Irene did us a great photo article a little while back on how to clean a sewing machine. I've been neglecting mine recently, half on purpose actually, so I could give it a good clean out and take some video while I did it. Mine is simpler than hers, I can't access many areas so do check out the earlier tutorial for photos of options that might apply to your machine.
She suffers from the same problem that I do – rust and corrosion from damp or humid conditions. Hopefully your machine won't look as bad as ours, but if you live in a very damp, rainy, humid or salty area, you may need to take care of it a little more often and be prepared to add a little more oil.
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How often should you clean your machine?
Well, that depends on how often and how long you use it, and what sort of projects you sew. If you sew lots of woolly fabrics, towelling, fleece or minky, felt or flannel – or like I did one, a whole boat cover made of plastic canvas, then you'll need to do if more often than if you sew a quick cotton skirt once a month.
Generally get into the habit of having a quick check of the bobbin area every time you change your bobbin to see how it's going.
Here I've left mine far longer than I usually would, so we can really get in there and sort it out. I can tell from all the lint I pulled out, that the main culprit this time was the flannel rag quilt I sewed.
Tools you'll need
- Brush that came with your machine
- Small screwdriver
- Soft cloth
- Scrap of cotton fabric pressed into a folded edge
- Cotton swabs
- Sewing machine oil
- Your machine manual
- A dish to hold any parts and screws
- A light perhaps?
- Your spectacles and a hairdryer!
Where to start?
Safety first! Always turn off the machine, unplug it, and move it to a surface which is easy to work on. Depending on what parts of your machine you can access, you may be removing covers, and there may be a risk of electric shock – so don't take that risk. I know it might be tempting to leave it turned on so you can use the light, but better to use a separate light than get ‘lit up' yourself!
Take a look at my grubby machine!
This looks pretty nasty! Lots of lint everywhere, looking like cotton candy. You can tell I like to sew with pink. But it's not hard to remove it from the machine and keep everything clean, oiled and in good working order.
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Limitations of your maintenance
My manual gives basically no maintenance instructions other than wipe it with a clean cloth and keep the bobbin area lint free with the little brush. There are no oiling instructions and no oil was even supplied with the machine. I had to buy some (Amazon US or Amazon UK).
Mine doesn't even allow you to change the bulb yourself. My entire machine is sealed and there are no user-removable covers to help me get inside to clean or oil anything. Clearly they don't want me to do that. Your machine may be the same, or you may have more access. It depends on your model so check out your manual for more specific directions and if in doubt – don't do it and void your warranty or cause a problem you didn't have before!