How to protect outdoor zippers from damage

  • The zippers on items we use outdoors are the ones that need to stay in top shape. However, these are also the substances most likely to suffer from abrasion, salt buildup, rust and other normal hazards due to frequent storage in more potentially harmful environments. Some of the most common outdoor zippers are those found on tents, boots, wetsuits, and other similar products. If you're wondering how to protect your outdoor zipper from damage, ZIPHOO has some helpful tips to help you keep things in good condition, make repairs, and prevent any future damage.

  • Cleaning outdoor zippers

    One of the best ways to help maintain your zipper is to keep it clean. One of the most common problems you may encounter is salt buildup. Salt crystals can clog your zippers, causing them to stick and get stuck in your teeth. If you want to protect your zipper from these crystals, there are many ways to clean your outdoor zipper and remove these salt crystals without causing too much damage to the zipper.

    Use warm water

    A good starting point is to use fresh water on the zipper. Keep the zipper open as much as possible throughout the cleaning process. The buildup of salt can get it stuck in places, but a gentle flush of fresh water can help rinse and dissolve the salt, and should allow you to unzip more. You want the zipper open to get as much access to the different parts as possible. But be careful not to pull too hard to avoid damaging or breaking the zipper by tearing the track or tearing off the slider.

    A light application of fresh warm water may help to relax, but we recommend using a small brush, such as a toothbrush or similar device, to gently scrub the zipper to try to relax. Again, it's best not to scrub too hard to avoid damaging the material or affecting the fabric around the track.

    Other cleaning solutions

    If your zipper is still having problems getting stuck even after washing with fresh water, you may want to consider trying some other solutions. Gently scrubbing the track of the zipper with vinegar or lemon juice may help loosen it more and allow you to fully open the zipper. If one of these methods works to unzip your zipper, we recommend washing it with lukewarm water afterwards so lingering citrus or vinegar won't cause any future problems.

    For particularly stubborn zippers or zippers with lots of salt crystals, you may want to try a special lubricant. Standard lubricants can be fine for many metal zippers, but chemicals can do more harm than good on zippers made of brass, nickel, rubber, or some types of plastic. If you're not happy with the material of your zipper, consider purchasing a professional zipper lubricant, which you can find at most hardware or hobby stores.

    Drying and finishing

    After lubricating and cleaning your outdoor zipper, take a towel and pat dry. Once everything is clean and dry, we recommend opening and closing the zipper a few times to make sure it works smoothly and that there are no residual obstructions or blockages.

    Protect and prevent future damage

    Cleaning is a great place to start when you want to protect your outdoor zipper from damage. However, if you want to prevent future damage and clean less frequently in the future, we recommend you follow more helpful tips.

    Dry the zipper

    A practical step is one you learn during cleaning, but you want to avoid storing any outdoor zippers while they're still damp. Tents, boots, and especially wetsuits can often get wet while on duty, so it's a wise idea to bring a soft towel and make sure the zipper is completely dry before putting away anything. Having a dry zipper prevents salt crystal buildup and reduces the chance of mold, mildew, rust, and other common hazards.

    Apply a protective coating

    For extra protection, many outdoor zippers benefit from some form of protective coating such as rubber, wax, or beeswax. Not only do these coatings help keep the zipper dry, they also help keep dirt, grime, and other debris out of the inner workings. Many zipper repair kits come with some form of protective coating that you can use, but one of the most important steps is to apply these after a thorough cleaning and drying. Applying a protective coating to a zipper with dirt or salt on the track may cause further damage.

    Compress before storing

    When storing anything with an outdoor zipper, we recommend keeping the zipper closed to keep everything tightly together and prevent any external force or danger from breaking the track or messing with your teeth. However, while you want to keep the zipper closed, we recommend regular lubrication every one to two months. Open and close the zipper and perform the necessary cleaning steps to keep it in good condition.

    Outdoor zippers are often problematic due to their constant exposure to the natural elements and the fact that people often store them in harsher conditions than our everyday wardrobes. They require regular maintenance, cleaning and repair. Performing a few extra steps on a regular basis will save your equipment from replacement and extra work, keeping it in working condition longer.

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