How to Fix a Zipper That is Stuck in Fabric

A zipper is bound to malfunction at some point.

Our lives may be radically different, but millions of people have experienced the same mild annoyance at some point: fabric stuck in a zipper. It's too easy to get a zipper caught in the fabric of your jeans, purse, backpack, sleeping bag or whatever else you own that zips. There are a few tricks to try that might release the fabric without damaging anything. The key is to take this nice and slow no matter how irritated or hurried you might be in order to prevent further damage.

Fixing Fabric Stuck in a Zipper

When a zipper stops working, it's often because the teeth have snagged on a bit of the surrounding fabric. Pulling too hard on the zipper may cause the slider to break, the teeth to become misaligned or the fabric to become damaged. So, whatever you do, don't try to force the zipper up and down when it's stuck in fabric.

First, if you're wearing the garment that's stuck, take it off if possible. Next, grasp the fabric right next to the zipper obstruction. Use pliers or tweezers to hold the fabric tightly away from the zipper while you try gently moving the slider up and down.

Sometimes, holding the fabric taut and slowly working the zipper's slider is enough to release the fabric. If this strategy alone isn't enough to fix the problem, some lubrication may be necessary to encourage the slider to move.

Greasing the Zipper

A number of household products can be used to grease a stubborn zipper. The easiest one to try is a graphite pencil. Rub the pencil lead over the teeth of the stuck zipper, front and back and covering the entire stuck area. Then, grip the fabric again and try sliding the zipper up and down.

If you don't have a graphite pencil or if it didn't work to loosen the jam, other lubrication options include bar soap or dishwashing soap, plain lip balm and candle wax. Oil, such as olive oil, will also work as a lubricant but may soak into the fabric and cause a noticeable stain. Don't use oil unless you're OK with that possibility.

More Fixes for Stuck Zippers

Sometimes, fabric stuck in a zipper is jammed between the teeth too thoroughly for these simple fixes to work. In that case, depending on the garment and its value to you, taking it to a tailor is your next best move. If he can't release the fabric without damaging the zipper, he can at least easily replace the zipper.

Alternatively, take a pair of sharp manicure scissors or small craft scissors and cut away the fabric stuck in the zipper. This may leave a hole in the fabric that needs to be mended, but it should help free the zipper.

When you finally get the fabric unstuck from the zipper's teeth, keep in mind that it may be bunched in a way that means it will get stuck again the next time you zip past it. (If you've ever bitten the inside of your cheek and then kept accidentally biting that swollen spot, you can see how this happens.) Try ironing the fabric around the zipper to make it lay flat.

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