Pamper Your Sewing Machine: A Cleaning Tutorial

MammaNene from Serger Pepper here, coming back after the article that helped you choose your first serger and the tutorial for making your own cute padded laptop bag.

Today I'm talking to you about two of my favorite topics (but only if sewing-related!): cleaning and maintenance!

How to clean your sewing machine

how to clean your sewing machine

As you may know, I try to be a frugal person, refashioning whenever I can, repurposing almost everything (my trash can is almost always empty!).

To make things last, the key is only one: regular maintenance!

And this applies to almost everything, starting from your sewing machine and your serger, but also to cutting tools, measuring tools and, generally speaking, your sewing room.

I'll explain to you here how I usually clean my sewing machine since I already talked about serger cleaning routine on OneThimble issue 5 (and you can now read it on SergerPepper).

Most of the things I said about cleaning your serger applies here too, but I know a lot of people actually scared from unscrewing anything on their sewing machine that would actually see what they can/should open without actually harming it…

Unplug it!

To save yourself from accidents, please remember that the best way to go is unplugging your sewing machine and having a little desk lamp on your sewing table, lighting the “crime scene”!

how to clean your sewing machine

For tutorial purposes only, I kept mine plugged… so you can actually see what's happening.

Clean the surfaces

Start with a soft cloth, cleaning the top surface, where lint loves to accumulate!

how to clean your sewing machine


Pull out the presser foot and the needle first.

how to clean your sewing machine

Then unscrew the presser foot adapter, if you have one. Put these things aside in a secure place where you won't lose them!

The next thing to do is pull out your bobbin. The sewing machine I'm showing you now has a horizontal bobbin, but I've been sewing with a vertical bobbin one, years ago.

If you have a vertical one, your cleaning session will be slightly different but you should be able to proceed following this tutorial too.

Unscrew now the throat plate and put the screws where they can't roll to the floor, where they'll be lost… forever!

If you're not that new to sewing, you should already know how to put a bobbin out (hint: you do that every single time you change your thread color).

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Chances are that you've never pulled out the bobbin holder: it's not hard, at all, just put your fingers inside it and… pull it out, but first, take a snap with your smartphone, so you'll be able to put it in the right place again, later, when you're done!

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…eeek! I intentionally omitted my sewing machine maintenance, lately, just to show you some dirt inside but this is… Gross!

You should never let your sewing machine get that dirty.

Please try to clean it at least once a month, if you do some serious sewing.

Even more often if you often sew towels, wool knits and anything that frays a lot.

Consider that if, when you stop sewing, the table around the sewing machine is full of lint, inside the sewing machine will probably be exactly the same!

Now. Stay calm and start brushing!

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Your sewing machine should have come with a tiny rigid-bristled brush. If you don't have it or you have lost it, try using a (new, or at least clean) blush brush. Start brushing out the lint, making sure you're not pushing it inside!

Check between the feed dog teeth: here the lint loves to hide!

If you want to be sure there is no lint inside (below the bobbin) you can go one step further and either use a hairdryer (set it on warm temperature) or an air compressor.

Please DO NOT use canned air which lends moisture to your sewing machine metal parts and this means one only thing: rust (which, if you don't figure it out, is EVIL!).

Try to direct any air, brushing or suction to pull lint outside and not push it more inside.

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Can you see the rust? I live in the most rainy area of the world!

When you're done, take your Q-tip and clean surfaces from residual dirt, then put a couple of drops of sewing machine oil (if only you're not like me and you've lost the bottle… must buy another one soon) and gently oil the metal parts inside, where the bobbin holder goes: this will prevent rust.

PS: I said a couple of drops on your Q-tip: don't soak it!

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… even more rusty from this perspective. But no more lint!

Unscrew the left-hand portion, to have a look to the upper inside of your sewing machine, where you can see the lamp and the mechanisms that make the needle go up and down.

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Again, clean here with your brush, air compressor, and Q-tips.

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I hope you're not going to find all that grime!

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it was almost clean… well, almost!

Then put a drop of sewing machine oil everywhere you see a metallic joint: this will help them move smoothly.

Check your manual if you have a different machine, to see if you need to put oil and where.

Hubby, who is a great DIYer, when helping me cleaning my sewing machine always unscrews the bottom of the sewing machine but I feel uncomfortable doing that… I won't do it today and I don't think you'll need to do that if you clean it every now and then.

