Keep Zippers Working

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2012 • all rights reserved

Nothing is more frustrating than a stuck zipper -- instead of figuring out how to unstick it, prevent the problem in the first place!

Zippers — even plastic ones — and boats just don’t always get along.  We often used day packs and coolers with zippers to transport provisions and other purchases back to the boat. We always got ones with big heavy-duty zippers, but salt in zippers could jam them in no time.

And there were plenty of other zippers on board, particularly on the sail covers, bimini and dodger that were outside in the salt air . . . not to mention the ones on our wet suits and Lycra snorkel suits that actually were immersed in the salt water (although we always sprayed the zippers with fresh water).

More than once, I’d get a bag out to use it and would discover that the zipper was stuck. The salt in the air would totally freeze them up.  Dave would use a spray bottle of fresh water and lots of white vinegar to dissolve the crud, and sometimes get the zipper off track in the process.  The worst was when the zipper on my camera bag froze . . . with the camera inside.  Couldn’t use water on it, so had to cut it apart and destroy the bag.

I used to get so frustrated with stuck zippers on the boat. I finally found a cheap product that eliminated the problem!I was determined not to lose another bag this way (and Dave wasn’t wild on spending an hour or two “unsticking” zippers, either).  I discovered a great product called ZipCare and have been using it ever since on pretty much every zipper we have — and we haven’t had another one freeze OR come off track. The photo at right is from the Zip Care web site — I no longer have an “untreated” zipper to show as a comparison!

A bottle is just over $5 from Amazon, which offers free shipping if you buy it with something else to total $25 or more — making it a good add-on when you want something else that’s almost $25.

The company makes several zipper lubricants, I’ve used the liquid one and the stick. Both work well; I tend to prefer the liquid just as it seems a little easier to get it down into the zipper. The nice thing about it versus some other zipper lubricants that I’ve tried (and not liked) is that it doesn’t attract dirt (I can vouch for this, having used it on our tent that then went through a nasty dust storm in Utah).

Zip Care liquid has a brush applicator — you brush the zipper (with the bottle closed) first to get rid of dirt or salt, then open the bottle, squeeze it so the liquid gets on the brush and brush the liquid down into the zipper teeth.  Run the zipper pull up and down a couple of times to get it in all the nooks and crannies, let it dry and it’s ready to go. I like the liquid as it really gets down into the teeth — something I’ve had a problem with in using other zipper lubricants.

Using it on every zipper we have — day packs, fanny packs, camera bags, toiletry bags, wet suits, Lycras, sail covers, bimini, dodger and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting — and putting it on the stuff that gets heavy use every 3 months, other stuff maybe once  a year, a bottle lasts about a year.

In the last few months, I’ve seen numerous high-end tent, backpacking and wet suit companies all recommending Zip Care to prevent stuck zippers and costly repairs.  I do, too!

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  1. Candy Ann Williams on Facebook says:

    What a great product! Never used it but you can be sure I’ll order some. Thanks. Have a good weekend.

  2. Very interesting post! Thanks! When we replaced our canvas enclosure last winter, our canvas professional gave us Iosso EZ-Snap Zipper and Snap Lubricant and told us NEVER to use vaseline because it collects dust and dirt, compounding the problem. You can buy Iosso EZ Snap Zipper & Snap Lubricant on Amazon as well. I may get some of yours and test them side by side just for fun. THANKS! Jan

  3. Diane Dashevsky says:

    Adding this to my list of “boat essentials”! Thanks!


  4. Diane Dashevsky says:

    Oops! Sorry, didn’t realize the sig code didn’t work here…

    Diane – sv/Always $umthing

  5. Randy Price on Facebook says:

    Going to have to try this one out! Thanks

  6. Thanks!

    we also use silicone, preferably dry silicone, which we carry on the boat anyway

  7. Michelle Beatty on Facebook says:


  8. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Thanks! Just bought it. Worth the price to save even one item.

  10. It kills you when you get caught in your zipper

  11. Can’t keep enough of this stuff onboard…

  12. Peter Dalton says:

    I use candles. You can even use scented candles to keep scent in the air. Just rub the zipper on both ends of the zipper lengths. Then try it and work the candle wax into the zipper and wa-la, smooth as ice.

  13. Will have to look into this

  14. Me too; we’ve got a couple that are a real pain, especially when you need to zip up cleanly and quickly because of a quick storm!

  15. candle wax also works great! – real inexpensive!

  16. You can also use Chapstick or the equivalent, in a pinch. Secret is to use it BEFORE the zipper seizes up. Like, when new.

  17. when I bought the boat none of the zippers worked on the canvas. Gooped vaseline on them and they worked like new. I also do that for my paddling jackets.

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