An ingenious invention – the zipper is something most of us use every day. One of the most versatile closures in existence – zippers hold up our pants, fasten our clothes and shoes, and keep our belongings secure in all sorts of containers. A zipper is easy and convenient to use – but what about a zipper with missing teeth, can it be fixed?
In many cases, a zipper with missing teeth will need to be replaced outright. If the missing teeth are at or near one end of the zipper – stops can be moved to make the zipper function. Different techniques can be used to fix plastic and metal zipper teeth. Zipper repair kits can also be purchased.
In this article, we will go over different ways to fix a zipper with missing teeth. We will cover specific techniques for metal and plastic zippers. As well as techniques depending on where the missing teeth are located on the zipper. Finally, we will go over different ways to fix a stuck zipper.
Can You Replace Individual Zipper Teeth?
There are three general types of zippers – zippers with teeth made from metal or molded plastic and coil zippers – constructed of a continuous monofilament coil. Each type of zipper works similarly, but a coil zipper is not considered to have teeth. We will be talking about the former two types.
There are many breaks and fixes a zipper can go through – broken teeth can be one of the most frustrating and difficult to repair. Many people – professionals included – will explain that it’s easier and a stronger fix to replace the entire zipper rather than trying to fix individual broken teeth. While there is no official method to replace teeth that have broken off of a zipper, you can try a few hacks and techniques. Different methods will have to be used for different types of zippers.
Where the broken teeth are located on the zipper makes a difference in the ease with which it can be repaired. If the missing teeth are near the top or bottom of the zipper, a pretty quick and easy fix can be done using just a needle and thread. This technique will get the zipper back in working shape but doesn’t require replacing the teeth.
How to Fix a Zipper with Missing Teeth
Having a zipper that doesn’t function properly can be extremely frustrating! Some fixes can be quick and simple – others can be more tedious and time-consuming. The first step in getting a broken zipper to function correctly is determining what type of zipper you’re working with. Next – figure out what exactly is causing it to malfunction.
Figuring out whether you have a metal or plastic zipper should be pretty obvious. Metal zippers can be made from various types of metals and finishes – aluminum or brass, most commonly. Metal zippers will generally be slightly heavier than plastic ones. Despite being lighter in weight – plastic zippers are durable and flexible. They are often worn on outerwear and heavier-weighted garments and can come in rainbow colors.
Both types of zippers – as opposed to a coil zipper – have obvious individual teeth fused to the zipper tape on either side. If you look closely at a coil zipper, you’ll see that it’s a continuous strand shaped into a spiral along the length of the tape. Coil zippers aren’t included here because they do not have teeth that can break off.
Fixing broken teeth on a zipper can be tedious – if possible. The job will be the most difficult if the broken teeth are in the middle of the zipper or if more than a couple of teeth are missing. If this is the case – it will be easiest to take the item to a tailor for replacement or simply replace the entire zipper yourself.
Below you will find specific details on how to fix metal and plastic zippers with broken teeth. Some of these methods may only work temporarily – the most permanent fix for a zipper with broken teeth is replacing the zipper.
If you find yourself with a metal zipper that isn’t working properly, you’ll need to examine it to figure out the problem. If there are teeth that have fully come off of the zipper tape, there will be a pretty obvious gap where they’re missing. Unfortunately – there is no way to replace metal zipper teeth that have come off completely. Specifically if the teeth are in the middle of the zipper – they will need to be replaced.
In some instances, it is possible for the teeth on a metal zipper to be bent or out of alignment. If this is the case, the fix can be much simpler. For example, for metal zippers with crooked or bent teeth that haven’t broken off completely – sometimes bending them back into shape can do the trick.
Use a small pair of pliers to gently bend the metal teeth into alignment. Make sure you work carefully – you don’t want to break the teeth in the process and worsen the problem. Once you’ve straightened out any bent teeth, test the zipper to see if it slides smoothly and stays locked into place once zipped.
It is also possible for metal zipper teeth to wear down over time. They aren’t necessarily broken, but this causes the zipper slider to be unable to grip and securely attach the two sides of the zipper. If your zipper isn’t catching properly – and you don’t see any bent individual teeth – you can try a quick fix using clear nail polish.
Clear nail polish can be used to paint one or two coats over the length of the zipper teeth. Be careful to avoid the slider itself – you don’t want to get polish in the slider mechanism!
You will also want to make sure that you allow the polish to dry completely before attempting to close the zipper. This extra coating on the teeth can give the slider just what it needs to hold onto. If the zipper doesn’t stay together even after being painted – it will most likely need to be replaced.
For plastic zippers with missing teeth – replacement, of course, is an option. If you don’t feel up to cutting off and sewing on a new zipper – or spending the money to have a tailor do it – plastic teeth can be replaced. But it will take some serious time, concentration, and patience. Weigh the options before embarking on the journey of replacing plastic zipper teeth by hand.
If you feel up to the challenge – here are the supplies you will need: a Xacto knife, pliers, super glue, and an unused zipper with the same size teeth. Zippers come in standard sizes, so getting the same size shouldn’t be difficult. If you are working with the main zipper on a jacket, often you can sacrifice a pocket zipper – which is much less crucial – for its teeth.
