How to Clean a Sewing Machine – Full Video

Great tips of how to clean a sewing machine. There were several things in this video I'd not seen before such as how to clean the upper parts too.Irene did a great photo article earlier this week 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 for 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

Great tips of how to clean a sewing machine. There were several things in this video I'd not seen before such as how to clean the upper parts too.

  • 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.

Great tips of how to clean a sewing machine. There were several things in this video I'd not seen before such as how to clean the upper parts too.

How to clean a sewing machine – video

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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!

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42 Responses to How to Clean a Sewing Machine – Full Video

  1. Ess says:

    There is that divide between older and newer machines. If I can get full access (usually older, mechanical machines) I use a hair dryer (when fully opened up). But the newer electronic machine I use the back of the hair dryer (with a screen) to suck out dust-fuzz. I also have developed a habit of recording machine use time and will do this after every 30 hours – switching out the needle as well. It’s really anal for my scatter-mind, but better then having to take a machine in every other month.

  2. Patricia Pfeiffer says:

    I am surprised at how many use blow driers or canned air. That is a definite no-no. Stop doing that, please. If your drain was plugged, would you jam more stuff into it? I think not. I hate the thought of what it will cost me to have my machine cleaned by the dealer, but my machine was, for me, quite an investment that deserves to be protected. The servicing is a whole lot cheaper than major repairs or a new machine.

  3. Doris says:

    Just a tip to anyone and the woman in the video: The machine oil bottle has that long tube tip that’s designed to pull out so one can position the tip in tight spots where needed and keep the bottle in the upright position. All you do is gently squeeze to dispense the oil.

  4. Robin nilsson says:

    Great video! Thank you for taking the time to make it !!

  5. Annette says:

    I use pipe cleaners in the hard to reach areas near the bobbin.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I spent 25 years in the computer industry and learned a few things along the way. Because computers HATE dust and keyboards get dirty easily, using compressed air on them is fine. You can open up a PC or laptop and literally blow the grime out the other end. You can pop keys off a keyboard, blow beneath them and pop them back on. However, the new electronic sewing machines are very different. Regardless of how you blow the air, dust and fabric fuzz WILL get into the machine in areas you cannot reach. Please, just don’t do it; it will only cause you heartache. Use a mini vac instead. Or use pipe cleaners (plain, not the fuzzy ones) – chenilles to you younger folks – fold one double and use the round end to swipe out grunge. I use anything I find useful, a brush, pipe cleaners, fine tip tweezers and my tiny vac.
    I wouldn’t even use compressed air on a mechanical machine – think of how easily dust would stick to all of those oiled connecting rods, gears, etc. it could become a horrid mess.
    One last warning – if you’re the curious type and CAN get deeper into your fancy electronic machine, DON’T DO IT. If you touch the wrong place, a single jolt of static electricity can COMPLETELY destroy the electronics! And you end up with a useless, expensive hunk of plastic and dead computer components.
    Better safe than sorry, do the simple cleaning regularly, but leave the complex maintenance to the pros.

  7. I watched your video and then cleaned my sewing machine. Whoa! did it need it. Thanks for the informative video.

  8. Dorothy says:

    Pipe cleaners are great for getting into tight spots and pulling out the fluff.

  9. Sandra D in Joliet says:

    I do clean my machine every time I change the bobbin or if I put it away for awhile. Rag Quilts did make a huge fuzzy mess and my second on the list is black fabric-it’s so hard to get all that black fuzz out. My manual had no maintenance section whatsoever!!! I loved my old Pfaff where I could open the side up and brush stuff out and oil it. It was metal gears. I think they made these sealed machines so you’re forced to take it in. I maintain my 1948 Featherweight which sews beautiful. I bought her an LED light, a new foot pedal, a new felt that goes on the bottom because it had that funky smell from it’s case. I cleaned, oiled, greased her and even bought a little gadget called a Bobbin Tension Meter to set the bobbin tension. I wish all machines were that wonderful to maintain.

  10. Ross says:

    Won’t the hair dryer push the dust even farther inside the machine? I did a course once and they mentioned not using air compress can to clean the sewing machine.

    Thanks in advance

    • Sandra D in Joliet says:

      I was told the same thing with my newer model sewing machine-no compressed air. I use it on my Featherweight at times but it had no computerized parts and I can access almost every component-love it

    • Karen Klomparens says:

      Ross, I’ve used canned air for years with no problems. My airbrush compressor can be dialed down to 10-20 pounds, you wouldn’t want to use it at 80-90 pounds. Just enough to blow it out and didn’t mess up the threads on a 5 thread serger.

  11. mSB says:

    Thank you ,Very helpful

  12. Karen Klomparens says:

    Good clear video on cleaning. Just this week I set up a small air compressor from my airbrushing days just for blowing out my sewing machines. Canned air works great too to get what your brush can’t reach.

