There are times when you should clean a zip independently of the item it fastens – in particular, those with a heavy-duty function. For example, the zips in tents, sleeping bags, luggage, wetsuits, fishing gear, jackets and boots may need separate attention now and then.
To clean zips in washable items, wash the item with water and detergent that is suitable for the fabric, as recommended by cleaners Fitzrovia. Close the zip before putting the article into the washing machine. When ironing, protect the zip by closing it and covering it with a cloth. Excessive heat can damage or destroy the nylon, plastic and polyester zips.
To make the slider work more smoothly, rub a candle along the zip teeth and move the slider up and down several times to work in the wax. A white candle works best, so you don’t smear dye around. Wipe off any excess. This treatment will counteract the damage done by detergents and bleach to the factory-applied coating that keeps zips slippery.
To clean the zips on large articles – such as tents, backpacks, wetsuits, suitcases and boots – first unzip the zip. Remove any loose dirt from the teeth with a toothbrush. Dip the toothbrush in a solution of a little washing-up liquid and warm water. Rinse with plain water and leave the zip open until it has dried. Lubricate the teeth with a candle, as above.
If you zip sticks and you don’t have a candle handy, then try this trick suggested by cleaners Fleet Street. With the zip closed, run the lead of an ordinary hard pencil up and down the teeth. Then open and close the zip a few times. Rub you finger along the zip to wipe off any graphite (which is what pencil lead is made of) that remains, and which might mark clothes.