How to Maintain, Unstick & Protect Outdoor Zippers

Item # X-HT-300347

When zippers are frequently exposed to the outside elements, it can be difficult to keep them in working order. This is especially true of the well-used zippers found on your backpack, tent, travel cover, wetsuit, luggage, golf bag, etc. In addition to dirt and debris, both saltwater and salt air can take a toll on your zippers. But there's no need to fret. If you’re eager to learn more about maintaining and protecting your zippers to keep them in working order for years to come, Sailrite® is here to help.

The first step to caring for your zippers is to keep them free of dirt, grit and especially salt, as it will corrode zippers if given the chance. You’ll need to clean and dry your zippers after every use. To do this, you can shake your zippers out, wipe them down with a cloth, brush them with a clean brush or rinse them with fresh water. Rinsing your zippers with fresh water and letting them dry completely after every exposure to debris is the best way to prevent zipper corrosion. For occasionally used items like a tent or piece of luggage, make sure your zippers are completely clean and dry before storing them.

After you’ve thoroughly cleaned your zippers, it’s time to lubricate them. Think of zipper lubricant like sunscreen: The more often you use it, the better protected you’ll be. While there are many products on the market, we recommend using the ZippyCool™ Cleaning and Lubricating System. This two-step product is specially formulated for plastic and metal zippers to keep them in tip-top shape. Another great option for zipper lubrication is Iosso® E-Z Snap Zipper and Snap Lubricant. Simply follow the directions on these products to ensure you have a zipper that will perform to the best of its abilities. In general, avoid using products containing silicone on your zippers as this can further attract debris.

If your zippers are experiencing corrosion from salt, there are measures you can take. Zipper corrosion is fairly easy to spot, as salt usually builds up in a white film around the slider or teeth, causing the zipper to not slide smoothly. Use a mixture of boiling fresh water and white vinegar and scrub the teeth of the zipper with a toothbrush, removing any salt buildup or debris. You can also use warm water and a small amount of dish soap and scrub your zippers. Remember to completely rinse and dry them afterwards. Lastly, follow the steps described above to lubricate your zipper in order to keep it from freezing up again.

Found you have a stuck zipper? No problem! McLube™ Sailkote is a great choice for solving this common problem. As a dry lubricant, Sailkote has a hydrophobic clear coating which bonds to almost any clean, dry surface and will not wash away. It does not attract dirt, water or contaminants that will degrade zipper performance. In a pinch, you can also try using lip balm or chapstick to help it move freely. Simply rub the balm around the zipper teeth and the slider and move the slider back and forth. The wax in these products will help move a stuck slider.

Although it’s important to give your zippers special attention, you do need to be careful about exactly how you do it. If you apply balm or chapstick over the teeth before taking your zipper out into the open (like on a tent, backpack or bag), it will only attract dirt, dust, salt, sand and other debris, causing even more problems. It can also cause problems if you apply the wax to a zipper that is exceptionally dirty or debris covered, as this can make it more difficult to remove these pesky particles. You’ll want to make sure to only add balm or lubricant to your zippers if they are clean and away from the elements. Adding balm doesn’t have to be a daily task, as you only need to add balm if you find your zippers are getting stuck or stiff.

Now that we’ve provided a great start, you’ll be well on your way to protecting your zippers for as long as you need them! Sailrite is the ultimate one-stop shop for all things zipper-related, from cleaning fluid and lubricant to replacement tape and sliders. If you discover you still need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact a member of our excellent customer support staff for answers to all your zipper questions.