Coming Clean: Our Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Sewing Machine

Photo Source: Pinterest

Coming Clean: Our Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Sewing Machine

You’ve probably heard the old saying many times before: take good care of your stuff and it will take good care of you. That’s especially true when it comes to your sewing machine. But how often do you deep clean your machine? Once a month? Once a year???

When it comes to sewing, there’s no more indispensable piece of equipment than your sewing machine. Almost every project you work on will run through it, so keeping it in top-top shape is imperative to both the success of your projects and perhaps keeping your sanity. So, if you’re seeing lint or fabric build-up or hearing strange squeaking sounds, roll up your sleeves. It’s time to clean!

Video Source: YouTube/Tilly and the Buttons

How Often?

The general rule of thumb says that a sewing machine should be cleaned after about eight hours of use, but the frequency can also be gauged by how often you use the machine and the type of fabrics you work with.

Light to moderate users can go every few months between cleaning, but regular users should go with the eight hours or once a month advice.

Those who work with fabrics to tend to shred (velvet) and fray (towels, wool knits) may also want to get in there on a consistent basis.

What Tools Do I Need?

Cleaning a sewing machine is not a tool-intensive process, and your machine probably came with its own set of tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Clean cloth (or two)
  • Small brush with stiff-ish bristles
  • Small soft brush
  • 2 small screwdrivers (standard and Phillips head)

If you’re missing some of these items, they can be bought separately, or you can get them all at once in this handy kit.

You’ll also need a small hair dryer, mini vacuum, or air compressor. Here’s an early word of warning: DO NOT use canned air to clean your machine, especially with the latest more sophisticated models! Canned air can cover your machine’s metal part with very fine moisture: Metal parts + moisture = rust.

Sewing machine oil and Q-tips are also important parts of the cleaning process.

How To Get A Squeaky Clean Machine

Photo Source: iFixit

Unplug and Clean Surfaces

Before doing anything, be sure to unplug your machine! Sounds simple but many people simply forget this crucial first step, often with shocking results. Don’t be one of those people.

Take a soft cloth to the outside surfaces of your machine and the table it’s on, clearing out any dust or lint that has built up. If its surrounding area is heavy with lint and dust, chances are the inside of the machine is too. Also don’t forget the floor area around the sewing machine. Here’s where your mini-vac can come into use.

Disassemble The Machine

  1. First, pull out the presser foot and the needle and unscrew the presser foot adapter, if needed. Put these items aside.
  1. Pull out your bobbin. If you’ve never pulled out a bobbin holder, simply put your fingers inside and pull it out. Beginners: it’s a good idea to take a picture first so you can see what it’s supposed to look like when you put it back together again.
  2. Unscrew the throat plate and carefully put the screws where you can easily find them.
Photo Source: Sewing Reviews

Get In Deep!

With your machine disassembled, use your little bristled brush to clean out lint, paying close attention to the area between the feed dog teeth. Work carefully here, as you don’t want to inadvertently push lint further inside the machine.

Now you can bust out your hair dryer or air compressor to really get in deep, especially the area below the bobbin where lint can build up. When cleaning, direct any air flow, brushing, or suctioning to push lint outside of the machine.

Don’t forget to clean between the tension discs. To do this, raise the pressure foot mechanism and clean using your brush or a clean cloth.

Before replacing the needle plate, inspect it for any rough edges that could snag on your fabric while sewing. If there are any nicks or burrs, use an emery cloth to smooth them out.

Oil It Up

Put a few drops of sewing machine oil on the head of a Q-tip and gently oil the metal parts inside and surrounding surfaces. Oil will help prevent rust and keep machine parts running smoothly. Not all parts of your sewing machine need oil, so check with your manual to see when and where it should be used on your machine.

Now unscrew the left-hand portion pf the machine where you can take a peek at the upper inside of your sewing machine (you should be able see the lamp and the mechanisms that work the needle). Get in a good cleaning in here too, and then place a drop of oil on all metallic joints and moving parts.

Watch this video to lean more about oiling your sewing machine.

Video Source: Sewway

Put It Back Together

Carefully place the bobbin holder back in place, using the picture you took earlier as a guide. Slide on your throat plate and screw it into place. Put on the foot and adapter (if needed), add the bobbin and a new needle and you’re done!

Helpful Final Tips

Once reassembled and plugged in, sew back and forth over a scrap of cotton fabric to release any leftover lint or sewing machine oil residue. Better on a scrap than on your next project!

Covering your machine when it’s not in use is the best way to keep prevent dust and lint from building up! If you don’t already have a cover, this video shows you how to make your own!

Video Source: YouTubeThe Crafty Gemini

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