Treat your machine with care and learn how to clean a sewing machine. Cleaning your sewing machine regularly will avoid the troubles and strife that come with sewing machine troubleshooting. Prevention is better than a cure! Wise words that apply to any machine, especially for a regularly used sewing machine.
How to Clean a Sewing Machine Tutorial
This tutorial will show you how to clean your sewing machine. Regular sewing machine maintenance is essential to keeping your machine running smoothly.
Step 1 - Unplug Your Machine
Don't touch anything electrical with it still plugged in. As you won't have the benefit of the sewing machine lamp, take your sewing machine to a well-lit area so you can see what you are doing. Don't be tempted to plug it back in so you can use the machine lamp!
Step 2 - Read Your Manual
Study the manual on sewing machine maintenance that comes with your machine and keep it oiled and clean ready for every task. If you have lost your manual, try to get a sewing machine manual online or ask a dealer or manufacturer where the oiling and cleaning points are and how often you should oil and clean your machine.
IMPORTANT: Beware that some brands specify that only a dealer or authorized repairer can clean their machines. Do a double-check so you don't void any warranty.
Step 3 - Positions for Sewing Machine Cleaning
Check your manual for the main places that will need cleaning. Generally, you will need to remove the needle plate and bobbin to get under the bobbin case. This should be specified in the sewing machine manual.
Step 4 - Brush Lint from The Machine
Once you have checked the machine cleaning positions, you will need to brush out all the lint that has built up.
This may be considerable in the underside of the machine where the bobbin is held. Check your manual for instructions on how to remove the bobbin cover and get underneath. You may need a small screwdriver to remove the plate screws.
Clean the bobbin area, feed dogs and hook. Don't forget the tension disks and thread area.
Keep a little brush and some tweezers handy to clean out lint and stray threads. Use a stiff brush to get the best results.
Here are some valuable tips for cleaning a sewing machine with a brush.
- BRUSHES - Don't buy really cheap brushes where the bristles come out, as the last thing you want is loose bristles floating around your machine. Most machines come with a small stiff brush in their basic kit. A toothbrush can be used buy make sure it is dry.
- BRUSH ALTERNATIVES - Consider using a disposable mascara wand as an alternative to a commercial sewing machine brush. The stiff bristles do a good job in hard-to-reach places.
- AVOID AIR - Stay away from canned air as it tends to contain moisture which can cause problems with rust and your electrics. Instead, use your brushes.
- DON'T BLOW - Likewise, blowing the lint out with your mouth will cause similar problems.
- DON'T USE A VACUUM CLEANER - Some people use small vacuum attachments to clean the lint in their sewing machines. Personally, I worry about sucking up a screw or something important, so I prefer manual methods. In saying that, there shouldn't be loose screws in your machine, so perhaps this is over-worrying!
Step 5 - How to Oil a Sewing Machine
Many modern machines do not need oiling, so double check your manual before squirting oil everywhere.
If you have an older machine that does require oiling, consult the manual to see where to insert oil. It will generally just be a couple of points on the machine. Common points to oil are around the bobbin case, near the needle clamp and in the top of the machine.
Always get the correct oil for your sewing machine. This is important as each make of machine has its oil that suits its components best. Don't try and use some substitute oil you find in your garage. It is not worth the damage to your machine. Sewing machine oil is typically clear and very fine.
Clean off excess oil and test drive the machine on a scrap to clear any residual oil that may spoil or dirty your fabric.
Step 6 - Clean the Exterior
Now the inside is clean, it is time to give the exterior some attention. Most machines are made from hard plastic, so they can be wiped over with a soft cloth. If your cloth is damp, be very careful to avoid any mechanics and points where moisture can enter.
Don't forget to wipe the presser foot over.
Step 7 - Testing the Sewing Machine After Cleaning
Now you have finished your sewing machine maintenance and your machine is all sparkling clean, plug it back in and do a test sew. This is especially important if you have used any oil in the cleaning process. You may find a few extra pieces of lint come out in your initial sewing. Your stitches should be even with perfectly balanced tension. After cleaning, I usually replace the sewing machine needle as well.
How to Clean a Sewing Machine FAQs
How Often Should You Clean a Sewing Machine?
Now you know how to clean a sewing machine, the next question is how often to do it. Well, this depends on how often you sew. If you are sewing regularly, you should clean lint every week as a minimum.
The photo at the top of the page was taken after a few hours of sewing a fleece fabric. Most manufacturers will have a recommended time frame for cleaning, so check your manual.
Do sewing machine maintenance and clean immediately after sewing fluffy fabrics such as fleece, fur, and wool, as they clog up your machine very quickly.
How to Keep a Sewing Machine Clean
While it is not possible to prevent the interior from needing cleaning in the future, you can protect the outside. Have a dust cover for your machine. If it was not part of your sewing machine purchase, have fun making one or just drape some light fabric over the machine to prevent dust build-up. This will save you time on cleaning your machine in the future.
How to Clean a Sewing Machine - In Conclusion
Make cleaning and oiling your machine part of your personal maintenance routine. When your machine is in peak performance and well-oiled, it will purr along, and you will enjoy working together.
Machine and machinist are in sync as you create amazing outfits but also enjoy the process with a machine that works. Just a few minutes to check everything is in order and learning how to clean a sewing machine could make the difference for you and your machine - A trouble-free experience and hours of pleasurable sewing.