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Proper Care, Repair Are Key to Keeping Zip in Zippers

March 15, 1997|From Associated Press

The zipper is one of the most common fasteners known to man. Although most frequently found in clothing, zippers are also used in applications as diverse as camping gear and lawn-mower bags.

Plastic Zippers

While some plastic zippers have teeth, most are made of continuous nylon coils. As long as the coils aren't damaged, this type of zipper can usually be fixed. If the coils are pulled apart, re-zip them by simply running the slider down and then back up.

If the coils are crushed or flattened, they won't resume their shape.

Also, since they are attached to the tape by delicate stitching, they pull out easily. In either case, the only solution is to replace the zipper.

Metal Zippers

Metal zippers have individual teeth. To keep them sliding smoothly, lubricate them periodically. Rub the teeth with a dry bar of soap, a candle, paraffin or wax paper. Rubbing the zipper teeth with graphite from a pencil also works. Be sure to remove the excess lubricant, especially graphite. If the zipper becomes dirty, clean it with a toothbrush dipped into a solution of dishwashing detergent and water.

Headless Zippers

One of the most common problems with any zipper is that the slider head comes off one of the tracks of teeth.

To repair, note that there is a metal staple that acts as a stop at the lower end of the zipper. It holds the two tracks together and prevents the slider from coming off at the bottom.

To reattach the slider, turn the item inside out. Pry open the staple with needle-nose pliers or tweezers and remove it. Move the slider head all the way down the teeth to the bottom of the row and carefully thread the loose track of teeth through the open side of the slider. Work the slider head up both tracks of teeth. Then crimp the staple back in place with pliers.

Other Repairs

If the staple is damaged or missing, you can make a stop. Install the slider and zip it up. Then sew the tracks together with a zigzag stitch of heavy thread over both tracks just above the bottom teeth. The stitching must hold the teeth tightly together and should have enough loops to make the stop firm. This only works if the zipper can be permanently attached at the bottom.

If the slider on a zipper is badly bent or broken, you may avoid installing a new zipper by recycling a replacement slider of the same size from an old zipper. Remove the stops of both zippers and take off both sliders. After tracking the replacement slider, remake the stop with thread.

The tab on a slider may break or fall off. Replace it with a small paper clip threaded through the hole in the slider. For a garment, wind thread or fine yarn around the clip in a matching color. Or attach a very small key ring to the slider and tie a piece of twine or leather shoelace to make a pull cord.

New Zippers

Replacement zippers can be purchased to size at any store that carries sewing supplies. Or you can buy zippers by the yard at a sewing center.

Before you sew a new zipper in, preshrink any tape that is not 100% polyester by submerging the zipper in hot water for three minutes. Let the tape dry before pressing it flat.

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