Zippers haven’t changed much since they were first invented, and neither have the problems we all have with them. From stuck zippers to teeth that just won’t clinch, here’s how to fix all the problems you’ll run into with anything that zips.
Your zipper is stuck
When your zipper is stuck it feels like it’s getting caught on something. The zipper might not come down at all, and until you fix it you’re trapped inside your jacket.
The best way to fix this? Grab a graphite pencil and rub the pencil tip on the teeth. Try it again and it should work. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to move on to a lubricant. Windex is good because it’s not oil-based, but you can also use bar soap or lip balm.
Start with the zipper all the way up, and slowly apply the the lubricant to the teeth. Then inch the zipper down some more, reapply, and continue doing that until the zipper comes all the way down. This is especially handy to fix a zipper stuck in the fabric itself.
The teeth don’t close (or they keep popping open)
One of the most annoying problems with a zipper teeth that won’t close. The problem can result from a few different scenarios. And sometimes the above trick of using a pencil (or a bar of soap) will smooth out the teeth enough so they’ll work again.
If it doesn’t, the slider might not be working properly. First, double-check to make sure a piece of cloth or thread isn’t stuck in the zipper. Next, look at the individual teeth. If any of them are sticking out, grab a pair of pliers and move them back into place so they’re all straight.
If the teeth are straight and clean, take a look at the slider itself. Over time, the slider starts to come apart, and when that happens it stops clinching the zipper teeth together. Grab some pliers and try closing the slider together until it catches the teeth again.
If your zipper is on a pair of jeans, the solution is a little more complicated. If you can, you need to remove the metal bumper at the bottom and replace it with a stitch, or just tie it off in the middle if teeth are missing at the bottom. Unfortunately, this only really works with pants that allow you access to the bottom bumper.
If that fails, or you’re working with pants where you can’t get to the entire zipper run, you might need to replace the zipper completely. While you can do it yourself with some pliers, scissors, and thread, replacing the zipper on a pair of pants is only around $US5 ($7)-$US10 ($14) at most tailors.
The zipper won’t stay up
A common problem with pants zippers is a zipper that won’t stay up. This can lead to all types of embarrassing situations. Unfortunately, you can’t really fix this problem permanently unless you completely replace the zipper.
That said, there are two simple temporary fixes. The easiest is to slide a key ring through the zipper pull and over your pants button. This keeps the zipper up in a simple way. If you’d prefer a little more flexibility, you can also try a rubber band.
The slider broke off
If the slider comes off completely, or if it’s not closing the teeth right, then you need to replace it. To get the slider off, use some pliers. Once that’s done, reattach the new zipper slider by sliding it back onto the teeth. That’s it, you’re done.
Replacing the slider is usually pretty simple, and should take only a couple minutes of time.
The zipper pull broke off
When the pull breaks off a zipper, it makes it incredibly hard to zip the zipper up. The good news is that this is pretty much the easiest fix out there. You can turn a paperclip, a keyring, or even a telephone wire connector into a zipper pull. Just slide it through the tab on the slider et voila — you have a new zipper pull. Sure, it’s not exactly the most stylish solution, but at least you’ll be able to get in and out of your clothes.
This story was originally published in January 2013 and updated in September 2020 with updated links and images and to align with current Lifehacker style.