How to Fix a Separated Zipper

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A separated zipper can turn your favorite bag, jacket or pants into worthless trash. The necessary steps for repairing a zipper depend on the extent of the damage. But you can return a zipper that has fallen off the track, has damaged teeth or other problems back to working order.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/8-teaspoon candle or crayon wax
  • Pliers (such as needle-nose)
  • Scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Utility knife
  • Keyring
  • Paper clip
  • Replacement zipper slider or zipper repair kit

Step 1: Assess the Damage

Check if any of the teeth are missing, or if the slider is broken. If so, you may need to replace the zipper or have it professionally repaired. Otherwise, continue with the repair. If the teeth are misaligned yet the zipper still zips, you can probably repair it.

Step 2: Move the Slider to the Base

Often the reason a zipper separates is that a tooth fell out of place and the slider got off track. Ease the slider back down toward the tab that holds the two sides of the zipper together.

If the slider hits a snag or refuses to move further, apply a little wax from the end of a candle or crayon and gently pull the slider through. When needed, use a pair of pliers to carefully straighten the teeth and continue maneuvering the slider on its path.

Sometimes you may need to angle the slider or wiggle the teeth of a zipper to thread it through the track of the slider body. If needed, pry the sides of the slider body apart to ease in the zipper teeth. Remember to crimp the slider body together before attempting to pull on the zipper.

Tip

  • Check if a piece of thread or another contaminant is causing the teeth to separate or set the slider off course. In that case, remove whatever is stuck in the zipper and continue pulling on the slider to make sure it works.

Step 3: Realign the Zipper

If one side of the slider is bent wide enough to thread the unattached strand of teeth back in, adjust the slider, checking that the teeth will once again mesh when zipped, and use the pliers to clamp down the bent side of the slider.

If the slider isn't bent, you may need to use the pliers to pry off the zipper's metal stop and thread the slider back onto the two sides of teeth. When the metal stop isn't visible on a pair of pants or a purse, removing a seam with a seam ripper or utility knife may be necessary to access it. You'll have to sew the seam back together after making the repair.

Tip

  • When the threads of a zipper seam unravel, check if there's enough material to sew the zipper back into place. If so, open up the seam, if necessary, and stitch it back together with the zipper reattached. If the threads have unraveled too much to attach the side of the zipper, replace the entire zipper.

Step 4: Zip It Up

Zip the slider up to the top, checking that all of the teeth mesh, and then clamp down the stop with the pliers. When the zipper doesn't easily mesh, straighten the teeth, if necessary, and apply wax from the end of a candle or crayon before moving the slider up to the top. As an alternative, a graphite pencil can also lubricate the teeth. After the end of the zipper has been removed, it may need to be sewn back together if the stop doesn't clamp down.

If the zipper pull has fallen off a handbag or jacket, it can be replaced, at least temporarily, with a paper clip or key ring. A slider that has broken off will need to be replaced with a new one, which is often included in a zipper repair kit. Remove the remnants of the original and replace them with slider. You may need to remove the zipper's bottom stop to ease on the new slider. If you need to replace the bottom stop, your repair kit usually contains this part too. A pair of pliers or wrench will likely be necessary to crimp the new bottom stop into place.

Tip

  • If you need to replace part of a zipper or the entire zipper and are unsure of the size, check the back of the zipper pull, which often has the zipper's size printed on the back.

Step 5: The Zipper Won't Stay

Sometimes a zipper slides absolutely OK, yet it won't stay closed. If that problem is on a pair of pants, you can slide a key ring through the zipper pull and hook the ring over the button.

Step 6: Consult a Professional

If you've tried numerous repairs and the zipper still isn't working, consult a tailor, shoe repair shop or a seamstress. These professionals can often replace the zipper on a pair of pants for under $20, at the time of publication. Leather items may cost considerably more, depending upon the complexity of the project.

Tip

  • If several of the teeth near the bottom of the zipper on a pair of pants have fallen out, and you don't want to replace the zipper, you can sew up that section of the enclosure and make the most out of a shorter zipper.

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