with some bobby pins.
- The next step in replacing the broken zipper is to stitch the new zipper into place using the same stitching pattern from the zipper you’re replacing. Use a sewing machine with a zipper foot to complete this. If you’re not a great sewer, ask a friend or visit your local seamstress to attach the zipper. Learn how to use a sewing machine.
Tips When Replacing a Zipper
- Try to sew as close as possible to the end of the zipper.
- Make sure your zipper is the same length as the original zipper to prevent bulging.
- Zippers take a lot of wear and tear. If at all possible use a sewing machine for a secure stitch.
- Use a zipper with similar size teeth as the original zipper. Zippers with very tiny teeth aren’t meant to withstand pulling or stretching. If you try using a zipper with small teeth on a coat or pair of jeans they will come off track.
Following these tips to fix a broken zipper will save you a trip to the tailor and extend the life of your clothing. With a few minutes of work and a little patience you can breath new life into your wardrobe.