How to Fix a Zipper

Product Care

A broken zipper can be frustrating and prematurely end the use of a beloved garment. Learn how to fix a zipper with these tips.

Last updated: October 31, 2022
5 min read
How to Fix a Zipper
Time Required
10 min
Estimated Cost


  • Dish soap, petroleum jelly or a zipper lubricant


  • Graphite stick or No. 2 pencil
  • Tweezer
  • Cotton ball or cloth
  • Cleaning rag
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • A new zipper slider (optional)

If you go to zip up a jacket to find that it won’t budge, or worse, there’s a gaping hole where it should be fastened, don’t stress. Sure, a broken zipper is frustrating, but it shouldn’t be cause for alarm. With the right tools and a little know-how, you can fix a broken zipper at home.

To fix a zipper, it helps to first know how a zipper works. Here are the main components:

  • The slider is the mechanism that moves along the zipper’s teeth and locks them together.
  • The pull is the dangling fixture that you use to move the zipper up and down.
  • The teeth are the plastic or metal pins along the zipper that fasten it together.
  • The top stop and bottom stop are the plastic or metal pieces at the top and bottom of the zipper that prevent the slider from moving past the ends of the zipper.

Some zippers have a more complex mechanism for the bottom stop, involving a retaining box on one side and an insertion pin on the opposite. This style is more complex than the standard bottom-stop design, so it’s best not to remove these pieces to repair your zipper (however, you can remove the top stops to access broken components).

Here are some common tricks for how to fix a broken zipper.

How to Fix a Zipper

If the Zipper Is Stuck

First, avoid yanking on the zipper — this could inadvertently damage the teeth. Check to see if any materials, like fabric or thread, are stuck in the zipper. Use your hands or tweezers to remove any items blocking the zipper.

If there are no obvious obstructions, lubricate the teeth with a graphite stick or No. 2 pencil to allow the slider to freely move. Simply rub a graphite stick over the teeth around the slider and then gently wiggle the slider until it moves.

If the zipper remains stuck, mix a few drops of dish soap with water and apply the mixture to the zipper slider and teeth using a cotton ball or cloth. Gently pull on the slider to see if it moves.

Petroleum jelly can also serve as a zipper lubricant. Sparingly apply it along the zipper teeth around the slider. You don’t need more than a dime-sized amount. It helps to apply the lubricant with a cotton ball or cotton swab. Alternatively, you could use a zipper lubricant to clean and lubricate the teeth.

How to Fix a Zipper

If the Zipper Won’t Fasten

Sometimes, the zipper won’t fasten as you pull the slider. This can happen if there are faulty teeth, a worn slider or dirty components. If this is the case, follow the steps below

  1. Make Sure the Teeth Are Aligned.
    Start by inspecting the teeth for damage. If any teeth are bent, straighten them with your fingers (for plastic teeth) or needle-nose pliers (for metal teeth).
  2. Repair the Slider, if Needed.
    If that doesn’t do the trick, inspect the slider for signs of wear. With repeated use, the slider can start to gape open, which can cause the zipper to break.

    First, while the slider is still on the zipper, check to see if both openings (each end that the teeth thread into) are the same size. If either opening is too wide, it won’t be able to properly seal the teeth together. Use pliers to gently squeeze each opening back to its original size. You can also position the slider between the pliers and squeeze it inward to compress the slider.

    If you can’t fix the slider while it is in place, remove the top stops by grabbing them with the pliers and giving them a hearty tug. Then, slide the slider off the zipper and examine it. If the slider appears warped and you can’t reshape it, you can buy a new one at a fabric store or online.

    To replace the slider, thread the top teeth of both sides of the zipper through the slider. Then, slide it up and down to ensure it works. Replace the top stops. For each piece, position it in its original place and then firmly squeeze it with pliers to secure it. Give it a little wiggle to make sure it’s tightly fastened.
  3. Clean the Components.
    Dirt or buildup can prevent a zipper from closing. Combine a few drops of dish soap with water. Dip a cleaning rag into the solution and then rub it over the length of the zipper on both the front and back. Then, try to move the slider.

    If you’re still struggling to fasten your zipper or move the slider, you may have to take your garment to an alteration shop.
How to Fix a Zipper

If Your Zipper Won’t Stay Closed

If your zipper won’t stay closed, try to fix the zipper parts with the tips above. But if you have an urgent outfit emergency, this quick fix can work temporarily. Thread a paper clip through the zipper slider to act as a pull. Then, zip it to the top and latch the other side of the paper clip to the fastener. This should hold the zipper in place until you can repair or replace it.

Words by Hannah Singleton

Originally published: October 25, 2022

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