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Life Hacks

How To Fix a Broken Zipper at Home — No Trip To the Tailor Required!

These surprising expert tricks save you time, money and aggravation

The last thing you want to discover as you’re about to pack for a vacation is that your suitcase zipper has completely come off its tracks. Or the zipper on your favorite dress is stuck and you have to be at your niece’s wedding in an hour. Thankfully, there’s no need to head to the tailor or dry cleaner or whoever it is that specializes in zipper repair to get it fixed. Depending on the zipper issue, we have the solution. All you need to do is reach for a few household staples to get your favorite zippered items back in working order, fast.

Stuck zipper? Lubricate the teeth with candle wax

If a zipper is jammed and won’t glide when you try to zip up your jacket, pants or suitcase, there are a few household staples that you can use as lubricants to help get the zipper sliding properly again, explains celebrity stylist Samantha Brown, who has worked with Candice Bergen and Jennifer Nettles.

Her favorite: Candles! Simply rub an unlit white tea light candle over the zipper teeth — its waxes lubricate the metal so you can slide the zipper up and down without a hitch. “Just be mindful to focus the candle wax directly on the zipper both inside and out so that you don’t risk staining or marking up the fabric,” she says.

No white candles on hand? No problem! Coating the zipper teeth with petroleum jelly, lip balm or a dime-size amount of shaving cream works just as well at greasing up the area. Even the tip of a #2 pencil can be used in a pinch since graphite is a natural dry lubricant.

Broken zipper? Grab the pliers and do *this*

If you sit down in a coat or jacket and find that the zipper completely separates from the bottom upward, or if a zipper separates when trying to close a bag or suitcase, wonky zipper teeth may be to blame. First, check to see if any are bent or misshapen and use a pair of pliers to help straighten them out or realign them so they match the others, then try zipping up the item again, says Brown.

If you don’t find any problems with the teeth, it could be that the zipper’s slider has become stretched out and needs to be tightened up. Simply pinch the sides of the slider with pliers to tighten and ensure that it is catching the teeth properly when zipped up.  

If those steps still don’t fix your issue, you can try replacing the zipper slider entirely. Carefully cut off the old slider using wire cutters, then fold back the retaining box at the top of the zipper and slide a replacement slider (Buy from Amazon, $1.99) onto the teeth down to the bottom of the zipper; zip up both sides of the track as normal.

This video shows how to replace the slider fairly easily:

Lost your pull tab? Fix it fast with a paperclip

Metallic zipper pull on grey background
A Light A Glow/Shutterstock

If the little pull tab on your zipper slider breaks off or goes missing, follow Brown’s lead and simply slip a paper clip through the hole where the hardware used to be. The clip will mimic the pull perfectly.

Looking for something with a little more pizzazz? Try looping a piece of leather cording or a pretty ribbon through the tab and knotting to secure. Not only does it make your item functional again, but it also adds a little unique flair in a flash.

Looking for more fashion hacks? Try these!

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