How To Unstick A Zipper-Easy Methods To Try Out

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Stuck zippers can be a nightmare because you only notice them when about to leave for somewhere. The good news is that a stuck zipper has a way around it. You do not have to abandon your favorite jacket or bag because of a stubborn zipper. A small bend on the zipper teeth is enough to cause trouble.

The zipper pulls, and teeth need to work together precisely to ensure successful functioning. The zipper track can be the reason why your zipper is stuck. Luckily, we have all the ideas on how to unstick a zipper on your favorite attire or bag. You can use the following suggestions to fix the stuck zipper.

Reasons why a Zipper Could be Stuck

There are 2 main reasons why a zipper could be stuck:

1) Check For a Broken Zipper

Check for a zipper

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If a zipper you have frequently been using suddenly gets stuck, there could be a problem that has nothing to do with lubrication. For example, if you used a zipper yesterday and it is stuck today, the culprit would be the zipper teeth. The zipper teeth are made of individual loops of wires meant to provide a track for the zipper to run along. Unfortunately, when there are dislocated zipper teeth, the zipper tab tends to have a hardship properly fitting into the track.

If you have noticed any irregularities with the zipper line, you do not have to get the entire zipper replaced. All you need to fix the irregularities on the zipper’s teeth is a pair of needle-nose pliers to twist the metal zippers back into place. Next, look at the orientation of the teeth and fix the rest of the teeth to their appropriate positions. Once you have fixed the teeth of the zipper, gently pull the zipper along the strip to see how it behaves. Ensure no tooth is stuck in the zipper while pulling to avoid further damage.

You want to try the zipper up and down using smooth motions, ensuring no tooth is caught in the zipper. Most zippers will be okay after a repair. However, you have to be cautious when using the zipper and be gentle with it.

2) Stuck Fabric

Stuck fabric

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Stuck fabric is one of the most common reasons for a stuck zipper. Loose threads and fabric overlapping the teeth of the zipper tend to get in between the zipper slider and the zipper. Instead of using a pair of needle-nose pliers, you should gently tug the fabric of the zipper teeth. Fabric can get stuck when a portion overlaps, which sometimes happens repeatedly.

If you notice there is fabric tugged in the zipper, stop zipping and find a way of retracting the zipper. Slowly ease the zipper in the opposite direction as the locking direction. Once you notice that the problem is repetitive, you need to iron the fabric around the zipper teeth to prevent future fabric obstructions. Pray that the pull tab does not get stuck with the surrounding fabric as you try to get the zipper on. All in all, be gentle as you can and avoid forcing the zipper-pull tab at all costs, especially if it is a metal zipper.

In most cases, a stuck fabric signifies that lubrication is needed on the zipper teeth. Here are some ways you can lubricate the zipper teeth to get the zipper moving smoothly in no time.

3) Other Reasons Why The Zipper Is Stuck

Other reasons why the zipper is stuck

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There could be other reasons why the zipper could get stuck on the tracks that you may want to look at. A broken zipper may start to get off the tracks and might not move regardless of how much you lubricate the track. If the zipper is separated, the slide could be a problem. The zipper might not hold on the track if the slider comes off. Fixing a separated zipper might require you to look at other things apart from the zipper itself.

The other reason why the zipper could be stuck is if the locking mechanism of the zipper gets damaged or becomes stuck. You might need to use a paper clip to help unlock the stuck zipper. Slat buildup leads to the zipper getting stuck at times. You can apply lemon juice to help dissolve the salt residue. If you have metal zippers and live in a coastal region, you might want to beware of rusting on the zipper.

If the zipper pull is broken, you will have difficulty pulling the zipper. What you might want to do is insert a keyring into the hole. Ensure the key ring is not larger than the hole to avoid damage to the zipper. The ring will give you a better grip on the zipper to avoid future damage.

Maybe your zipper is a bit worn out and might need replacement as a last resort.

How to Unstick a Zipper’s Teeth

There are at least 2 ways that you can unstick a zipper’s teeth. They are:

a) Zipper Lubrication 

Any lubricant can be used on stuck zippers. Here are zipper lubrication ideas you can use:

a1) Pencil Method

Pencil method

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The pencil tip can do more than you can imagine. Pencil lead or graphite pencil tip can be one of the best lubricants you can find around. Graphite slides very much and is used on many machine parts for lubrication purposes. The pencil trick is one of the surest ways to get your zipper unstuck. Soon, your sibling will conclude the dog not only ate the homework but the pencil tool.

Take a graphite pencil and rub it along the zipper teeth. A traditional wooden pencil will do. Rub the pencil until you see graphite on the tips of the teeth, as this will make the zipper slide more easily. Remember, no forcing anything to slide because the goal is not to damage the item. Once the zipper slides successfully, you want to take a towel and wipe off the remaining graphite. Remember that graphite is made of carbon and is black. The nature of graphite means it can stain a surface very easily. However, graphite will serve you well and for a long time, and the zipper track will be smooth for the next many days.

a2) Candle Wax

Candle wax

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The first thing you want to do is go for a candle that matches the color of your fabric. Once you have gotten a favorite color, it is time to go on with the repair. Take the wax and rub it along the zipper teeth. Wax contains natural oils that act as good lubricants for your stuck zipper. As a result, the teeth of the zipper will soon be smooth and easy for the zipper tab to slide through.

