Choosing the right zippers

Published On: January 1, 2008Categories: News

Question: Due to the weather and saltwater in Florida, we use a plastic #10 separating zipper with locking pulls. The locking pulls give our installers and customers difficulty. The pin drags and sticks. We use a popular brand and have tried a non-locking pull from another supplier, but that didn’t work.

We can’t be the only canvas shop with this problem. How do other shops solve it?

Answer: You’re not the only canvas shop with this issue. We asked members of the Marine Fabricators Association.

Many suggested switching to stainless steel zipper pulls. Stainless steel provides corrosion resistance, and the fabricators that suggested it experiences less sticking. Suppliers referenced were Bainbridge International and Prime Industries.

One fabricator suggested that regular metal zippers work if proper care is used (rinsing with fresh water and lubricating). Another fabricator said that he uses metal because by the time the metal corrodes, the plastic has broken.

Several fabricators mentioned a UV-resistant plastic zipper from RiRi. YKK offers a UV-resistant zipper and recently introduced a powder-coated zipper.

If you don’t want to switch zippers, one fabricator suggested plastic zippers with lock pulls and to make sure that the locking pin is to the inside or the underside of the fabric project. He encounters problems when the edges of enclosure panels are stretched to where they are difficult to zip. To resolve the issue, apply more tension to the object being sewn and less tension to the zipper as it’s being sewn. This is best accomplished before sewing by pinning the object being sewn to a work table and stretching it to simulate the tension it will be under when installed. While it is stretched and pinned, align the zipper without tension. To keep the zipper in position while it’s being sewn, the fabricator suggested using tick marks that show the position of the zipper, staples, pins or double-sided tape.

Another fabricator said that when she uses a double locking slider that she makes sure to face the locking side to the “free of obstruction” side of the top. If there is a flap covering the zipper, make certain that the non-lock-pin side is facing the flap. She said it’s more work during construction, but it’s worth it as the sliders tend to jam less. Another fabricator pointed out that it’s important not to pull on the locking side of the zipper. The side without the writing is the correct side on which to pull.

A couple of shops pointed out that plastic slides are thicker than metal slides and should be sewn ¼ inch from the edge of the zipper tape. If you are sewing farther from the edge of the tape, you could be sewing so close to the teeth that the slide does not have enough room to run smoothly. Check zippers for proper tooth alignment, since it’s possible that one side may be ahead of the other.

Another coping tactic is to give your customer extra sliders and stops so that they can make simple repairs as needed. One fabricator suggested that customers swap out the pulls on a yearly basis to head off problems before they start. Several fabricators put lanyards on zippers, which gives the customer something to tug on while providing a nice, finished look.

Several respondents mentioned that they use metal pulls on plastic zippers. Pulls from YKK and Lenzip were said to be interchangeable.

Several fabricators said that they use lubricant on plastic zippers. Products mentioned were 303 UV, Zippy Cool and ChapStick. Other fabricators stay away from lubricants because of oily substances close to their finished work. Always check with your zipper supplier before using a lubricant, as you don’t want to void the product warranty.

Other zipper maintenance suggestions included wiping down the zipper regularly to cut down on salt build-up, and to open and close zippers regularly, since idle zippers are prone to sticking.

Thank you to the members of the Marine Fabricators Association for their time and suggestions.

SOURCE 303 Products Inc.

SOURCE Bainbridge International Inc.

SOURCE Lenzip Mfg. Corp.

SOURCE Prime Industries Inc.



Juli Case is IFAI’s information and technical services manager.