3 Key Practices to Keep your Backpack’s Zippers Running Smooth

“What closure does your bag use? There are different kinds of bag closures. There are those with buckles, some have Velcro, others utilize buttons, and a few even use magnets! Among the most secure are zippers. When it comes to backpacks, my personal choice of closure would have to be zippers. How about you?” – BBB Team


The Zipper

Zipper closures have been pretty popular. And for very good reason! Zippers provide the most secure closure and are, by far, the best. Did you know that zippers were utilized as far back as the 1800’s? But it was only during the 1983 Chicago World’s fair that the inspiration to the creation of the modern zipper was introduced. The mechanized closure was created by an engineer. The invention was a failure. But not a complete failure as far as Gideon Sundbach, a Swiss American engineer, is concerned. It was apparently his inspiration that led him to create the modern zippers we use today.

Have you ever wondered why the invention was called a “zipper”? I assume that at the back of your mind you certainly know why. The term was coined after the sound it made when it was opened or closed. It made a “zipping” sound hence the name “zipper”. Today, zippers are being used in almost anything from bags, clothing, accessories, tools, household ware, to even camping gear! What world would we live in without zippers? I cannot imagine! Zippers have definitely made life more convenient. Knowing that zippers have much use to every one of us, it is therefore important that we know how to take care and maintain them so that they will last longer. This might sound like a bad and tiresome idea for some (or most), but let’s face the facts; giving a little of your time, attention and effort to clean and maintain your zippers will go a very long way.

Since this site mainly focuses on backpacks, this article will center on how to how to take care and maintain your backpack’s zippers. We hope that we could help you understand how important it is to be able to do your part as a good backpack owner.


Why take care of your backpack’s zippers?

Do you remember the amount of time and effort it took to finally buy the reliable backpack you have today? In my case, it took a lot of time, researching, and even trial and error! Finally finding and using the pack that seems like it was made just for me was such a nice feeling. Imagine doing it all over again. How tiring! If you truly treasure and give importance to your backpack, you would put forth effort to take care of it and maintain it so you can use it for a long time. Does it make sense? Some may or may not agree but if you are a practical backpack user like me, not only will you be spending time and effort to search for another backpack, you will also be spending money. Why go through all that stress and hassle when you can dedicate a little bit of TLC (tender loving care) to make sure your backpack can last and serve you for a long time?

Your backpack is made up of different parts. Taking care of your backpack means that you are taking care of all its parts, and that includes its zippers. Zippers play an important role in how functional and secure a backpack is. But without proper care and maintenance, zippers can easily be the cause for getting yet another backpack. In my experience, I have bags that were rendered unusable due to the fact that the zippers weren’t functioning. Either they were broken, stuck or whatnot. Had I paid proper attention to them at that time, there is a great possibility that I’d still be using them up until today! Anyhow, what an advantage it would be for those who treat their backpack’s zippers with a little extra TLC.

It would be a great advantage if the backpack you have (or will buy) is furnished with tough and heavy-duty zippers. A tip for those who are still in the process of searching for a pack: pay attention to the zippers. Zippers are an integral part of a pack. Especially with backpacks, zippers should be able to withstand the strains and stresses of travel and abuse. Of course we all know that not one zipper is immune to abuse, but it is wise to choose a backpack with durable zipper closures. This is because according to research (and from personal experience as well), a lot of backpacks are unused due to non-functional zippers. A common mistake that backpack users commit is neglecting the parts of the backpack. Seeing the backpack as a whole is not enough. You have to pay attention most especially to the smaller (but significant) parts of the backpack. Understanding and knowing how to take care and maintain your backpack’s zippers is the first step of a series of steps in order to become a truly responsible backpack owner.


Types of Zippers

Before knowing how to maintain and clean zippers, it is vital that we know what we are dealing with. Let’s get to know zippers a little bit more. Here is how zippers are classified:


Tooth Type Zipper

  • Coil Zipper – The coil zipper is also popularly known as nylon zipper. This kind of zipper has coil teeth that are carefully sewn to the zipper tape. Originally, they were made of nylon (hence nylon zippers). However today, most coil zippers are made from polyester. The great advantage that you get rom coil zippers is that they have a tendency to repair on its own. They are very flexible, smooth, very easy, hassle-free and very good in dealing with clothes, skin and other materials that have an affinity to be stuck or caught in its teeth. Yet, the coil zipper is prone to dirt problems and is also less resistant to tampering. The good thing with coil zippers is that they are more water resistant than other zippers. Also, you can choose a wide selection of sliders so you have various designs. It also comes with lockable styles! Most backpacks make use of coil zippers not just because they are less costly, but because they are better able to adapt and run along curvatures than metal and molded zippers.
  • Molded Zipper – Molded zippers which are called molded plastic tooth or plastic chain is also another type of zipper. They are called molded because the zipper has separate molded teeth that are merged as one on the zipper tape. The material used for the molded plastic chain zipper are polyacetal and polyethylene resins. These substances are superbly durable and stronger than coil zippers. Compared to coil zippers, molded zippers are better able to withstand dirt and are mostly ideal for heavy duty gear such as those for outdoor use. The disadvantage with molded zippers is that when one tooth is damaged, the entire zipper is destroyed.
  • Metal Zipper – Metal zippers are also call metal tooth or metal chain. These zippers are probably the oldest type of zipper since it has been around since the 1800s. This kind of zipper is made from metal wire. The bad thing about it is that it has a tendency to corrode and eventually disintegrate with usage and time. You might be familiar with this kind of zipper since it is the type that oftentimes catches items, clothing and even your skin! Metal zippers are not ideal for backpacks or any kind of bag for that matter. But because it is affordable, some bags use metal zippers.