For this fix, you will be cutting out individual zipper teeth and sliding them onto the edge of the zipper tape, then carefully gluing them into place. You will need to work with extreme care – zippers are finicky and precise – you don’t want to damage any of the pieces while performing the fix.
Determine how many teeth need replacing and extract them from the unused zipper. Carefully cut around the tooth using the Xacto knife. Then – using the tip of the blade – clean out any fuzz or material left in the notch of the tooth.
Once you have the clean new tooth or teeth – using the pliers, press each tooth into the missing space on the edge of the zipper tape. Gently wiggle and slide the tooth back and forth to ensure it is perfectly spaced and in line with the other teeth. Now – you should be able to test the zipper.
If the slider zips up and the zipper stays together – the tooth is in the right place! If the zipper won’t slide or hold – work on adjusting the tooth until it works properly. Once everything is in working order – you can move on to gluing everything into place to make the fix more permanent.
With a safety or straight pin, get a tiny drop of super glue and press the pointed tip into the zipper tape at the base of the tooth. You will want to use the smallest amount possible so that no excess debris will block the slider from moving smoothly once the glue is dry.
Be sure to let the glue dry completely before testing the zipper. Super glue is a harsh chemical that can damage some fabrics – it may be a good idea to test a small drop in a discreet area before moving forward.
Using Zipper Teeth Repair Kit
Various zipper repair kits available online and at craft and fabric stores can come in handy when you need to fix a zipper. Zipper repair kits can help fix many zipper ailments – including removing teeth from a zipper – but unfortunately, attaching new teeth isn’t something they offer.
Zipper repair kits usually contain an assortment of pieces necessary for most repairs that don’t require installing new teeth. These kits include sliders, zipper pulls, U-shaped and bottom stoppers, and zipper box replacements.
Some kits will also include zipper-installing pliers and/or zipper teeth remover tools. These kits are convenient to have on hand when a zipper issue pops up. Often an easy, money-saving fix – rather than spending $30 for a professional replacement.
Missing Teeth in the Bottom of the Zipper
For zipper teeth that happen to be missing at the bottom of the zipper – thankfully, there is a fix that happens to be quite simple. This method does render a portion of the zipper unusable – essentially shortening the zipper’s length by the distance to where the teeth are missing. This fix will work on both metal and plastic zippers. As long as the zipper still has enough length to function – and for you to get in and out of your clothes – it should work.
To repair a zipper with missing teeth at the bottom, you will need a needle and thread. First – you must align the teeth and make sure that the zipper is attached. Once you have ensured that the zipper will zip up – and that both sides are aligned at the top – you can begin sewing. Basically, you will be sewing a new bottom “stopper” in place. This will keep the slider in place – prohibiting it from going past the point of the broken teeth and repeatedly becoming separated.
Starting just above the first missing tooth – sew the two sides of the zipper tape together. Sew right over any teeth that are still present – back and forth many times. You should have a pretty hefty amount of stitching – creating a durable stopping point for the slider.
In many cases – particularly if this fix is being done on the fly of a pair of pants – the stitches will essentially be invisible. If the area you will be sewing is conspicuous, though – be aware of the color thread you choose. You may also want to sew more carefully – keeping in mind that the stitching will be visible.
How to Fix a Stuck Zipper
A stuck zipper can be super frustrating. When dealing with one, it’s important to remember to take a breath – and never pull it forcefully. The first thing to check when a zipper’s resisting movement is if the surrounding fabric has gotten stuck in the slider – an all too frequent problem.
It isn’t always obvious and happens most often on the backside of the slider. If you find the slider has zipped over the fabric – remove the stuck fabric by pulling as gently as you can with your fingers. If the fabric is extra lodged in, you can get a pair of tweezers to help with the precision work.
If you just have a sticky zipper that’s tough to move up and down – with no fabric stuck in the slider – you may need to lubricate the zipper. Many household items can be used to work wonders on a zipper that sticks.
A graphite pencil can help create a smooth surface for the slider to move across. Simply rub the lead of a pencil along both sides of the teeth on both sides of the zipper. A tiny amount of dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent can also be used to smooth out a zipper track. For less of a mess – try a bar of soap instead. Other slippery substances that can work on a sticky zipper include olive or coconut oil, candle wax, and chapstick.
Little bits of fuzz and debris can easily get into a zipper slider – rendering it a nuisance anytime you go to zip up. You’ve probably never thought of a zipper as something that requires maintenance. But just like any other piece of equipment – it’ll run smoother with a bit of TLC. Zipper cleaning and lubricating kits are sold to keep all of your zippers in tip-top shape.
It’s hard to imagine a world without zippers. Count the number of times you use a zipper in a day; it will be easy to see how convenient they are to our lives. That said, we’ve all been in situations where a zipper has been beyond frustrating.
Thankfully – with patience – most zipper issues are relatively easy to solve. Even with the case of missing zipper teeth and zippers that require replacement – I think it’s safe to say zippers offer much more good than harm.