How to clean a sewing machine – 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 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

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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21 Responses to How to clean a sewing machine – video

  1. 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 .

  2. kay says:

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

  3. Barb says:

    Very, very helpful

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.

  6. sheila underwood says:

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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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