How to Unstick a Zipper

How to Unstick a Zipper

We use zippers on our clothes, outerwear, and bags almost every day. Sooner or later, a zipper is bound to get stuck. Sometimes it can happen at the most inconvenient of times, like when we are trying to zip up our winter coat with frozen fingers, or when we’re trying to pull on our favorite pair of jeans in the morning. Unfortunately, the struggle is real! But with a little effort and some help, we can free up and unstick our zipper in a jiffy. Don’t let a stuck zipper ruin a perfectly good garment or backpack. Also, with a little extra care, you can prevent a stuck zipper from happening again in the future. Read on for our handy guide on how to unstick a zipper and prevent sticking in the future.

Getting Your Zipper Unstuck

Zippers can get stuck for several reasons. Zippers can snag on a bit of fabric, especially on older garments. Also, one of the teeth can get out of the zipper line, causing the zipper to stick while it’s tracking. Sometimes the metal or plastic teeth can break or become a bit worn, which can also make the zipper stick. Alternatively, old zippers can accumulate dirt and debris that can also attribute to them sticking. Regardless of how your zipper ended up getting stuck, you usually can do something to save the day.

Inspect Your Zipper Track for Stuck Fabric

The first step is to inspect your zipper track for stuck fabric. If you feel that your zipper is stuck or not moving smoothly, stop pulling on it. It’s super important you stop struggling because that can make it worse. If you are wearing the garment, it’s best to remove it before inspecting it, if possible. If fabric is caught in the zipper, apply a gentle pulling movement to the fabric itself rather than tugging on the zipper.

Be especially gentle on delicate fabrics like the ones used in men's and women’s down vests. Pulling on the zipper may separate the zipper teeth. This is especially true on zipper teeth made of nylon, plastic, or anything else that isn’t metal. Slowly ease the fabric out of the zipper while gently moving the zipper along its track. Gradually slide the zipper along the zip as you gently tug the fabric, pulling either up or down to get the final release.

Rub the Zipper With the Tip of a Pencil

If your zipper is a little more stubborn than you would like, then it’s time to get out the tools. Luckily, most tools that help release a stuck zipper are easily found around the house. For starters, if you’re having trouble gripping the stuck fabric in the zipper, use a set of needle-nose pliers or tweezers to get a better grip on the fabric as you gently tug it loose.

If that doesn’t work, the next stop is a pencil. A graphite pencil tip offers the perfect amount of lubrication to the zipper mechanics to loosen a stuck zipper. Graphite is the lubricant of choice here because it’s considered the least messy household lubricant. This ensures that you don’t stain your garment. Take the pencil tip and simply rub the teeth on both sides of the zipper while trying to loosen the stuck zipper. If your garment is white, like a pair of white jeans, then be cautious not to rub the graphite into the jean.

Use Household Lubricant to Grease the Zipper

If graphite doesn’t work, you may have to bring out the heavy-duty lubricant to help grease the zipper. We have to warn you, this can get messy. Various household lubricants you can try include soap bars, petroleum jelly, lip balm, or even talc powder. It is important to consider the fabric before you apply a grease lubricant because you don’t want to risk ruining the garment. If it is a pair of women’s black jeans that are stuck, then you may want to use a riskier lubricant like petroleum jelly than if it’s something more delicate, like a silk dress. Just as you would with the graphite pencil, rub the grease along the teeth of the zipper and gently pull to try to unstick it. Usually, with a few tugs, the zip is free, and you’re good to go.

Once Your Zipper Is Unstuck

After all the drama of a stuck zipper, you might want to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, so follow these maintenance tips. Inspect the entire zipper runner to make sure there are no signs of corrosion, salt, or other dirt and debris that would cause the zipper to stick again. Though zippers are, by nature, a low-maintenance mechanism, with a little extra care, you can ensure your zippers don’t stick again.

Clean the Garment

Keeping your garment clean is going to be a big part of keeping your zippers healthy, especially if you found your zipper to have dirt, debris, corrosion, or salt damage. This is more likely if your stuck zipper is on a suitcase or backpack. Bags and backpacks are prone to collecting dirt and debris and are more likely to experience corrosion. Clean your zipper by applying some water with a spray bottle and using an old toothbrush to scrub along the teeth and zipper track to get out any dirt, debris, or sediment that may be stuck there.

You may be wondering how zippers can get stuck with salt. Actually, it’s surprisingly easy. If you live near the coastline or spend a lot of time around or near saltwater, your zipper can begin to collect salt. This is especially true for backpacks and swimsuits that have zippers. Make sure you thoroughly wash zippers that have been exposed to salty environments. If you can still see a salt buildup even after washing, it can help to try spraying or soaking the zipper in a diluted vinegar solution and scrubbing the salt off with an old toothbrush. Like most other machines, if zippers get stuff in them, they won’t work as well, so ensure that you clean your garments and bags accordingly.

Prevent Future Fabric Obstructions by Ironing

Once your garment is properly cleaned, inspect it for any loose fabric or threads that could find their way into the zipper again. Using a pair of small scissors, trim and remove any frayed threads along the fabric. Be careful not accidentally cut any threads holding the garment together! Next, iron the fabric carefully along both sides of the zipper track to ensure the cloth is lying flat and doesn’t bunch into the zipper track again in the future.

We’ve all experienced being about to run out the door and, bam, finding our zipper is stuck. With these simple tricks and tips, you should know how to unstick a zipper in no time and be sure that it’s less likely to happen again.


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