how to oil and clean your sewing machine

In this article, we will describe how to oil a sewing machine? A sewing machine is a handy device that almost every household owns. Even if you do not sew your clothes you have one for carrying out regular and small jobs related to sewing. Let us take a look at how to maintain this household machine for its optimum usage. 

Why oil your sewing machine?

A sewing machine is a machine made of different parts. With regular usage, the oil in these parts starts drying up. It also gathers dust, lint, and debris from your sewing jobs. All this takes a toll on the performance of the machine itself. It needs to be cleaned and oiled so that it continues to perform at its best. You do not need pounds or gallons of machine oil to do the needful. Many sewing machine manufacturers provide a bottle of machine oil when you buy a sewing machine. You can use that. If you have run out of it then you can always buy a new one from the market. We will discuss the sewing machine oil’s density and viscosity in a little detail below.

When to oil your sewing machine?

Oiling depends on your usage and the kind of sewing machine you own. If you use it very often then you should consider cleaning and oiling it after 10-12 hours of use. If you use it occasionally then once every few months and weeks would suffice. Here are some signs you should look for in your machine that tell you it’s to get it cleaned;

  • It is not running smoothly and producing weird sounds.
  • You can see it has accumulated lint.
  • The machine’s manual tells you it’s time to clean your sewing machine.
  • Some machines start flashing a red light which means they require cleaning.

Do all sewing machines require oiling?

The advancement in technology has resulted in the maintenance of free sewing machines. They do not require oiling, especially as regularly as a traditional sewing machine. They are produced with oil injected in them during production. However, they are very expensive and not very popular.  

Sewing machine oil types:

Most sewing machine oils are petroleum-based. There are other additives and chemicals added to them to enhance their working. The manual of your sewing machine would tell you what type of oil you can use for oiling. Do not use any household oil, grease, WD40, or motor oil. Their viscosity is quite different than sewing machine oil. They will do more harm than good. If the manual doesn’t guide you on the type of machine oil you can contact the manufacturer or the dealer for further assistance. It is also important that you use household sewing machine oil and not the Industrial sewing machine oil. Both do a similar job but the scale of their work is different. 

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Guide on how to oil your sewing machine:

We will now describe to you the process of oiling your sewing machine. Before you begin the process, you will require things like cleaning cloths, a lint brush or your old toothbrush, screwdrivers for uninstalling some parts, and sewing machine oil.

Refer to the manual:

All sewing machines come with a manual that contains tips and guidance on how to clean your sewing machine. You can also download it from the company’s website. Follow the manual to know where to clean the machine and how to oil it. The manual would highlight the areas and parts that are likely to gather more dust and thread fibers. Unplug the machine and use a screwdriver to reach those parts and remove them. The throat plate is usually the dirtiest so start by removing it. Other parts, for example, bobbin case needs to be cleaned too so remove it as well.


You must clean all the disassembled parts before oiling them. Cleaning will wipe away all the dust and lint from them. Applying oil without cleaning would make the debris stick the surface of the parts. This is not going to help your cause of cleaning. 

You can start by cleaning the bigger parts first. For cleaning, you can use the cleaning cloth or a lint brush. Most machines are supplied with a lint brush at the time of purchase. If you do not have one or it is too old now you can always buy a new one. Go for a brush with hard nylon bristles. You can also make use of your old toothbrush or paintbrush. They would work fine too. The brush will clean hard to reach places, crevices, and grooves. A mere cloth is not enough. 

Compressed air:

Some people use compressed air to blow the dust away from hard to reach areas. This technique has its pros and cons. If you want to use compressed air then you will have to take the following precautions;

  • Hold the can of air away from the machine and angle it in such a way that it blows the dust away from the machine and not into it. We want to clean the machine and not push the dust further inside.
  • You can use the air to clean the bobbin case housing and the bobbin case too. 
  • Remove the needle plate and blow air under it. This is difficult to reach the area and the air can clean it effectively.


