How to Care for Your Sewing Machine: Cleaning, Oiling, Tuning, & More

How to Maintain Your Sewing Machine Whether you’re new to sewing machines or have been using them for the past fifty years, you need to take care of your instrument. Regular maintenance is essential to keep your sewing machine working properly, but many people don’t know what they should be doing to care for their machine. If you aren’t sure where to start with routine maintenance, here are some helpful tips and tricks you can use to make sure your sewing machine keeps on keeping on.

How Often Should You Service Your Sewing Machine?

If you take good care of a quality sewing machine, it can last for decades with minimal maintenance. Of course, the amount of maintenance your sewing machine will need depends on how much you use it. If you use your sewing machine every day, then you should oil or lubricate it at least once a week. If you only use it once or twice a week, you should oil or lubricate it once a month. If you use it just once a month, you should oil or lubricate it once every three months. Even affordable sewing machines and sewing machines for kids should be taken care of properly to get the most out of them.

The Singer company recommends that sewing machines that are used more than once a week should be serviced by a certified sewing machine technician every three to four years. That’s a good rule of thumb. But if you follow the tips laid out in this article, you should be able to limit professional sewing machine services to just every four to five years without any major problems.

Supplies for Maintaining Your Sewing Machine

Required Supplies for Sewing Machine Maintenance Your mechanical sewing machine can be your best friend if you know how to use it properly and take good care of it. That means you’ll be best served by taking the advice of an advanced sewing machine user, read your user manual from cover to cover, oil the machine regularly, and cover it when not in use. Here, we’ll discuss some common items you should need to care for your sewing machine properly, for many years of quality stitching and darning.

Sewing Machine Manual

A good computerized sewing machine delivers high levels of mechanical power and precision to do its job. The mechanical tolerance between moving parts is small, and even a little deviation or blockage can cause problems.

Be sure you read your manual thoroughly before using your machine. It should contain helpful information on cleaning, maintenance, and proper use. If you have a used sewing machine or have misplaced your manual, you may be able to find a PDF version by performing a Google search.

A Lint Brush

A lint brush should have a soft end with straight bristles and a coarse end with hard bristles. After each use, use it to remove lint, dust, and other debris from exposed moving parts and around any area where dust or debris may creep into the machine.

Tweezers

The tweezers you use to maintain your sewing machine should have needle fine points to remove debris from openings and exposed moving parts. It would be a good idea to have a straight pair and a curved pair to help make sure you can extract any lint, strings, or other potential items that can block up the works of your machine.

A Microfiber Cloth

Any machine with small mechanical tolerances should be cleaned with care using a microfiber cloth. Such a cloth will enable you to wipe your machine down, removing dust and debris without damaging any surfaces. A microfiber cloth should resist fraying. Do not use an old cloth or any cloth that may leave lint or fibers behind.

A Screwdriver Set

You will likely require a set of at least three different screwdrivers for complete sewing machine maintenance. Only high quality screwdrivers that will not damage screws should be used. Do not attempt to disassemble your sewing machine if you are concerned about voiding the warranty.

Should You Use Compressed Air?

In most cases, cleaning with compressed air will not hurt a sewing machine, but there are risks. Some models of sewing machines are better suited for this type of cleaning than others. Also, different parts of the walking foot sewing machine are more well suited to being cleaned with compressed air than others. Front loading machines, for example, should have the bobbin case and hook removed before proceeding with such a cleaning.

Cleaning with compressed air is a judgment call. In the worst case scenario, you could end up forcing dirt, debris, or lint deeper into the delicate workings of your machine. As a rule of thumb, if you are unsure about whether or not using compressed are is a good idea, consult the manufacturer before using this method of cleaning.

Replace the Needle

Replacing a Sewing Machine Needle If your machine’s needle is dull or broken, it will need to be replaced. Naturally, if you do not feel up to the task of replacing it yourself, having a professional do the job is a safe alternative. Of course, the procedure will vary from one type of machine to the next, so be sure to consult the manual before moving forward.

First, be sure the machine is off before proceeding. Then locate the knob that goes to the clamp that holds the needle. Hold the needle with your fingers and turn the knob to loosen it. The needle will come out easily, and you can set it aside and slip a new one in. Tighten the knob until the needle is completely secure, and dispose of the old needle safely.

