What's the best lube for ... zippers
April 20, 2005 8:33 AM   Subscribe

There seem to be a lot of zippers in my life beyond the ones attached to my pants. What's the best way to keep them zipping and unzipping smoothly and easily?

Some of the many zippers I frequently encounter: huge ones on the soft top windows on my jeep, slightly less huge ones on rescue/emergency and climbing gear bags, heavy duty ones on motorcycle jackets, boots and gloves, and tiny annoying ones in some cold weather gear. Ideally I'd like a lube that is non-staining, fairly viscous (so it doesn't drip off or splatter) and relatively weather resistant (won't wash away in the rain on my jeep top).
posted by de void to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)

scribble on the teeth with a lead (graphite) pencil. graphite works well as a lubricant for zips!
posted by andrew cooke at 8:35 AM on April 20, 2005

I agree with andrew cooke. Locksmiths use powdered graphite to lubricate locks. It works great for metal zippers. Might be tricky on plastic ones, though.
posted by redteam at 8:51 AM on April 20, 2005

Wax also works.
posted by caddis at 8:51 AM on April 20, 2005

Jeep (AMC, Mopar) makes a lube specially for soft-tops. Check your local auto supply store or else the dealer will definitely be able to get it.

For other zippers, graphite (don't use a pencil, get the powdered graphite in a tube) or Ivory soap works well. Also, I remember my grandma used to use something that was a hard waxy substance that she would use to condition thread but worked great on stuck zippers too.
posted by maniactown at 8:58 AM on April 20, 2005

Pencil is messy. Use a crayon the color of the fabric.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:00 AM on April 20, 2005

Heh. maniactown, I bet your grandma's "hard waxy substance" was, in fact, wax.
I've used it for handmade bookmaking - you thread your needle and then pull it across one corner of your lump of wax so it cuts in and gets all coated.

My grandma always used wax for zippers, too. She used the ends of candles when no beeswax was handy. It is good because nearly invisible; it might even resist the rain on your jeep top as it is, y'know, waxy.
It is also very useful for drawers that don't open smoothly - you just rub the candle or the beeswax or whatever on the track.

Now I've said "wax" too many times and it looks funny.
posted by librarina at 9:08 AM on April 20, 2005

You can also try chap-stick. That's worked well for me on my ski jackets/vests.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:23 AM on April 20, 2005

I used to work in a backpack factory, when product was returned for repair we would use a silicone spray lubricant on the zippers. Something like this.
posted by jackmakrl at 9:33 AM on April 20, 2005

if you're using any kind of organic lubricant (wax or oil or grease) you may want to worry about performance at different temperatures (sounds like you might be ice climbing). things might get less slippy and more gooy as they get colder. if that's the case (i don't know, just wondering) i would guess there's already community lore about it.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:48 AM on April 20, 2005

posted by jackmakrl at 10:01 AM on April 20, 2005

I've kept a small block of paraffin wax in my shoeshine kit for twelve years, used it on everything from parkas to duffel bags to forty year old arctic sleeping bags. Just rub it up and down the ribs of the zipper once or twice and it usually does the trick.
posted by furtive at 10:38 AM on April 20, 2005

A bit off the topic of zipper lubes, but I used to repair backpacks and tents and lots of folks came in because the zipper was separating after being zipped up. Two quick squeezes of the zipper slider itself often solved the problem. Just one clench with a pair of pliers, front to back, on each side of the tab that holds the zipper pull was all it took to make it stop separating. You are trying to make the channel the teeth feed into just a tiny bit smaller, without squeezing so hard that a piece snaps off the slider. Focus the pliers on the end where the zipper teeth come out enmeshed.
posted by juggler at 5:57 PM on April 20, 2005

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