Now that your machine is clean of any dust you can begin the process of oiling. We can break down the oiling process in the following points so you can easily know how to oil a sewing machine;

  • As we have discussed above you must use the sewing machine oil recommended by the machine’s manufacturers. 
  • A DIY hack includes using coconut oil for oiling your machine. Its density, viscosity, and relative density are much closer to the sewing machine oil.
  • You will only need a few drops to oil your sewing machine. Do not over lubricate as it can hamper the working of the parts and may cause them to work slowly. 
  • Now we come to the question of what parts to oil? Again, the manual of the machine would come handy. It will identify the parts that need oiling. They may include bobbin case, bobbin case housing, rotary hook, needle bar, etc. A rule of thumb is that you oil any two parts that rub or slide against each other or anything that moves in the machine should be oiled.
  • Make sure that the parts are thoroughly oiled. To ensure this move them manually in this way the oil will be properly diffused over the surface of the parts.
READ:  Top 09 Sewing Machine Maintenance Guidelines [Updated]

Excess oil:

After oiling is done, now it’s time to remove any excess oil or grime from the surface of the parts. Remember, oiling is good but too much of anything is bad. So, you will have to carefully wipe off the extra oil from the surface of the sewing machine parts. In this regard the following points should be remembered;

  • Use a soft cloth that can absorb the excess oil. 
  • You can also use soapy liquid to clean the body of your machine and then wipe it off with a clean cloth. The oil stains will be removed like this.
  • You can also use paper or paper towel to clear the excess oil.
  • When wiping off the extra oil pay special attention to bobbin case, tension disk, and needle pin.

Reinstall the parts:

Once you are through with everything it is time to reinstall reassemble the removed parts. Put the parts back to where you removed them. It won’t be much difficult, as you removed them in the first place. Still, if you encounter any difficulty refer to the manual or ask Google for help.

After you have reinstalled all the parts, re-plug the machine and so some trial runs. If the machine is working properly and better than before than congratulations your work is done and you have done it well. You can follow the same procedure the next time you intend to oil and clean your sewing machine. 

Tips for maintaining your machine in good shape

  • Now we are going to share with you some tips which will help your machine run longer and smoother. These are as follows;
  • Use good quality thread that produces less lint. If you use multipurpose or low-quality thread that produces a lot of lint your machine will require frequent cleaning.
  • It is always a good idea to clean your machine regularly. As discussed above, it depends on your usage but does it anyway to help it run better.
  • Always keep your machine covered when not using it. It will prevent it from getting unnecessarily dirty. 
  • Only use standard sewing machine oil. 
  • Keep the machine’s manual safely stored with you and do not throw it away. It contains useful information on your machine and maintenance tips which come in handy.
  • Do not forget to turn off your machine and unplug it before you start to clean and disassemble it.
  • Before oiling, check your manual to get an idea of how to oil a sewing machine. It will guide you where to put the oil and how to go about it. Some machines do not require oiling, lest your machine falls in that category.
  • While dissembling, it is better not to remove all the parts, you might end up with a mess and find it too hard to put them back together. You are after all not a sewing machine technician. Only remove those parts that are necessary and you can easily remove and reinstall them.
  • While cleaning, oiling, and dissembling/assembling, use a torchlight to see the areas not visible clearly. A little caution can save you from big trouble.
  • Do not use your breath to blow away lint. Breath contains moisture which may cause the lint to stick around.
  • If at any stage you face any difficulty in uninstalling or reinstalling machine parts do not hesitate to seek professional help instead of wasting time and compromising the machine’s performance.
  • Another advantage of the cleaning exercise is that you will come across certain parts that might need replacements. In case this happens replace such faulty parts. Some people change the needle every time they clean and oil regardless of its condition. This is not a bad idea either.
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Sewing machines are an integral part of almost all households. If used with caution and care it can give you service for many years. Make it a habit to clean it frequently and regularly. Cleaning and oiling are part of its maintenance regime. If you want to oil a sewing machine, it is not hard either. Doing this will make sure that your machine remains in good shape and perform without any hindrance. 


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