Learn how to properly clean your sewing machine and perform routine maintenance to keep your machine running smoothly.
Just like with any piece of machinery, or even our automobiles, we need to perform routine maintenance, like checking our fluids and tires, to keep things running optimally and to prevent bigger problems.
Whether you use your sewing machine only a few times a year or daily, performing routine maintenance is an important step. Not cleaning your sewing machine regularly can cause all sorts of problems with thread breaking or nesting, needles breaking, and more.
How to Clean Your Sewing Machine
But how do you clean your sewing machine and what does routine maintenance look like for a sewing machine?
I’m glad you asked! Let’s take a look at how to clean your sewing machine. But first, let’s take a look at the supplies you’ll need to have on hand.
- sewing machine manual (see below if you need help locating a manual)
- barely damp paper towels
- lint brush or soft bristled paint brush
- sewing machine oil
- soft cloth
- new sewing machine needle
We talked about the supplies you’ll need before you clean your sewing machine or start your routine maintenance. Let’s address some of the questions you might have.
Can I use a vacuum cleaner on my sewing machine?
Yes, you can use a vacuum cleaner to suction out the dust in your sewing machine. Some vacuum cleaners have micro or mini attachments that are perfect for vacuuming in small spaces, such as a computer keyboard.
Can I use soap and water to clean my sewing machine?
Unfortunately, you should NOT use water on or in your sewing machine to clean it. It’s hard to control the water and any drips can lead to rust and other problems with your machine. You can, however, use a very slightly damp paper towel or cloth to clean off the outside of your sewing machine and the removable parts.
You will want to make sure all parts are completely dry before putting your machine back together.
How often should I perform routine maintenance or clean my sewing machine?
The answer to that question is that it all depends on how much you use your sewing machine and what type of sewing you’re doing. Again, refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your routine maintenance schedule.
I would recommend that you clean your sewing machine once a month if you sew regularly. If you only sew a few times a year, you can simply clean your machine before each use.
What type of oil should I use with my sewing machine?
As always, you should refer to your sewing machine manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Having said that, they make oil specific for sewing machines. Below are a few products that I have used:
- Singer All Purpose Machine Oil
- Zoom-Spout Sewing Machine Oil
- 3-In-One Multi-Purpose Oil
NOTE: DO NOT OIL YOUR SEWING MACHINE UNLESS RECOMMENDED TO DO SO BY THE MANUFACTURER!
How often should I oil my sewing machine?
You will hear me say a lot, “please refer to your sewing machine manufacturer or manual for specific information on your sewing machine.” That holds true to oiling your machine, too.
Typically sewing machines only need to be oiled once a year. Where you oil your machine and how often varies from machine to machine. Which is why it’s important to refer to your manufacturer’s instructions.
Again, PLEASE REFER TO THE MANUFACTURER’S RECOMMENDATIONS.
I’ve lost my sewing machine manual, where can I find one for my sewing machine?
Fortunately, we live in an online world and many manufacturers have made their sewing machine manuals available online. Here are a few sources:
- Baby Lock Sewing Machine Manuals
- Bernina Sewing Machine Manuals
- Brother Sewing Machine Manual
- Janome Sewing Machine Manuals
- Juki Sewing Machine Manuals
If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
I’ve created a video that walks you through cleaning a sewing machine. In this video I’m using my Janome 8200 QCP sewing machine. You may use a different machine but the steps are pretty much the same. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel by clicking on the below image. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to my channel so you’ll be notified when new videos are made available. Thanks in advance for your support!
How to Clean a Sewing Machine
Learn how to properly clean your sewing machine to perform routine maintenance and prolong the life of your machine.
- paper towels, damp
- sewing machine oil
- sewing machine needle
- scrap fabric
- sewing machine manual
- soft cloth
- lint brush
- Gather your supplies and your sewing machine manual. Be sure to read the manufacturer's recommendations. Turn off and unplug your sewing machine, if you haven't done so already.
- Using a very slightly damp paper towel, wipe off the outside of the sewing machine. Sometimes when you sew, fabric dye and residue can be left behind. Simply wipe off the exterior with a paper towel that is just barely wet. Make sure the surface is dry before proceeding.
- Use the screwdriver to remove the sewing machine needle and throw it away.
- You'll also need to remove the presser foot. If there is lint or dust on the presser foot, use the lint brush to remove.
- Remove the throat plate. Use the lint brush to remove any dust on the underside of the throat plate.
- With the throat plate removed, use the lint brush to remove any dust from the feed dogs. The lint you collect should stick to the brush, pull off the lint and throw it away as you work.
- Remove the bobbin and hook race from the sewing machine and remove any dust using the lint brush. It is sometimes helpful to use a pair of tweezers to help remove the lint.
- For the Janome sewing machine, one drop of oil is dropped into the hook area. In the center of the hook area you will notice a white area that kind of resembles dust or interfacing. DO NOT remove. This is where you drop the oil.
- Replace the hook race and needle plate.
- Plug in and turn on your sewing machine. Turn the hand wheel to help spread the oil.
- Install a new sewing machine needle and put the presser foot back on the sewing machine.
- Rethread the sewing machine and reinstall the bobbin.
- Take the scrap fabric and sew a few rows of stitches. This helps to distribute the oil and removes any excess oil from the machine.
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More Sewing Tips & Tutorials
If you enjoyed learning how to clean your sewing machine, be sure to read these other sewing tips and tutorials right here on Hooked on Sewing:
And, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the entire Learn to Sew series!
Be sure to pin this tutorial to your favorite Pinterest board to save it for later or to share with family and friends!
Thanks, Pam for the tutorial on cleaning your sewing machine. I was just about to send you an email asking that very thing. When I start sewing I’ve started hearing a little squeak when the needle goes up and down. So, taking your advice and checking my owner’s manual. 🙂
Pam Baker says
Lynne, you are so welcome! Hope this helps you identify your problem.