Time to re-built your sewing machine!

Take your smartphone and, looking at your previous snapshot, place the bobbin holder in place (if you have a hard time correctly placing it, gently turn your hand knob back and forth, until you find the right place.)

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Slide on your throat plate and replace screws.

Put on foot adapter and foot, add a new needle (remember: you should change it every now and then!), and the bobbin and you're all set to go!

Last step!

Take a scrap of white cotton fabric and sew back and forth multiple times, checking you're not going to have lint or (worst) oil into your next project.

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And this is the final result: a shiny sewing machine, perfectly cleaned and oiled, ready to tackle your next gorgeous project!
Let's make her sing!

What about you? How often do you clean your sewing machine? Do you ever oil it? Or you prefer waiting and waiting and waiting until you plan a trip to your local dealer to fix it?

Can't wait to hear about it!

If you want to know more about my world, please visit me… you can find me at Serger Pepper but, most of the time, you'll see me around on Pinterest! Follow me there!

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Hi! I'm Irene "MammaNene" and I blog about anything sewing on Serger Pepper. I love designing my own patterns, I have a thing for refashions and I am Pinterest addicted! My favorite sewing muse is my almost 6 years old daughter... but sometimes I sew for me too!

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I have a 1930 Singer handcrank, a 1970’s Pfaff and a 2010’s Janome. All require different levels of maintenance. It is no different than any other equipment, be it a clothes dryer (much lint) or a table saw….I was a bit surprised that you didn’t get rid of that rusty stuff before you put your machine back together though, my OCD kicked in….good tips though.

Linda Propsom
Linda Propsom

Excellent information about cleaning your machine! Love your suggestion to check your sewing table for lint & imagine what’s in your machine!
I have cleaned my machine regularly for 60 years. I thought I’d purchased my end all sewing machine in 2020. I just gave it to my daughter and bought a new more modern one.

Mea Cadwell
Mea Cadwell

I do a deep clean after each project (unless it’s a small 10-minute repair).

I have a computerized machine and the manual said no oil is needed but when I started hearing squeaks while sewing I chatted with someone from the manufacturer to find out where I could apply oil – did that and the squeak went away…and I felt more comfortable taking more of the cover off my machine.

Like this post says, take off the left panel and you can apply a little bit of oil on the bar that makes the needle move up and down. That bar is what was causing squeaks. Doing this should be ok on pretty much any machine, manual or computerized.

Each machine will be different though so it’s best to contact the manufacturer to find out about your machine before applying any oil.


Helpful! My 20 year old Viking manual states no oil needed, so I was glad to see you mentioned that:) (After reading second time)


Great tutorial. I clean after each bobbin change or project but always surprised how much is built up under the closed areas. Great idea to take photos so assembly afterward goes correct but smoothly!


NEVER use a compressor to blow the dirt deep into your machine.
Use a vacuum cleaner instead, to suck all the dust out.
Special mouths are available to fit on your cleaner for use in tiny openings,

Mea Cadwell
Mea Cadwell
Reply to  Vlierbloesem

This exactly. Per my sewing machine ‘cleaning doctor’, compressed air contains chemicals that allow it to come out and those chemical can coat interior machine parts, gumming them up, and sometimes corrode them.

cleaning sydney
cleaning sydney

A well-detailed article, thanks for sharing this informative writing of yours.

Diana L White
Diana L White

Bought one of those little vacuum attachments to clean my machine. Works great and very cheap. Takes less time and the parts are designed to get into small places. I do a complete cleaning after every project.


[…] like sewing machines that need proper cleaning and care, the iron for a sewist's life is also essential. Apply these tips the next time when your iron […]

Barbara Harris
Barbara Harris

Hi Mayra,

Same here with the Brother Machines. The newer machines do not need oil, so best to check the manual before oiling and gumming up the works and then having to spend precious dollars and time away from your machine.

Barbara Harris

Mayra Cecilia
Noble Member
Reply to  Barbara Harris

Totally agree!

Paula Leonard
Paula Leonard

Being on a tight budget I use my vacuum with a piece of cardboard and a straw taped in the middle. I get a lot of powerful suction through the straw and it sucks out all that lint and grime. The straw is small enough to get into the tight places around the bobbin.

