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How do I Fix a Stuck Zipper?

By Adam Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
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Almost all of us have had the frustrating experience of trying to undo a stuck zipper. Whether the teeth have separated, or a piece of fabric is caught in them, it can be quite a challenge to solve the problem. Fortunately, several good methods exist for getting a stuck zipper to move again. Sometimes it is necessary to take certain precautions, depending on how fragile the fabric is around the zipper or how valuable the garment is.

With any luck, it will be relatively simple to unstick a zipper after it gets caught. One of the best things to do first is to stop zipping as soon as it feels like something is getting stuck. Many times, the problem is that the inner lining of the garment has become caught in the zipper's teeth. If it is not too far in, simply tugging gently on the lining from the inside of the garment may be enough to dislodge it. In general, it is not a good idea to pull the zipper up or down, because doing either of those things could make the problem worse.

Sometimes a stuck zipper is much more difficult to fix. For these situations, a variety of simple home remedies have been found to be quite helpful. One of the most common of these is to apply paraffin, bar soap or candle wax to the area that has become caught in the zipper. Gently rubbing the wax in and working the zipper tab back and forth is often enough to loosen the jammed fabric. It is usually best to apply the soap or wax with a cotton swab, to make sure it gets as close to the jammed fabric as possible.

Another simple method for repairing a stuck zipper is to rub the writing end of a sharpened pencil on the teeth of the zipper where it is stuck. Doing this will apply a small amount of graphite to the area, which works as a natural lubricant to let the teeth of the zipper function more smoothly. If these methods do not work, it is sometimes beneficial to soak the garment in a solution of saltwater for a few hours before attempting to undo the jam. Failing that, a soak in vinegar or rust-removing cleaner may finally do the trick. Some find that soaking the garment in cola can loosen a stuck zipper, but this will probably not be a suitable option for more valuable articles of clothing.

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Discussion Comments
By anon995795 — On May 26, 2016

Soap worked on my purse.

By anon993972 — On Jan 03, 2016

I just rubbed pencil on a stuck LL Bean back pack zipper (stuck in the fabric), and it worked immediately. Amazing! Thank you!

By anon973318 — On Oct 10, 2014

I used needle nose pliers to pull out the cloth and rubbed soap directly on the zipper track to move a large heavy duty zipper on my large suitcase. It worked! Thanks.

By anon966773 — On Aug 21, 2014

Thank You very much for the advice. It worked after rubbing the zipper with a candle, but I used two pliers to pull it apart as this was a metal zipper on a denim jacket.

By anon960061 — On Jul 08, 2014

My purse was so completely caught and it had my train ticket in it. I've tried everything, even cutting the material and all of the lubricants. It's caught on the material inside the purse and I've got several very strong people to pull it, but it seriously will not budge!

By anon948276 — On Apr 29, 2014

I can recommend washing up liquid on a stuck zip. I read your comments then applied the smallest dab and it worked in seconds. Thank you

By anon944442 — On Apr 07, 2014

My zip had a clever locking mechanism. When the tag was pulled down to open the zip, the lock was pulled away from the zip teeth. The problem I had was that the tag was worn and the locking mechanism wasn't unlocking properly. I resolved this by superglueing the locking part in the open position.

By anon943675 — On Apr 02, 2014

The cotton swab and liquid soap worked like a charm. Thank you.

By anon942936 — On Mar 30, 2014

A much simpler method which is worth trying. It involves simply pulling the jammed piece of material in the opposite direction while pulling the zip in the closing direction!

By anon942093 — On Mar 25, 2014

I used a combination of these suggestions with great success! I first rubbed soap along the exposed teeth and tried to wiggle the zipper a little. Then I used the needle nosed pliers and had my husband pull the zipper in the opposite direction. It felt as if we were going to rip the backpack apart but only the stuck zipper came apart. Finally! Thanks for the tips!

By anon940258 — On Mar 17, 2014

Wow! I haven't worn my favorite coat in weeks because the fabric was jammed so far in there! I just tried wetting a q-tip, rubbing it in a bar of soap, rubbing it over the top of the zipper (so the soapy water drips into the zipper) and it worked immediately! Thank you!

By anon323711 — On Mar 06, 2013

I had a stuck zipper on my new aldo boots, and I tried the soap method! It worked great!

By anon319836 — On Feb 15, 2013

I tried the pencil tip on my boot zipper and it worked perfectly!

By anon276230 — On Jun 22, 2012

I'm a teacher and zippers are constantly getting stuck! The pencil idea works well.

By anon276107 — On Jun 21, 2012

My purse zipper was stuck for days and I tried putting soap on it after reading through your suggestions and it worked like a charm! Thanks so much!

By anon275075 — On Jun 15, 2012

Thanks so much for the pencil trick! It worked like magic!

By anon262287 — On Apr 19, 2012

I had a piece of plastic stuck in my zipper. After tugging on it for a while, I rubbed the graphite from a pencil on it and then gently pulled it again and it worked. Thanks for the suggestion.

