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How to Clean Buttons, Zippers & Fasteners on Clothing & Accessories

How to clean those mother of pearl buttons or brass belt buckles? Find out how here with our guide to cleaning buttons, zippers, and fasteners!


Reading Time: 5 minutes

How to Clean Buttons, Zippers & Fasteners on Clothing & Accessories

Buttons, zippers, and fasteners are all wonderful in their own right, but they quickly become a nuisance when they get dirty. Some features of your clothing will need to be carefully cleaned to avoid damage. Never fear – help is at hand with this guide, so read on if you’re having trouble with a brass button on your blazer, concerned by the mother of pearl button on your blouse, butting heads with a filthy belt buckle, or just want to give the plastic buttons on your coat a good clean.

Always identify what your button is made out of before cleaning it, as some methods may damage the button. You may think you have a plastic imitation pearl button but it could in fact be made of real mother of pearl, which will need special attention. Delicate buttons like this are often found on vintage items.

How to Clean Buttons

When considering how to clean the buttons on your clothes, it is vital to first establish what material the buttons are – plastic, brass, and mother of pearl are three of the most common materials for clothing buttons. For other, less common, materials, look online for specific cleaning instructions for that material.

If you can, it’s always a good idea to test any product or strategy – perhaps on a spare button or one that is in a less obvious place – to check for any adverse reaction.

How to Clean Plastic Buttons

Most plastic buttons can be cleaned with a damp cloth and warm, soapy water, but if a more thorough clean is required, then apply a small amount of a citrus-based cleaner to a cotton swab or soft cloth and gently wipe across the surface of the button.

How to Clean Brass Buttons

Cleaning brass buttons is significantly more challenging than cleaning plastic buttons. The best way to clean brass buttons is to apply vinegar with a cotton bud and gently wipe away the dirt. If this doesn’t do the job, then consider using a commercial jewellery polish on a soft cotton polishing cloth. If following the latter option, be sure to wipe away any residue in cracks in the button with a clean toothbrush, as, if this is left, it will penetrate and break the button.

How to Clean Mother of Pearl Buttons

Mother of pearl buttons can be beautiful and delicate, and they definitely need to be treated carefully when cleaning – one wrong move, and you can easily lose that beautiful lustre. The best method for cleaning these delicate creatures is to rub them gently with a soft cloth – if this doesn’t remove the dirt, then try using an old toothbrush with a weak solution of water and dish soap. Don’t soak these buttons or scrub them too hard – this might remove the shine.

How to Clean Zippers

The biggest problem with zippers is their tendency to get stuck, a state of affairs that can easily be avoided by giving your zippers a regular clean. If, however, you already have a stuck zipper, then don’t worry – this can also be fixed. Simply brush white vinegar down the back and front of the zipper – the acid in the vinegar should dislodge whatever minor morsels of dirt were blocking your zipper.

How to Clean Fasteners and Belt Buckles

Many clothes fasteners are relatively easy to clean, as they are generally made of cheap metals and therefore just need a good wash with a soapy sponge. One notable exception to this rule is a brass belt buckle. You can use polish to keep this type of buckle looking new, or you can try an alternative cleaning strategy:

  • Start by cleaning your buckle with tomato ketchup – squirt some onto a cloth and then rub the buckle all over. As crazy as this sounds, the ketchup actually helps to polish the metal, but will then need to be removed with a little soap and water.

  • If your brass is lacquered, then you just need to buff with a clean dust cloth, and you’re done.

  • If not, then you’ll need a specialist brass polish, which needs to be applied with a scrap cloth and then rubbed off with a clean cloth, a process that should be repeated several times.

  • You can then move on to buffing to a dazzling shine.

So, if buttons, buckles, or zippers are causing you to fret, hopefully this quick guide will bring a smile to your face once more.

Originally published