Contact Us: 1-800-344-6136 |

How to Choose a Zipper: a Step-by-Step Guide

Need a zipper, but unsure of what to order? You’ve come
to the right place!

There are lots of factors that go into the decision-making
process when it comes to choosing a zipper. This guide will provide step-by-step instructions to help you select the zipper you need.

We will walk you through everything you need to know, while also providing some guidance and suggestions along the way. We'll tell you what's super important and what's not important. By the end, you should feel confident in selecting a zipper.

Continue reading the guide

1. Separating or Closed-End?

The first thing to determine is whether you need a separating zipper or a closed-end zipper.

Separating zippers can separate fully into two pieces. A separating zipper is also known as an open-end zipper, and it separates completely at the bottom, like a zipper on a jacket, when unzipped.

Shop Separating Zippers

Closed-ended zippers are zippers that don't separate at the bottom. An example of a closed-end zipper is the zipper on a fly of a pair of pants. Closed-ended zippers can be sewn into bags, purses, pillows, cushions, upholstery and many other sewing projects and crafts.

It’s important to determine if you need a separating zipper upfront because if you do, you will need to buy a separating zipper. You cannot convert a closed-end zipper to a separating zipper, and you cannot create a separating zipper from zipper chain. A separating zipper has a pin and box at the bottom, and these components are attached under high heat and high pressure during the manufacturing process. They, therefore, cannot be attached by hand.

If you need a closed-end zipper, you have more options. You can buy a closed-end zipper, convert a separating zipper to a closed-end zipper by sewing over the bottom, or you can create a closed-end
zipper with zipper chain by the yard.

Shop Closed-end Zippers

2. Type of Zipper

The type of zipper refers to the material of the zipper teeth. The main types of zippers are coil, metal, and molded plastic/molded tooth. Most times, the type of zipper selected is a matter of personal preference as each material offers a unique aesthetic. Some zippers, however, are better for certain applications over others.

Coil zippers are sometimes referred to as "universal zippers" as they can be used on virtually anything. They are the most flexible type of zipper and are best for items that require taking curves. For example, cushions or luggage. Coil zippers include standard nylon coil zippers, invisible zippers and metallic coil zippers.

Shop Coil Zippers

Metal zippers are known for their strength and are great for items requiring reliability and durability. Metal zippers come in a variety of materials and finishes including aluminum, antique brass, antique nickel, brass, gunmetal, oxidized nickel and nickel.

Shop Metal Zippers

Molded plastic zippers are used on anything from clothing to upholstery but are particularly great for use in outdoor environments. Most molded plastic zippers sold by Zipper Shipper are marine-grade and resistant to corrosion.

Shop Molded Plastic Zippers

3. Zipper Size / Gauge

Zipper size (or zipper gauge) is a number that corresponds to the width of the zipper teeth, in millimeters, when the zipper is zipped. A # symbol next to a number refers to the zipper’s gauge.

Zipper gauge refers to how heavy duty a zipper is. The larger the number, the more heavy duty the zipper. A #2 zipper, for example, is lightweight and commonly used on decorative pillows, while a #10 zipper is bulky and ideal for a heavy duty jacket. Gauges that are close together numerically are very similar in terms of weight. For example, a #7 and a #8 are going to be very similar, with the #8 being slightly more heavy duty.

Zipper size can be a matter of personal preference, but the application that the zipper will be used for must be considered to ensure that the zipper selected isn’t too lightweight or too heavy duty. For example, a #10 zipper is too heavy duty for a sweater and a #3 zipper is too lightweight for a heavy duty coat.

If you’re replacing an existing zipper, you’ll often want to buy the same gauge zipper or very close, unless you’re unhappy with the weight of the current zipper. If you have a #10 zipper on a jacket, for example, that you feel is too bulky, you could replace it with a #8 for something slightly less bulky, or you could go down to a #5 for something more medium weight that isn’t bulky at all.

Zipper Shipper® stocks #2, #3, #4, #4.5, #5, #7, #8 and #10 zippers.

Check out our guide on How to Measure Zipper Gauge for more info.

4. One-way or Two-way Zipper?

Whether a zipper is one-way or two-way is determined by how many sliders are on the zipper track.

Most zippers have one slider and are therefore one-way zippers. On the Zipper Shipper® website, we simply refer to this as a zipper and don’t describe it as “one-way.”

However, some zippers have two sliders and are therefore called “two-way zippers.” These are also sometimes known as "dual zippers." An example is a zipper on a longer jacket or coat, which can unzip from the bottom when the person wearing it is sitting down in order to allow room for their legs to move around more easily. Zippers for coveralls are often two-way zippers as well.

Shop One-way Zippers

Shop Two-way Zippers

5. Zipper Color

Zipper color refers to the color of the polyester fabric (also known as "zipper tape") on the sides of the zipper. It also refers to the color of the zipper teeth on some zippers.

On molded plastic and nylon coil zippers (with the exception of metallic coil), the color of the zipper teeth will also match the color of the fabric.

On metal zippers, the color refers to the metal zipper tape only as the zipper teeth are the color of the metal. For example, a red brass metal zipper will feature brass/gold colored teeth and red zipper tape.   

6. Zipper Length

Zipper length is often measured in inches. How you measure the length of a zipper depends on the type of zipper you’re working with. Regardless, you never include any zipper tape where there’s no chain in your measurement.

Measuring zipper length correctly is important. Please see How to Measure Zipper Length for specific instructions.

Not finding the length you need? Zipper Shipper® offers custom shortening services on most of the zippers we sell. Simply select the next length up and enter the length you need the zipper shortened to under the “Shorten to” custom field.

Still not sure?

Feel free to contact us with questions about your specific project. We'll be happy to help you with your zipper selection!