By anon238713 — On Jan 04, 2012

@anon174264: The needle nose pliers suggestion worked like a charm! Thank you for this brilliant solution!

By anon199689 — On Jul 24, 2011

Bee's Knees Zipper Wax works like a charm and gets stuff unstuck!

By anon179502 — On May 24, 2011

Dish washing liquid worked for me! Mine is a heavy-duty plastic zipper (of my diving equipment bag) that I haven't opened for years. I tried soap but couldn't reach the teeth. So, I put about four drops of dish washing liquid all round it and voila!

By anon178089 — On May 20, 2011

I was very skeptic about the pencil but still gave it a try because I was desperate. It worked!

By anon174297 — On May 10, 2011

yes. try wiggling it. It works! wiggle both sides of track. and unzip. wiggle again. and unzip. and there it is!

By anon174264 — On May 09, 2011

I had very tough, ballistic nylon briefcase with a huge metal zipper that got caught in the piece of ballistic nylon that normally lays over the zipped seam. Bar soap did not work. Liquid soap did not work - at first.

Then I put needle-nose pliers (closed) into the "tunnel" created between the piece that had gotten caught and the rest of tunnel, and pushed. That created an outward force on the fabric, away from and perpendicular to the zipper line, which is something I could not do with my fingers alone. 10 seconds. Done. Thanks!

By anon170226 — On Apr 25, 2011

I have a northface backpack and the outside lining is caught in the zipper! I can't get the fabric out of the zipper! No matter how i gently tug the fabric it will not come out! I paid $140 for it and I really don't want to break it, any suggestions! Please

By anon159815 — On Mar 13, 2011

graphite worked straight away to a stuck zipper. great tip

By anon155725 — On Feb 24, 2011

The pencil method is amazing. I rate that.

By anon155166 — On Feb 22, 2011

Just used the pencil method on a stuck boot zipper that was driving me insane and it worked in less than 10 seconds! Thank you!

By anon154639 — On Feb 21, 2011

oh my goodness. bar soap worked like a charm. thank you.

By anon154180 — On Feb 20, 2011

Thank you so much! I had my bean bag stuck for a while and now i can finally open it again! Thank you, thank you.

By anon133938 — On Dec 12, 2010

What about a lace dress? there's nothing stuck in between but it's so hard to zip it up.

By anon130245 — On Nov 27, 2010

I used the bar soap method on the zipper of a new pair of boots. The zippers were getting stuck, but I could not find anything that was causing them to stick. Not caught on fabric, no broken tooth. I tried liquid soap, which did not work, but then I rubbed bar soap directly on the zippers. This worked immediately. I zipped them up and dow a few times to make sure it wasn't a temporary fix, and they slid perfectly.

By anon123442 — On Nov 01, 2010

Thank you very much for your tip regarding using liquid soap. My super-stuck zipper was plastic but the soap worked liked magic.

By anon93873 — On Jul 06, 2010

I just used liquid soap applied with a Q-tip to remove a piece of fabric stuck in a plastic suitcase zipper. Thank you for the tip!

By anon78676 — On Apr 19, 2010

i just tried the bar soap method and it worked! thank you thank you!

By anon77721 — On Apr 15, 2010

My wife's sari got stuck in the zipper of her coat and after reading the above article, I applied soap with a q-tip and it worked like a charm. Thank you. Vembar

By anon51216 — On Nov 04, 2009

what if the zipper is stuck without anything between its teeth?

By ellefagan — On Oct 23, 2009

Do not use wax, except as a last resort because it is so difficult to remove any wax that may get into the fabric, and it may leave a stain that won't budge, worse than the original zipper-sticking :-)

Pencil graphite washes out easily enough *usually.* but not always, so think before you apply anything that might ruin the fabric.

The first suggestions is best - always zip carefully, and if you can, remember to give a quick look to the zipper before zipping up to spot threads or fabric that may be an obstruction to the zip-up -- and if a zipper sticks, stopat the first hint of stuckness.

And *gently* works best, to free fabric that caught in the zipper. Often it is just a loose thread from the seam that does it. Pulling hard at the thread or stuck fabric may seriously damage the garment or the zipper.

And Anon4 is right about the difference in approach with a plastic or metal zipper.

For metal zippers, as on jeans, one dot of liquid soap is nice and safe, worked in with a cotton swab or eyebrow brush. Anything more is likely to stain the fabric, and then you won't be able wear it that day, anyway.

Go *gently* with plastic zippers and with all zippers when you try to unstuck them.

If you pull hard at stuck zippers, you may succeed only in damaging the zipper unfixable. Then the zipper will need to be replaced, or the garment is ruined.

Thanks for this "food for thought."


By anon49739 — On Oct 22, 2009

Lubricating a plastic jipper is not helpful; most zippers now are plastic rather than brass or metal.

By anon49569 — On Oct 21, 2009

Many pencils nowadays don't contain graphite.

By anon49567 — On Oct 21, 2009

putting it into vinegar won't harm the material?

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