11 ways to fix a broken zipper - best tips and tricks

#7 is genius if your zip won't stay up!

From zippers on the back of dresses that just won't budge, to your jeans fly getting caught on the denim fabric, or the zip closure of your crossbody bag coming off the track. We've all had zip-based fashion emergencies. So knowing how to fix a zipper is perhaps one of the most useful fashion hacks you'll ever learn. And trust us, with almost every dress, jacket, skirt and pair of trousers in your wardrobe has at least one zip, it's a good trick to have up your sleeve. Nylon Zipper

11 ways to fix a broken zipper - best tips and tricks

But let's not get ahead of ourselves as it isn't always an easy fix. In fact, broken zippers are arguably the most awkward fashion piece to repair because, the more you try and move the slider up and down (in various states of distress), the more broken the zip can become.

While you can take a dodgy zipper to your local alterations shop for a replacement, if you're on your way out and your dress or bag suddenly breaks, you want a quick and simple solution. Plus, taking it to an expert means it'll cost you, so trying to fix the zipper yourself is a cost-free benefit.

Here, as part of our 'How to' Style Lab series, we round up the best zipper repair tricks using household items such as Vaseline, pencils and even nail polish – depending on what you have lying around.

First things first, let's have a little zipper anatomy lesson. If you know what each part of the zipper is called, it'll be easier to fix your zipper problem. Or at least ensure the instructions for fixing are as clear as possible. Use the diagram below to familiarise yourself with the teeth, slider and puller.

It's not rocket science, so without further ado let's move on to those easy, fast solutions to fix a zipper and get you on your way again.

Does your zipper seem to work properly but then, as soon as it's fastened, all the teeth come undone? If so, the problem is the slider (AKA – the piece that's meant to lock the teeth together). Over time, these sliders start to loosen and gape, which makes them less effective at fixing the teeth in place. While you can take your garment to a tailor to replace the entire zipper, there is a simple, more affordable hack you can try first (because nobody wants to fork out on a whole new zip if you can easily fix the one you already have).

While the slider is still attached to the garment, reach for a pair of pliers. The part of the slider that attaches to the puller (on the outwards facing side of the garment), is called the top plate. The part of the slider that faces the inwards side of the garment is then called the bottom plate. Use your pliers to pinch the top and bottom plate together to help restore the slider to its original, tighter shape. An easy way to gauge whether the pliers are working is to check that the gap between the two places (where the teeth live) is getting smaller.

Be careful not to press too hard as too much pressure can break the slider. The aim is to do this gradually, compressing the plates on either side of the puller until it's nice and tight.

If one or both sides of the slider come off the track, the zipper doesn't necessarily need replacing, the slider just needs reattaching. To do this, find the 'bottom' of the zip. The part that is, typically, the end closest to the floor when you're wearing the garment. If you can't tell which is the right way up, look for the end with a square tab of fabric after the zip finishes.

Then, feed the teeth from that end into the slider. If you need extra leverage to push the teeth into place, use a flathead screwdriver. Once the teeth are inside both sides of the slider, use the puller to move it up and down the track to lock it in place.

First, check to see if there's anything caught in the zip, like the lining of the garment or rogue fibres. If possible, remove these obstructions by hand before retrying the zip.

If, however, the stuck object won't move, try going in with a pair of tweezers to slowly pull the blockage out of the teeth. Sometimes softly wiggling the puller up and down as you tug on the slider can also help dislodge tougher items.

If the zip still won't budge, don't lose faith. You might need to give it a little extra help. Start by using a pencil to coat the teeth surrounding the lodge with a light coating of graphite – this will act as a lubricant to help facilitate a smooth run. If that fails, and you can easily wash the garment afterwards, try a small amount of washing up liquid, to further aid the slider to move up and down the teeth.

If the pencil and washing up liquid don't work, or if you're worried they might stain your clothing, try Vaseline instead. Start by reaching for a cotton bud, coating the outside of the bud with a light layer of Vaseline. Then, use the cotton bud to work the jelly into the teeth surrounding the stoppage. The idea is that the Vaseline will help remove any smaller items that may be stuck in the zip.

If your zip keeps falling down, it often means that the teeth have either been dislodged or worn away. Start by closely inspecting the zip itself to determine if any of the teeth are simply out of alignment. If so, use a set of pliers to slowly bend the rogue teeth back into position. Alternatively, if they all appear to be in the correct place, move on to the next step.

If you suspect the teeth have worn down from too much use (yep, it happens), a trick that might work is painting the teeth with clear nail polish. This will effectively thicken the teeth which can help restore the zip to its former working glory. If you find that the zip still doesn't fasten after your first coat of polish it might be worth trying another coat or two.

Note: Make sure you allow enough time for each layer to dry properly before trying the zip or going in with another coat, otherwise the teeth will become sticky and rough!

Zippers that are missing teeth can be particularly fiddly to fix so we recommend taking your garment to a tailor to repair this specific issue. In the meantime, scroll down to see our quick fixes until you have time to get to the alterations shop.

If all else fails and you can't seem to get the pesky zip to stay in place, you might need to replace the zipper entirely. Until then, a short-term fix involves feeding a paper clip into this loop on the slider:

Then, hook the other side of the paper clip over the button or clasp at the top of the zipper to hold the whole thing in place.

Alternatively, if you have a safety pin handy, simply pin either side of the zip closed, like this:

These aren't long-term solutions but can come in super handy if your zip breaks while you're out and about or if you don't have time to get them repaired.

The best way to avoid breaking your zipper is by making sure you don't use too much force to fasten it. Instead, use steady, consistent pulls to guide the sliders up and down the zip. If you have to start tugging really hard to get the puller to move, stop and reevaluate.

If you're trying to fasten a bag that's overflowing, it's entirely possible the zip will buckle when there's too much pressure pulling the teeth apart. The trick here is to avoid forcing the zip. When there's a significant amount of resistance sliding the zipper closed this is often a sign that, even if you manage to close it, the zip might still break. Instead, try emptying your bag, or taking your clothes to a tailor to see if they can alter the item to create a better fit (a great, sustainable approach to giving old clothes in your wardrobe that are no longer comfortable a new lease of life), which could hit two birds with the one stone.

And there you have it, our go-to tips and tricks for fixing a broken zipper.

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11 ways to fix a broken zipper - best tips and tricks

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