Oil the Machine

Begin by consulting your user’s manual. Every brand and model is different and will have different oiling needs and procedures. First, be sure that you have the right kind of sewing machine oil. Do not use WD-40 or anything other than oil labeled as sewing machine oil.

Next, prep your machine for cleaning. Unplug it and wipe it down with a microfiber cloth. Remove any extra pieces that will get in the way such as the bobbin cases, thread, the presser foot, and plates. Next, use your lint brush to remove any dust, debris, or loose fabrics as you work through the various parts of the machine.

As you proceed, be sure to apply oil slowly. Remember, you can always add more oil later if you didn’t add enough the first time. But if you add too much oil, you’ll need to take your machine to a professional to get all the excess cleaned out. Oil the parts in the order suggested by your user’s manual. Do not oil the bobbin, needle, presser plate, or foot, as this will stain your fabrics.

The parts that need oil the most are gears that make direct contact, of which there should only be a few. After applying the oil, wipe away any fallen drops as these will collect dust and produce a thick muck.

Add Lubrication as Needed

Remember, if you apply too much oil, it will slow down the operation of critical moving parts. If excess oil is left, it will gather dust which will cause it to become thick and hinder your machine. In the worst case scenario, applying too much oil will cause you to have to take the machine in for repairs.

Remembering what we said earlier, you should oil your machine completely roughly every four months if you’re using it regularly. Sewing machine oil is thinner than other types of oil and should be replaced more often than many folks might assume. If you use your sewing machine for advanced sewers often, you may need to add more oil a bit more often.

Have the Machine Professionally Inspected Yearly

Have Your Sewing Machine Professionally Inspected A high-quality quilting sewing machine is a precision instrument that should be kept in good working order if you hope to protect your investment and to continue enjoying sewing for many years.

>While most machines can go four to five years between professional inspections, sewing machines that are subjected to heavy and frequent use should be professionally inspected by a certified expert at least once a year. If you sew professionally, regular annual sewing machine inspections are an important way to make sure your shop remains up and running.

Of course, many sewing machines go longer and remain in good working order. But every individual machine is different, and some problems can arise which only professional inspectors can spot.

Quick Tips For Taking Care of Your Sewing Machine

Of course, every machine is different and has different needs. So here are a few tips to hopefully fill in the gaps.

  • Don’t pull thread backward through the machine
  • Never turn the handwheel away from you
  • Use the correct bobbins
  • Change the needle regularly
  • Make sure your presser foot is down before sewing
  • Leave yourself a thread tail on the top thread

Here are some more ways to help keep your sewing machine in working order for years to come.

Read the Manual Thoroughly

Read Your Sewing Machine's Manual It goes for any high quality machine that you expect to use for years and that you love, but please make sure to read your manual from cover to cover. There are lots of things about your sewing machine that you may think you know but don’t. This is especially true for sewing veterans who change to a new sewing machine brand. It can be tempting to assume the new machine is the same as the old one, but it probably isn’t. Also, keep that old manual around. Having it on hand can save you an expensive trip to the repair shop.

Put the Cover On When Not in Use

You’d be surprised at the amount of dust and debris that can be found inside the average crafting room. All of that airborne material is anathema to the health and longevity of your sewing machine. Dust and debris can gunk up the oil you use to keep your machine running smoothly. Worse still, depending on the climate you live in, all of that dust could also carry mold, fungus, mites, and chemicals that can corrode the interior of your machine.

The best way to guard against all of these hazards is to simply replace the cover every time you finish using your machine. Over the decades that a good heavy-duty sewing machine is meant to last, putting the cover on it every time, can save you thousands in professional cleaning and inspections, oil replacements, and swapping out parts. It is your machine’s best life insurance policy.

Remove Lint After Using the Machine

Of course, putting that cover back on each time you tuck your machine in at night won’t do much good if you don’t wipe it down and remove lint after each use. During normal use, a lot of dust and lint gets kicked up into the air and settles on your machine. Unless you remove the lint and wipe the machine down with a microfiber cloth, you’re just locking in all that lint and dust when you put the cover back on.

Conclusion

Using a Lint Brush The sewing machine is a miracle of the industrial revolution that has remained mightily useful to this very day. Today’s models may be full of advanced features, but the heart of your sewing machine is still like a little train, just chugging along endless lines of fabric track, from seam to shining seam. Take good care of yours, and it will take good care of your future projects.