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zippers, plastic or metal for elderly?

moogie | Posted in General Discussion on

I had an older gentlemen ask me if a plastic zipper would be easier to operate than the metal one he has on a coat.  The present metal zipper is slightly frayed at the bottom but otherwise in good condition.  He has trouble zipping it because of shaking hands.  What has anyone else discovered?  I hate to replace it only to discover it didn’t make a difference.


  1. starzoe | | #1

    You can tell him to run a wax candle, or a sliver of soap over the zipper and the move the tab up and down to spread the wax. This works best on a metal zip, but does work as well on a plastic. I would think that a drop of silicone would do the job as well.

    1. moogie | | #2

      Thanks.  I didn't know wax worked better on metal.  Never gave it a thought.

  2. User avater
    paddyscar | | #3

    Hi Moogie:

    Look at a new zipper (especially a jacket zipper) and you will see the reinforced lower edge across the bottom. Since there is some fraying across the bottom of the zipper, there will be far more give which will make it more difficult to connect the two pieces together.

    If you apply a good dose of fray check or white crafter's glue across the bottom, it will become more stable. Both products dry clear, so don't be afraid to apply liberally, maybe even a little further up the zipper tape.

    Worth a try as it doesn't cost as much as, or take as much time as a zipper replacement.


    1. moogie | | #4

      Another great idea.  Thanks!

      1. User avater
        paddyscar | | #5

        You're welcome!Frances

  3. sosewnem | | #6

    I just had a thought and don't know if it is of any help or worthy of consideration. I also have also found some zippers difficult to zip because of the lack of something to hold on to at the bottom - and the fraying at the bottom you mention exacerbates the problem. Would somehow stitching on a small piece of a matching fabric as a tab at the bottom help to have something to hold the one side in place while the other metal piece is inserted?  It could be that his shakyness and the difficulty of aiming that little tab into a hard to hold other portion of the zipper might be helped by this. I hope you can picture what I mean. However, I don't know for sure if this would solve the problem.

    1. moogie | | #7

      I tried to lubricate the zipper and it broke.  It must have been on its last leg.  Now the question is, should I replace it with a metal or plastic zipper?  I like metal zippers but the gentleman thought a plastic one might be easier to zip.  What do you guys think is  better for an elderly gentleman who shakes, a metal or plastic zipper?

      1. User avater
        paddyscar | | #8

        Hi Moogie:I think a plastic zipper is more forgiving. They were originally marketed as self-healing, so that if anything got stuck, you could simply pry it apart without damaging the zipper. They are also less likely to cut a shirt that might get caught while zipping.That's my vote.Frances

      2. Teaf5 | | #9

        The material doesn't seem to make a lot of difference in how easy zippers are to use; some are just awful, and others are very smooth. 

        The large-tooth plastic ones designed for outer wear tend to be easier to use, partly because they have very large pulls and tabs that shaking hands can grasp.  Since they are sold unwrapped on racks, you can experiment with them before buying.  To replicate an elderly hand, see if you can work it with your "wrong" hand.

        To make the zipper even easier to grab, you can add a sizeable tab to the existing one on the zipper pull.  Made of leather, cording, or a coordinating fabric, the larger tab can also add a nice decorative touch.

        1. moogie | | #10

          Good idea about the "wrong" hand.  I'll have to try it.

  4. PASDENOM | | #11

    Difficulty gripping the pull and stabilizing the end to pull against to zip up might be the main problems. A big ring or tab on the pull for him to put his thumb into and a similar thumb loop at the bottom of the jacket should help. The plastic zipper might be easier for feeding the ends together because they are a little bigger. Even easier would be velcro for opening and closing.

  5. gailete | | #12

    My coat zipper keeps getting caught in the edge fabric so sometimes I need rescued from my coat. That being said sometimes I can't zip the thing because of my arthritic hands not wanting to co-operate. Any chance that there is room to Velcro(r) his coat closed. Much easier to deal with with bad hands. Doesn't answer the zipper questions but a possible idea. The metal zipper will be colder to touch though.


    1. woodruff | | #13

      When my dear MIL was tremendously afflicted by arthritis in her hands and shoulders, I was able to adapt a lot of patterns so that "soft and flexible" Velcro type products served her purposes. Often, I'd stick the velcro on with a glue dot and then edgestitch it on the right side in a contrasting color, so that she'd have a row of little ornamental squares showing.

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