Brand Zipper

There are different zipper manufacturers. Among the most well-known in creating durable and high quality zippers is YKK. When it comes to backpacks, YKK is the preferred brand.


Use and Abuse of Zippers

Your backpack’s durability is an important factor why you specifically chose it, right? But what good would it bring if you only rely on the backpack’s strength without doing your end of the deal? As a responsible backpack owner, one needs to maintain and take care of the backpack and all its parts. And that includes the zippers!

A good backpack owner knows that the best or even the most expensive backpack is subject to use and abuse. Without proper attention and maintenance, your backpack will prematurely wear down due to neglect. With occasional upkeep, you will be able to extend the life of your backpack. That’s for sure!

One of the most neglected parts of backpacks is its zippers. From experience, I even took it for granted at one point! We should keep in mind that zippers are important and should not be overlooked. The integrity of the backpack’s zippers is linked to the lifespan of your pack. Even YKK zippers are not exempted from use and abuse. Providing a little attention and effort to care for your zippers will not hurt. Plus, your backpack will immensely benefit from it.


Here are some tips on how to keep your backpack’s zippers running smooth:

  1. Never force it.

This is the golden rule of taking care of zippers. Did you know that when you put more load on your bag than the recommended capacity, you are overworking the zippers? Let’s put it this way, when you force too much stuff to the point of overloading your pack, it becomes difficult to close the zippers. Right? Overloading your backpack can put stress on its zippers which should not be the case. However, if ever you need to really bring a lot of stuff and you think it might put stress on the zippers, make sure you pull the material closer together before zipping it shut. Never pull on the zipper to close your overstuffed backpack. This will be the ultimate cause of damage. The same would apply if ever material would get stuck in the zipper. Never force it open or vice versa.


Zipper snags  – Getting material caught in between the teeth of your zipper is probably the most annoying scenario when it comes to zippers. When this happens, what do you do?

Following the golden rule of zippers, do not force it! If you force it, it will only worsen the situation. The best thing to do is to back out the zipper away from the snag. Push the material back in or pull it out. Whichever is possible. After that, try closing the zipper once more. The technique with those annoying snags is reducing the force you exert on the zipper by drawing it from the metal tab.

Another method to remedy zipper snags is by getting a used toothbrush and vinegar. What you do is you brush the zipper with vinegar. Doing this would help the material caught loosen because of the acid in the vinegar. Doing this technique also helps when your zippers become rusted.


Note: It is advisable to always pull the material close together before zipping your bag. If you exert force on the zippers, it will wear out faster.


  1. Keep your backpack’s zippers clean

Like your backpack, dirt could also get caught in between the teeth of the zipper. This is a very common issue that, if not addressed, will definitely shorten the lifespan of your backpack’s zipper.

Cleaning your backpack’s zippers is quite an easy task. Keeping them clean is very easy and will only need a bit of effort from you.

  • Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations found on the backpack’s tag. Before cleaning, this step should always be on top of the list. Usually, the manufacturer provides care instruction to guide you.
  • Use soap and water in cleaning your zippers. When you are cleaning your backpack, spare a bit of effort and attention on its zippers. Make sure that all grime and dirt stuck on its teeth is brushed out. Dirt is a primary cause for obstructing zipper closure.
  • Air-dry your backpack after washing and cleaning.

Note: if you bring your backpack near the sea or during a beach outing, it is best to quickly rinse the bag and air dry. Salt is known to be corrosive to zippers. Rinsing would prevent damage from salty water or salty air.


  1. Remember to lubricate your backpack’s zippers

After knowing how to manage zippers and cleaning them, always remember to keep them lubricated. Lubricating is a preventive method and will ensure that your zippers will continue to zip smoothly. Before applying any kind of lubricant, always make sure the zippers are clean. You can make use of paraffin wax as lubricant.


Zip away!

So now, you are finally ready to start zipping away! Who knew you would someday be an expert zipper caretaker? Kidding! On a serious note, you will indeed benefit from knowing how to take care of your backpack’s zippers. Do you agree? Not just your backpack’s zipper, some of the tips and tricks I stated above are applicable to other zippers also!

You can apply those techniques whenever you are faced with any zipper dilemma (but with a few modifications).

Just remember the three most important rules in zipper maintenance: do not force the zipper, keep it clean and always remember to lubricate! These three simple steps will definitely protect and extend your zipper’s lifetime, and thus, extend the life of your backpack too. Remember: a longer life of a backpack starts with strong and properly maintained zippers!