  13. Rhonda Dalton says:

    Thank you so much – what a great video! I have a Brother sewing machine too & your video was so helpful in showing me how to access areas on my machine for maintenance & cleaning that I didn’t think about.

  14. Rhonda says:

    Thank you so much…a terrific video! I have a Brother sewing machine too, so your video was very helpful & showed me techniques on how to clean some areas on my machine I didn’t think about.

  15. Thank you for this. Now to go clean my machines.

  16. Hanora Crowley says:

    Good information for mechanical machines but many computerised machines require regular cleaning but are not intended to be oiled by the user- they should only be oiled during a professional service.

  17. Cheryl says:

    You can also use one of those kits that attach to your vacuum cleaner used for cleaning out your computer and the keyboard. One tool has a tiny brush. Also a can of air works well to blow out the dust.

    • whit2432 says:

      I have those mini vacuum attachments and they’re great for cleaning my sewing machines and also my computer tower vents. They suck the dust out and don’t blow it into the machine.

  18. Barb says:

    Very, very helpful

  19. Billie says:

    Our repair tech strongly stresses never blow or use can air in your machine it moves the lent deeper in and in harder to reach areas…He suggest using a small vacuum with a small attachment to suck the lent out…Hope this is useful .

  20. kay says:

    Canned air would be a lot more useful than a hairdryer a more concentrated blast on the area

  21. Jean Monroe says:

    Hi, Enjoyed your video, after just discovering your site. I clean my machine after each project, which helps to keep the automatic beep, telling me that the end of thread signal to continue working. {It stops working, if the ‘eye’ becomes blocked with dust]. I’ve use Viking machines for over 40 years and rust is never a problem. Though you try your best regarding rust, sadly some companies are not using the best metals these days and rust is inevitable. Sadly, this is happening to all manner of purchases the last few years from cutlery to anything else, but as long as a small amount of oil is very carefully applied, then wiped, just as you show, it might help the progression….a wee bit? Regards, British Jean, Maine USA.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Jean, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s definitely true that with sewing machines “they don’t make them like they used to.”

  22. tracy says:

    if you machine did not come with oiling instructions, then you should not oil it. Many of the newer machines do not need to be oiled the way older machines did. Cleaning the tension dial with folded fabric introduces lint to the dial and is too thick. A dollar bill is the perfect thickness to swipe through those tension dials.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Tracy, thanks for sharing that!

    • Tara Kimmell says:

      Actually, they recommend it be serviced by a professional regularly. THEY would do the oiling/greasing. It’s not true that they should never be oiled, as some have gotten that impression by the lack of easily accessible self-service oiling points.

      I know how to fully service my own machines (it does involve taking the case apart for the newer models), so it gets oiled/greased, and boy do they work better for it.

  23. sheila underwood says:

    thank you learn something new everyday is a learning experience..

  24. Helen says:

    I saved the brush part of an old mascara that I was throwing away and I washed it really well with soap and water. It makes a wonderful little tool to use when cleaning my machine. The bristles pick up the tiniest bit of dust and thread.

  25. Brooke says:

    The blow dryer is a cool idea. I use a soft paint brush to brush those tricky spots and it just picks up all the lint and dust like a magnet.

  26. Marta. south Georgia says:

    Deby, I learned some new things from your video.. However, I cannot hear and had no idea what was being said. Also some things seemed to be happening off camera area. My newer machine is computerized and the company said parts of it are plastic and I am never to oil it myself. Go figure! I have another machine, an older Brother, and I am going to do all this myself now instead of taking it in to the shop. which is 100 miles away. Thank you so much for the video.

  27. Great video Deby! You’ve motivated me to clean my sewing machine. I’m always amazed at how dirty it can get.

  28. Teri says:

    Good video, I always keep lint brushed out and add my oil drops, but did not think about the rubbing of other metal parts. I will add that to my maintenance of my machine. Thank you.

  29. Susan Starr says:

    PS That little gray bobbin holder where you put the bobbin to wind it comes off so you can clean under it. It’s especially handy to know this in case you wind your bobbin and the thread gets caught under it, it can be removed. Just be careful though because it’s not very firm and can break easily. Move it back and forth until it pops up and when you put it back make sure the little pin on the spindle lines up with the groove on the bobbin holder and press down. Make sure it’s flat before you use it.

  30. Susan Starr says:

    Deby your video on cleaning your machine was great. I’m sure there are ladies out there who have never cleaned or oiled their machine and they will be SO surprised when they open it up! I never thought to use my hair dryer. I use canned air and that works very well. Also to clean the take up lever area I use dental floss (the tape kind since it’s thicker). It’s also good for when you have thread caught in this area. This video was a great reminder to keep our machines happy and I will be cleaning my machines today. Thank you for a well needed video.

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