How to determine the type of zipper you need

  • It's often frustrating when a zipper breaks and you have to fix it. Sometimes a repair can be as simple as using a pair of fine pliers to gently bend some metal teeth back into place, and other times, you may need to replace the slider with a new one. If you're wondering how to identify the type of zipper you need, a little more information about zipper brands, sizes, and styles may provide some information.

    Most Common Zipper Styles

    The first thing you should determine is the style of zipper on your clothing, bag, tent, or anything you need repaired. Zippers come in many different styles that can change the look of the closure track and the overall positioning of the slider.

    Forward Coil Zipper

    A forward coil zipper gets its name because the track is a large single coil from top to bottom. Positive coil zippers are commonly found on jackets, bags, and other common items where zipper visibility is not a concern. The main components are sliders, zipper teeth and zipper tape. The slider is the top part of the zipper, usually made of metal or plastic, that can be pulled to open or close the zipper. The zipper teeth are formed from thin coils that insert into each other when the slider is pulled up to complete the opening and closing of the zipper. Zipper tape is the sides of a zipper, usually a strip of material such as polyester or nylon.

    Reverse Coil Zipper

    As the name suggests, unlike regular zippers, reverse coil zippers have pullers that can be pulled in two directions, not just one. This makes the reverse coil zipper more flexible and easy to use. Reverse coil zippers are ideal for garments where you want to reduce the visibility of the zipper, such as fancy dresses, or waterproof items such as wetsuits.

    Molded Tooth Zipper

    You can recognize molded tooth zippers by the large, separated teeth that make up the track. Molded tooth zippers are usually plastic, vinyl, or a similarly strong material. Unfortunately, molded tooth zippers are difficult to repair if one or more teeth suffer significant damage. Much like forward coil zippers, molded tooth zippers are commonly used on jackets, duffel bags, garments, and other similar garments.

    Molded tooth zippers are durable and easy to use, and they come in a range of sizes and colors. The molded teeth interlock with each other to form a secure closure, and the slider is used to open and close the zipper.

    Compared to other types of zippers, molded tooth zippers are typically less expensive and easier to manufacture. They are also more resistant to corrosion and damage from exposure to moisture or saltwater.

    Most Common Zipper Brands

    One of the best ways to identify the type of zipper you are repairing is to know what brand you have. While there are several different zipper makers and manufacturers, you might be surprised how often your clothing and accessories use zippers from the same few zipper manufacturers.

    Often, the best and most direct way to check the manufacturer of a zipper is to check the slider or the bottom of the zipper for a logo or other identifying marking. Below are some of the most common brands you're likely to see.


    YKK, or to use its full name "Yoshida Kogyo Kabushibaisha", is a Japanese zipper manufacturer, and we bet you own at least one thing with a zipper that contains some of their handwork. Probably the best known zipper manufacturer in the world, YKK has earned its reputation by making high quality, reliable zippers that are affordable and durable.

    YKK has almost every style of zipper, from positive coil zippers to metal and molded tooth zippers. They make zippers for jeans, jackets, dresses, bags, tents, and more.


    Riri zippers are from a zipper brand known for their premium quality. These are the zippers you see on high end fashion and designer handbags. The Riri zipper's signature feature, its sleek metal puller, helps create a style-over-substance feel. However, when it comes to quality, Riri zippers are no slouch and many may consider their premium to be worth the money.


    If you want the style and visuals of the Riri zipper, but don't want to pay as much, you might be better off with the Glossy zipper. It might not be fair to call Glossy a knockoff, but they offer similar styles to higher-end brands at more affordable prices. Naturally, the quality isn't as high, but Glossy still offers a solid product that should fool all but the savviest zipper fanatics.

    Determine Zipper Size

    After determining the style and manufacturer of your zipper, the biggest thing left to determine is the size of the zipper. Many zippers have some indicator of the size of the zipper, slider, or other part to help you identify it. You may notice letters or numbers to indicate your zipper size and style. Most commonly, you'll see numbers from 1 to 10, and the sizes are small, medium, and large.

    Small: Sizes 1–4

    People often associate small zippers with smaller or fancier clothes. You may find this size on dresses, gloves, sofa cushions, pillows, pillowcases, or items with smaller, more invisible zippers. The most common zipper size on jeans, slacks, or skirts is a size four.

    Medium: Sizes 5–7

    You may come across medium zippers on jackets, tents, duffel bags, and anything else that might need extra strength and size to secure them. Almost every style of zipper is available in at least one size medium.

    Large: Sizes 8–10

    Larger zippers may not be common in our day-to-day life, but a lot of heavy equipment benefits from large zippers. Some common uses for oversized zippers are BBQ covers, canvas tents, tire boxes, and wetsuits. Many manufacturers have size 10 options in almost any style. Since items with large zippers often go through a lot of heavy lifting, it's helpful to have replacement parts available.

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