Sewing Machine Cleaning & Maintenance

Like any piece of machinery, your sewing machine needs to be maintained and cared for in order for it operate properly. There are a few easy things that you can do to make sure it stays happy and healthy between major services.

Your sewing machine should have come with a few tools to assist in looking after it, but if not you can purchase a small inexpensive kit like this one. The items in the picture are the main things you’ll need – tweezers, a small screwdriver, a brush and machine oil. A small paintbrush from a craft store, any type of tweezers and a small screwdriver are easy to purchase, and a sewing machine dealer should be able to provide small vials of machine oil.

Removing the dust and lint from your machine is something that needs to be done regularly. The thread running through the machine and constant movement of fabric across the needle plate creates a build up of dust and lint, which can clog the bobbin case and hook race and affect the timing of the machine’s stitching.

Dust your machine from top to bottom, to ensure the dust moves downwards. Most of the dust will be where ever your bobbin is loaded, and under the needle plate. Remove the needle plate using your screwdriver, and use the brush to sweep out the dust and lint.

Although it is really tempting, don’t blow on your machine to clear dust. Your breath contains moisture which can create more problems.

Use your brush to clear out your dust and lint, and if your hook race is secured to your machine, use your screwdriver to remove it. Many top loading bobbins can just be popped out.

Tweezers are handy for stray threads that can occasionally get caught up in your machine, but be gentle removing them.

 The machine’s tension discs can also do with a gentle clean. Use a small clean piece of fabric like muslin, and slide it into the gap where the tension discs are located, moving the fabric in the same direction as you would move the thread when threading your machine.

Once everything is clean, you can oil your machine. There are a few points that require oiling, and your machine’s manual will show you the locations of those points. Use a cotton tip and a small drop of oil – you don’t need very much.

Regular servicing is also a good idea. It isn’t cheap, but it is worth it. Sewing machine dealers will offer machine servicing, as well as private trades people. Ask people you know to suggest a good service person or place in your area and get a few quotes. Personally I use my local Janome dealer and they do a full service for $120AU.

Once you’ve got your machine all sparkling clean, change your machine needle. Now you are ready for your next project!

For more tips and tricks, make sure you check out the rest of my Back to {Sewing} Basics series!

6 thoughts on “Sewing Machine Cleaning & Maintenance

  1. Hmmm… a little flashing light tells me when I need to oil my machine and that's when I clean it as well. I should do it more often.

  2. Great tips! I've been told by my engineer husband that you shouldn't overdo the oiling … in fact I leave that to him to do once every year / 18 months or so. It's now 27 years old, so his advice seems to be sound. However I clean out the lint etc… at least once a month, often more (depends how much I'm sewing). I should change my needle much more often – in fact whenever the machine starts to play up changing the needle usually fixes the problem, so I know that I don't do it enough.

  3. Thanks for sharing all of this advice on keeping your sewing machine in good condition! When I bought my sewing machine many, many years ago, I didn’t know what the tools were for, and I think I threw them away! I’m definitely going to start looking for a kit, and look for a maintenance service as well. My sewing machine is a bit old, but I absolutely love it, and I don’t want it to break on me!

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