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Answer Angel: Unsticking that zipper

Ellen Warren, Tribune News Service on

Published in Fashion Daily News

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: My archnemesis is zippers. I constantly have a battle with boots, purses and jackets with the zippers getting caught in the inside lining. Struggling with going back or sometimes forward with the zipper is a huge dilemma, probably for everyone. Do you have any suggestions?

— Frannie W.

Dear Frannie: And this always happens when you’re in a hurry. Here are some DIY solutions to try:

— Yank the stuck fabric in your zipper away from the zipper (gently, so you don’t cause yourself more problems with a torn garment). The pointy tip of a safety pin also helps dislodge the fabric. If it is a ragged edge or stray threads impeding the zipper, try a tweezers to remove it and a scissors to trim the fabric so it won’t happen again.

— Use a regular pencil (gently, so you don’t break the tip) to apply the slippery graphite of the pencil lead to the zipper teeth, starting at the trouble section where both sides of the zipper meet and going into the inside crevices of the body of the zipper slider. (If you have also managed to yank off the zipper pull — the handle — in this maddening process, use a safety pin or a bobby pin as a temporary replacement).

— For prevention, iron the lining or whatever fabric keeps getting in the way so it won’t impede the zip the next time (this is impossible with purses, boots and other footwear). Do NOT use heat if it is a plastic (non-metal) zipper.

— Lubricate! Applied to the zipper, lip balm, a wax candle, olive oil, petroleum jelly, wax paper or window cleaner will work, but keep the stuff away from delicate fabric (use a cotton swap for application) so you don’t have a working zipper on clothing now ruined with a grease spot.

— Take it to a shoe repair shop or dry cleaner. They see this all the time, not only on shoes and clothes, but also luggage. Hopefully, they can unjam it rather than replacing the zipper, which sometimes costs more than the garment is worth.


— Buy a zipper repair kit at a sewing shop, hardware store or online.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have excellent distance vision but I need cheaters for reading and other close-up tasks. I have Dollar Store readers stashed everywhere, but I’m tired of whipping them on and off as needed. I’ve heard there are glasses that are clear above and magnifiers below — kind of like cheater bifocals, I guess. I’d love some to wear at home when I’m up and down doing various things. My eye doctor told me I could get them “at the drugstore or online,” but so far, no luck. Do you know where I might find them? Attractive ones would be a bonus!

— Barbara H.

Dear Barbara: Sometimes all you need to locate a product is to abandon hope of finding it in stores and use the correct words in your online search. Try “bifocal reading glasses” and you’ll find what you’re looking for. What you want, technically, isn’t a bifocal, but glasses with lenses that are clear (unmagnified) at the top and with your choice of reading magnification at the bottom. has them in an array of colors and styles at $18 and up. Foster Grant (, a popular brand at big box and drugstores, makes them, though you will rarely find them in stores, and if you do, most often they are sunglasses. has loads, regular and tinted, for under $10, some with no visible line (progressive lenses) between the unmagnified and magnified portions. For those fortunate to have no problem with distance viewing, these bifocal readers are a useful option.

Reader Rant

J.N. writes, “I wish that manufacturers would mark blue or black on the inside tags of clothing. I recently wore navy blue pants out to dinner. I thought they were black. It wasn’t until I got to the restaurant that I realized my blunder. It didn’t look good.”

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