How to prevent and remove salt buildup on zippers

Zippers: salt buildups often damage wetsuits | Photo: Shevtsova/Creative Commons

Stuck zippers are a recurrent issue in any surfer's life, especially in wetsuits, surfboard travel bags, backpacks, and other outdoor items. Here's a handy and helpful way to fix salt buildup and prevent zippers from corrosion.

If you've been surfing for years, this classic problem does happen from time to time with varying types of zippers.

Most surfers and ocean water enthusiasts have had to deal with the inability to close or open a wetsuit when they're about to use it.

From time to time, zippers on wetsuits and board bags can get jammed, clogged, and stop working as they usually do due to being in saltwater or around salt water.

Rinsing your wetsuit with fresh water after each surf session is mandatory if you want to prolong the life of your favorite neoprene skin.

Then, it would help if you also hang it in the shade to dry.

However, you may think you've done everything well, and then, for some reason, when you're about to put on your wetsuit, the zipper is stuck solid.

Some people try many things, including the timeless lubricant WD-40 and coconut oil, to loosen it up, but it does not always seem to work.

Also, rinsing off the salt with fresh water may not be enough, especially if the corrosion is in an advanced state and is stuck for a long time.

In the past, zipper mechanisms featured plastic molded teeth, which reduced corrosion levels drastically.

However, today, most of these locking systems are made from metal parts, making them more vulnerable to salt water.

Wetsuits: salt water and sun can quickly damage zippers and neoprene | Photo: Shutterstock

Unsticking Wetsuit Zippers 101

The best way to unstick a zipper with salt buildup or corrosion is using a white vinegar solution and an old toothbrush.

The winning formula will ensure it won't be hard to open and close anymore.

Here's how to release a stuck metal zipper mechanism effortlessly and maintain it:

  1. Scrape off any corrosion you might see on the slider;
  2. Pour a bit of white vinegar into a small container;
  3. Dip the toothbrush in the container;
  4. Scrub around the slider and in all the teeth thoroughly for five minutes;
  5. Rinse the areas around the zipper mechanism with freshwater to make sure the cleaning agent doesn't deteriorate or damage the neoprene;
  6. Let the vinegar act overnight;
  7. Twist and bend the zipper mechanism until it comes loose;
  8. To avoid getting it stuck again, apply some silicone lubricant to disperse water, get rid of rust, and help keep the moving zipper parts lubed for longer;
  9. Use a towel or cloth to wipe the slider and the teeth clean from excess water and other residues;
  10. Hang your zipper items in a dry space;

Extra Tips

Repeat this process whenever you feel your neoprene or surfboard bag zipper is not running as smoothly as it should.

If it's pretty bad shape, reapply the white vinegar a couple of times and just let it get in there for a while.

Also, if possible, zip back and forth regularly to make sure the teeth and slider lose corrosive substances.

Remember that a broken zipper might keep you out of the water for a while or make traveling with boards challenging.

Last but not least, some of the following substances helped dissolve salt buildup on zippers - lemon juice, Coca-Cola, ice and boiling water, vinegar and baking soda candle, and soap.

You may want to give them a try.

Alternative lubricants include surf wax, beeswax, paraffin wax, and polytetrafluoroethylene.

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