I just bought this bag:

it's a bag
(source: cdn-apple.com)

See that orange zipper? It's way more orange than it looks in this photo.

close up of zip

This photo doesn't even do it justice. It is neon, day-glo orange. It's too orange for me, but other than that I like the bag so wish to keep it. I also just spent a bunch of money on this bag, so I don't want to go out and get the zipper replaced or buy dyes and equipment or anything like that as that will just add a greater cost.

So I need to find a way to dull or darken this color that:

  • Doesn't inhibit the function of the zipper
  • Is permanent, or mostly permanent (fading over years of use is to be expected)
  • Doesn't discolor or otherwise affect the green fabric around the zipper or the red and white fabric inside
  • Uses only household supplies or supplies found cheaply at a hardware or grocery store

I have access to a clothes washer and dryer, but not a bathtub. Also, there are a lot of different materials to work with on the zipper: the zipper teeth are plastic, the part that attaches the teeth to the bag is some kind of canvas, and the pull and runner feel like metal.

  • Hmm, too bad you can't remove the zipper. This looks interesting: zipitzippers.blogspot.com/2012/11/… Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 4:47
  • @hairboat: I am puzzled. Why did you buy that bag in the first place, if you did not like the zipper? And if you did not want to replace it in the first place? What you ask is mostly not reasonable. Whatever method you wold use, the result is most likely to be disappointing. You deal with synthetic materials (plastic) which are not usually paint-able.
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 8:52
  • @virolino The zipper is much brighter in person than it was in the product photos, and I'd never seen it in person when I ordered it. By the time I decided I didn't like the orange, it was too late to return it. Also, I liked everything else about the bag!
    – hairboat
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 0:01
  • @hairboat: if you bought it online, then you had a number of days during which you could return it, I guess. How much time did you need to decide that you do not like something? But I guess it is too late for that thinking now :) As I said, plastic cannot really be painted like natural fibers (in the volume). You can apply a layer of paint on the surface, but by design, the zipper will remove it quite quickly. The better alternative would be to start buying matching clothes and accessories :)
    – virolino
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 6:30
  • @virolino Too late indeed... thus the lifehack request! 😉
    – hairboat
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 2:08

2 Answers 2


I would use a black permanent marker such as a sharpie. It takes some time, but I've before drawn over large plastic areas with a sharpie and it keeps an even color for quite some time.

Since a marker is a common household item, you can touch-up any scratches in the coating as they appear.

  • The wide tip Sharpie will work fairly well on the cloth around the zipper, but any ballistic nylon of the bag it won't keep as well but will keep.The zipper teeth being friction and hard plastic they will not be as receptive to the ink and will rub off possibly staining things you don't want black sharpie on. I personally dig the bags colors, but tried something on a Timbuktu too bag and ran into these issues.
    – CRSouser
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 4:25

You could apply a layer of black shoe polish to the zip, being careful not to get any on the fabric around it.

This may not be a particularly permanent solution but after a few coats I imagine it would begin to darken.

  • That might work. I don't need the black color to be permanent, but an overall fade or darken would work well.
    – hairboat
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:09
  • Seems like the shoe polish would possibly smear off, even after sitting on the plastic for a week? Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 17:05
  • @MrPhooky: it seems that you probably never used shoe polish. Depending on the brand / manufacturer / quality, it does not even properly get into porous natural leather. The chances for it to stick to shiny plastic are practically zero. Combined with the fact that shoe polishes are usually greasy, that is a recipe for disaster.
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 8:47
  • @ MrPhooky: did you ever paint shiny plastic with this method? Do you have personal experience? Or can you point us to some book / research showing that shoe polish is good for painting plastic? Otherwise, your answer is actually dangerous.
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 8:49

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