How to Maintain, Unstick & Protect Marine Zippers

Item # X-HT-300346

Zippers on your boat are often exposed to the elements, making damage and corrosion difficult to avoid. Zipper corrosion happens when the metal components of a zipper are exposed to saltwater (or salt air) causing them to eventually break down and not function properly. Even plastic zippers will freeze up from too much salt buildup. Thankfully, you can take precautions to prevent this damage on the zippers of your biminis, dodgers, covers, cockpit cushions, life jackets and other marine applications. Keep reading to discover how to maintain and protect your zippers and learn what to do if you’re already experiencing corrosion.

The first step to combating salt damage is to rinse your zippers with fresh water after every exposure to salt or just on a regular basis to be safe. Every part of the zipper should be clear of salt, sand or any other debris — you can use an old toothbrush or a small brush to help scrub the teeth. After rinsing and cleaning your zippers, make sure to let them dry completely before folding or storing them as this can exacerbate corrosion. Even if you have plastic zippers, it’s important to regularly clean them to prevent debris from possibly interfering with the teeth or slider.

If you’ve been cleaning your zippers but find they aren’t zipping as smoothly as they used to, consider applying a zipper lubricant. Although there’s a lot of information on the internet about what to lubricate your zippers with, we recommend only using products that are marketed for zipper lubrication. Specially formulated, the ZippyCool™ Cleaning and Lubricating System will effectively clean and lubricate all types of metal, coil and plastic zippers. As one of our favorite zipper products, the first step of this system is to apply the Cleaning Fluid followed by rubbing the ZippyCool Lubricating Stick on the teeth of your zipper.

Iosso® E-Z Snap Zipper and Snap Lubricant is also a great choice for lubricating zippers. Think of zipper lubricant like sunscreen: The more often you use it the better off you’ll be. So feel free to clean and lubricate your zippers as often as you see fit for a long-lasting zipper. Simply follow the directions on each of these products to ensure you have a clean, lubricated and well-protected zipper.

If your zippers are already experiencing corrosion, you may see white film around them and notice they’re not working properly. Fortunately there are steps you can take to help keep them working smoothly. First, clean off the existing corrosion as best you can while taking precautions to prevent future corrosion. To clean a zipper with visible corrosion/salt damage, use a mixture of white vinegar and boiling fresh water along with a small brush to scrub the zipper in the affected areas. While you’re doing this, it also helps to open and close the zipper if possible to make sure you are cleaning every surface. After a thorough cleaning, you can add a protective zipper-safe lubricant (like ZippyCool) to help the zipper open and close more smoothly in the future.

To free a stuck zipper, 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. Simply spray it on the affected zipper and move the slider back and forth to distribute the product. You can also try using a lip balm or chapstick to help it move freely. Simply rub the balm around the zipper slider and teeth and move the slider back and forth to help free it. The wax in these products will help move a stuck slider.

If you apply a balm over the teeth before taking your zipper out into the open, it might attract salt, sand and other debris, causing even more problems. It can also cause a problem if you apply a zipper balm to a zipper that is exceptionally dirty or debris covered, as this can make it even harder to remove these pesky particles. You’ll want to make sure to avoid using any lubricant with silicone as it will attract debris particles.

If you follow these helpful guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to protecting your zippers for as long as you need them. No matter where you’re sailing, Sailrite® offers the best lubrication and protection products to keep your zippers in working order. Be sure to browse our website for everything zipper related! If you have any other questions, our knowledgeable customer support staff would be happy to assist you.