Reply to  Paula Leonard

Glad to hear you have appreciated my suggestion ❤️


thanks for this post: I just got myself a new machine, with a horizontal bobbin unlike the previous one, so this really help.
I usually clean my machine after a large project, or after several small ones. I also oil it then. Never had one serviced yet, I’ve been sewing for a year and I only sew 1-3 projects a month.

Mayra Cecilia
Noble Member
Reply to  Jules

Hi Jules, that is a great habit to get into. I hope you continue and you will have a machine to last you for a long time. I hope your sewing mojo never leaves you. Please do share your projects. Love to see what you are up to.


I love this post! My sewing machine has issues and I do not pull it out anymore because I knew it needed a deep cleaning! Now I can clean it myself! Yay! Thanks Deby so much for pinning to the P3Party Board! You are being featured this Friday on the blog, so look for some social media love from me!


A great article! I’ve had a sewing machine since my 7th birthday (I’m mid-50ish now) and one of the first things I was taught was how to clean it. As I got older, my dad taught me how to service some of the basic issues. He supported our family of six on his machines and never had to worry about any of them because they were so well taken care of.
I believe keeping equipment cleaned and well maintained is one of the most important lessons to teach new sewers!

Joanne Maner
Joanne Maner

I clean my bobbin area each time I change the bobbin. I take the bobbin casing out with this cleaning as well. I have a computerized machine so no oiling.
I too had a machine that caught on fire once. It apparently was a faulty part as quite a few of those machines had this happen. I still have the machine but have not looked into getting it fixed.
I was sewing at the time and immediately unplugged the machine when I smelt the wires burning and saw smoke. My project was stuck under the pressure foot. No lever to raise it on a computerized machine. Luckily I was able to manual force the foot up enough to free my work.

Deby at So Sew Easy
Active Member
Reply to  Joanne Maner

Yikes, thank goodness it didn’t turn into something bigger! A good reminder of another reason why cleaning out all the fluff is an excellent idea.


I do take care of my machines and clean them often and change the needle each time I clean too. I disagree about using a hair dryer or compressed air though, because you can blow dust and lint into your machine and cause more problems. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small attachment to suck the lint out of the machine and never use any kind of air to blow it, because you can never be sure where you are blowing the lint. A woman I know at a quilt guild services sewing machines and told us a story of why we should never blow the lint in our sewing machines. She said a woman brought in her machine because it stopped working and found out she would blow the lint when cleaning her machine. She blew in so much lint into her machine that the heat of the machine actually caused a small fire inside and melted parts of her machine so that it couldn’t be repaired. She told us to use a vacuum but never air! Also most newer computerized machines do not need to be oiled, ever. So you must know where to use oil on your machine if it uses oil.

A rule of thumb is to clean the lint after you are done sewing with 2 full bobbins of thread.

Irene V. (MammaNene)
Reply to  Daryl

Great suggestions, Daryl!
I totally agree with both, since I told “Try to direct any air, brushing or suction to pull lint outside and not push it more inside.” and “Check your manual if you have a different machine, to see if you need to put oil and where.”

I am not sure about the fire inside the sewing machine… sounds like a urban legend to me!
I love your 2-bobbins rule of thumb, by the way! Great suggestion.

Thanks for taking the time to add your point of view, I appreciate it a lot 🙂

Linda Sibley
Linda Sibley

I have gotten into the habit of cleaning the bobbin area with every bobbin change. A swipe or two around the area with a cotton swab goes a long way to keeping the area clean

Irene V. (MammaNene)
Reply to  Linda Sibley

You are a savvy sewer, Linda!
Better clean more than less, your sewing machine is lucky having you 🙂


I bought a used machine a few months ago, and just ordered a service manual for it. I’m sure its WAAAAY overdue for a cleaning. Thanks!

Irene V. (MammaNene)
Reply to  Barbara

hehehe… let’s do it, then! Thanks for liking my little tutorial, Barbara!


Thank-You, I bought my machine a little over a year ago, and have not cleaned it yet, I’m a new sewer so I dont sew that often, but I want to take good care of my machine.

Deby at So Sew Easy
Active Member
Reply to  Deann

I think a little preventative action can save trouble and expense later on. Wish I could remember to do mine more often.

Irene V. (MammaNene)

Mark your google calendar with a repetitive alarm, Deby, and try not to snooze it 😉