Why Are My Scissors Stiff? (Solved & Explained)

Scissors are one of the most important tools for any sewing project.

Just like any tool, they need a little maintenance from time to time to keep them working smoothly.

If your scissors are feeling stiff when you use them, it’s a sign that they need a tune-up:

Here’s Why Your Scissors Are Stiff:

Scissors can get stiff for several reasons: they’ve rusted, they need to be oiled or cleaned, or if the scissor tension is too high. If your scissors are feeling stiff, it’s time to identify the problem and perform maintenance to help them work properly again. 

Why Are My Scissors Hard to Open?

When your scissors are working properly, they should open and close smoothly without much strain from the user. If they have gotten stiff and are not opening as smoothly as usual, it’s important to figure out the reason.

Let’s look at the main problems that make scissors hard to open:


First, rust can create problems for the movement of scissors.

When the metal blades or pivot area is exposed to moisture, your scissors can begin to rust. A few rust spots might not create much of a problem at first, but they can develop into a more serious issue that limits your scissors’ movement. 

If the blades accumulate significant rust along the surface, they will no longer fit together the way they are designed. They may feel stuck as you try to open them. If the rust continues to develop and gets more severe, your scissors may be completely immobile until the rust is removed. 

Even if the rust is limited to the pivot, this can still make it hard for your scissors to open. If the growing spots of rust obstruct the pivot point, your blades won’t have the freedom of movement they once did. 

Cleaning & Oiling:

The second is scissors that have not been cleaned in a while.

With sewing projects, loose fibers and other residues can accumulate on the blades of the scissors and limit their range of motion. If it’s been a long time since you’ve cleaned your scissors, this might be the reason they feel hard to open. 

If we don’t wipe scissors down as we use them, the fibers will accumulate and can gather at the base of the blades. These fibers can get lodged and obstruct the movement of the scissors. 

Similarly, a lack of oil can also cause scissors to feel hard to open. Any tool or machine with moving metal-on-metal parts needs periodic oiling to work correctly.

It’s no different with a pair of scissors. 

The base of the blades can develop a lot of friction and tension if not oiled regularly. Without oil to keep the moving parts gliding past each other easily, this metal-on-metal area can make it seem like your scissors can’t open properly.


Finally, if the tension setting is too high on your scissors, they will be difficult to open. The screw controls the scissor tension setting in the pivot of your blades. 

When the screw is too loose, the tension will be too low. The tension is probably too low if your scissors tend to fall open completely. 

On the other hand, if the screw has been tightened too much, the tension will be high. When it is too tight, it can be enough to interfere with the opening of the blades. 

How Stiff Should Scissors Be?

Your scissors need a bit of stiffness and tension to make clean, effective cuts.

However, you will run into problems if they are too stiff or too loose. 

If your scissors are too loose, they will open too easily and won’t make accurate, easy cuts. They tend to push the material out of the way since the blades are out of alignment. 

On the other hand, overly stiff scissors can be nearly impossible to open and use without severely straining your hand. 

You can do a simple test to see if your scissors have the right stiffness and tension. Hold your scissors in front of you, with the blades pointing toward the sky and the handle pointing toward the floor.

Now, keeping one handle in position, open the other handle until the blades are in a 90-degree position.

Let go of the handle you moved and give your scissors a little shake. Watch what happens with the blade you are not holding.

If it does not move, it means your scissors are too stiff, and the tension is too high.

If the scissors snap all the way shut, it means that your scissors do not have enough tension and should be tightened. If it moves a bit, maybe around an inch, the tension and stiffness are just about perfect. 

For a full visual demonstration of this test, you can check out the following video on YouTube:

Why Are My Scissors Sticking Together?

Another common problem with scissors has to do with stickiness.

If you have eliminated any issues with tension or rust, you might have an adhesive problem on your hands. These are common and very easy to clean up. 

Anytime you cut something with an adhesive, you risk ending up with sticky scissors. You might not even realize you’ve done it– but if you have cut anything with tape on it, it is easy for the adhesive to transfer onto your blades.

If you see some sticky gunk on your blades, you will want to clean it off to get your scissors working again. You might try a general cleaning with sewing machine oil or purchase a specialty adhesive remover if the sticky gunk is severe. 

Once the built-up adhesive is removed, you shouldn’t have any more issues with sticky scissors.

Cleaning and oiling your scissors regularly is a great way to prevent residue from building up and causing problems as you work on your sewing projects. 

Does Rust Stiffen Scissor Hinges?

Rust can stiffen scissor hinges. One of the first places rust might start on your scissor blades is around the pivot area.

It might even be between the blades at that pivot point, making it incredibly hard to see and even know that it’s there. 

As rust develops around the hinge, it will make it harder and harder to open your scissors. It will also weaken the area, making your scissors at risk of breaking if they run into a particularly tough material to cut. 

Using distilled white vinegar anytime you suspect rust will help keep your blades rust-free and working smoothly. 

Can Scissor Hinges Break?

Scissors can break, and they tend to break at the hinge when they do break.

If you try to use scissors on a material that they cannot cut through, and you apply enough pressure, you will feel that pressure at the hinge. They will have no choice but to break if the pressure is strong enough.

If your hinge has rusted, it is even more likely to break when faced with tough material. Rust will weaken the area where it appears and often can be found around the pivot and hinge in scissors. 

A pair of broken scissors usually is two separate pieces. You have two identical blades with their corresponding handles perfectly intact– it’s usually the screw or other pivot piece that has broken. 

You can keep these parts of your scissors and take them in for repair. A professional can fix the hinge and get your scissors working again.

Some higher-end scissors will even come with a lifetime warranty and might repair them at no extra cost to you. 

How Do You Fix Stiff Scissors?

No matter what the cause of your stiff scissors, there is a DIY solution you can try at home today to get them working again. 

No matter how severe the rust is on your scissors, distilled white vinegar from the kitchen can work wonders. Fill a glass with vinegar and leave your scissors soaking with submerged blades for 24 hours.

During this time, much of the rust will dissolve into the liquid. If there is any left after the time has passed, you should be able to wipe it away easily with a cloth or an old toothbrush. 

You can repeat this process anytime you notice new rust spots on the blades or pivot. 

Oiling & Cleaning:

If your scissors need to be cleaned or oiled, you can use specialty scissor oil or sewing machine oil.

For cleaning, you can lightly coat all metal areas of your scissors with the oil. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then use a cloth to wipe away dirt, dyes, fibers, and excess oil. 

You can use an old toothbrush to clean between the blades at their base. If fibers have collected in this hinge area, it can make the scissors hard to open. 

If your scissors are clean but need to be oiled, you can focus your oil around the pivot and hinge area. Anywhere that metal is rubbing on metal, you will want to use the oil to cut down on any possible friction. 

Once you apply oil, open and close your scissors repeatedly to let the oil sink in, you should be able to feel stiff scissors becoming easier to use as the oil starts to work its magic. 

If scissor tension is your problem, you can use a screwdriver to make adjustments. You can turn the screw to the right to tighten the scissors and raise the tension. Turning it a little to the left will loosen it and make the scissors easier to open. 

Final Thoughts

Scissors can get stiff over time and usually be brought back to life through a few simple remedies. 

Rust can cause your scissors to stiffen, putting them at greater risk of breaking. Using distilled white vinegar can help you keep your scissors rust-free.

Sewing machine oil is great for cleaning and oiling your scissors’ hinge. 

Finally, checking the tension and adjusting with a screwdriver can help your scissors retain the perfect amount of stiffness to make clean cuts. 


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