As the lead suggested above, the wax creates a smooth surface over which the zipper can overcome its obstacles. Beware of the wax melting when ironing the fabric because wax melts when exposed to heat. Candle wax is very accessible, and you have the option of using wax paper if you are hard-pressed for wax. Once you wax the zipper, give it a gentle tug to see if it moves smoothly.

a3) Household Lubricants or Grease

Using household lubricants

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Lubricants in the house will do a great job of releasing the zipper. Look around, and you sure will find some grease somewhere in the house. Once you do, rub the oil or grease on the zipper and see what happens next. You should expect to see the zipper get set free to run its tracks once again. The grease is meant for such problems and should make repairing the zipper easier than using other remedies.

Remember that grease can ruin a perfectly good garment. If you have no option but to use grease, you can go right ahead. Otherwise, avoid using grease on garments at all costs. A household lubricant is a great advantage because it will prevent rust where necessary, and you do not have to keep lubricating the zipper to keep it consistent.

a4) Lip Balm

lip balm

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When we talk about accessibility, we mean lip balm. When your purse zipper is broken, you only have to find a way of reaching the lip balm inside it and bringing things back on track. Lip balm is made of wax and has all the advantages of wax. The good thing about using lip balm is that you can find them in almost every shade that will match the fabric or the bag.

Just like the wax, apply the lip balm on the zipper track and gently pull the zipper to see if it moves. If the zipper pulls, then you have done it.

a5) Bar Soap

Bar soap

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Like wax, soap is a good lubricant because of the elements used to make soap, including oil. You can use both solid soap and a mild soap solution to repair the stuck zipper. Using a cotton swab, apply the dishwasher soap or the soap solution to the zipper as you gradually slide the zipper to set it free. There is a chance the zipper will get freed from the holds of friction and other things impeding the movement. Next, use a paper towel to get rid of the rest of the liquid soap to avoid staining the zipper.

Keep in mind that the next time you wash the fabric, the soap will be gone, and you will only end up with a clean fabric and a possibly stuck zipper. Therefore, the soap trick offers only a temporary fix to your zipper.

a5) Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly

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Like grease and other lubricants, petroleum jelly will do a great job releasing the zipper of the holds on the zipper track. Apply petroleum jelly on the tracks while tugging the zipper to try and set it to lose. Again, there is a great chance that the zipper will be set free. Olive oil falls into this category and will do a great job, just like the rest of the oils, glass cleaners, and wax.

Remember that petroleum jelly might not do well with all kinds of fabric and might look like a stain on the fabric when you apply it. In addition, some types of jelly might be troublesome to get off even after a wash. So read the instructions carefully before applying jelly to your fabric.

a6) Talc Powder

Using talc powder

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You can go for the baby powder if you are unsure where to find talc. If you have ever wondered why baby powder is smooth, it is made of talc. Talc is one of the earth’s softest elements, which means it can provide lubrication. Apply talc on the zipper and gradually try to pull it to see if it starts moving.

Talc is powdery and might not look good on black fabric. Also, someone might see the powder on your jacket and think you have been privately erasing kilometers of lines in the bathroom.

b) Freeing Obstructions

Freeing obstructions

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Sometimes zipper sliders get stuck because part of the cloth is caught up in it. Remember that if you pull on the zipper too hard, you run the risk of breaking the slider, shifting the teeth, or tearing the fabric. Hence, if the zipper is trapped in fabric, do not attempt to force it up or down.

Grab the cloth directly adjacent to the zipper blockage next. When attempting to gently move the slider up and down, hold the cloth tightly away from the zipper with pliers or tweezers. Additionally, holding the fabric taut while gradually moving the zipper’s slider is sometimes sufficient to release the material. If using this approach alone doesn’t solve the issue, lubrication could be required to help the slider move.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Unstick a Zipper

i) What can I use to lubricate a zipper?

In addition to manufactured lubricants, common items used to lubricate zippers include:

  • Candle wax.
  • Lip balm.
  • Olive oil.
  • Crayon.
  • Petroleum jelly.
  • Windex.
  • Soap.
  • Graphite pencil.

ii) How do you fix a separated zipper without pliers?

A zipper can get back on track as easily as gently moving the zipper up and down on the track to get it readjusted. Try a spritz of WD-40 to oil it up. If it still doesn’t budge, use a pin or needle and stick it into the zipper or along the track to get it to move or force it back together.

iii) How do you fix a stuck zipper?

If you find yourself at the losing end of a stuck zipper, reach for a bar of soap. Rub the soap over the teeth of the zipper and gently tug to make it give way. If that doesn’t work, move on to other types of lubricant, like pencil lead, glass cleaner, or petroleum jelly.

For a more permanent fix, you can try using a set of needle-tip pliers and squeezing the silver elbow firmly against the brass portion of the zipper it is resting on. Continue to use your needle nose pliers to hold the silver elbow in position while using a different set of pliers to squeeze the two tiny brass arms that are placed on either side of the silver elbow so that they are snugly compressed, securing it in place.

Final Take on How to Unstick a Zipper

You can get the final release on your zipper if you use lubricants like coconut oil, the unlikely lip balm, and other creative ways. However, your zipper is as good as you take care of it. Ensure you do not fill your bag close to the point of struggling to zip it up. Ensure you lubricate your zipper after doing laundry to avoid any rusting. The zipper area should completely dry after laundry. Avoid any form of loose thread around the zipper. However, should the zipper get stuck anyway, you have the remedies.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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