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Here's How to Clean, Oil, and Maintain Your Sewing Machine

When was the last time you did this?

Photography by: Alice Gao

Remember: You should clean and oil your sewing machine depending on how much you use it and the types of fabric you sew. If you sew quite often and use fabrics that "shed" like velvet, then you will need to clean your machine much more regularly. If you are a light to moderate user, then you can clean your sewing machine once every few months. The rule of thumb is that if you hear squeaking or clinging and see build up, then it is time for a refresh!


Step 1

First, unplug your machine. To prep your sewing machine for cleaning, remove the throat plate where most of the dust and fabric fibers tend to gather. Read through your sewing machine's manual to see how to remove the throat plate. Some machines come with a screw driver that unscrews the plate, while others simply slide off. 


Step 2

Use a nylon brush to collect all the dust and get in between all the nooks and crannies. (Don't use compressed canned air and blast inside your machine as this will further wedge debris inside.) If you have a bobbin case, take that out and clean thoroughly. Also make sure to get inside and in-between the feed dogs. Use the end of a screw driver to push out the dust or brush out with the nylon brush.


[EXPERT HELP: 3 Common Sewing Machine Problems (and How to Fix Them) ]

Step 3

Once the lower part of the machine is cleaned, it is time to oil your machine. Sewing machine oil is a specially formulated lubricant meant to keep machine parts operating smoothly by preventing friction and eventual wear and tear. To apply, use one hand to turn the hand wheel back and forth, and see where the moving parts touch and friction is created — this is where you need to oil. Put a tiny bit of sewing machine oil on these moving parts and really make sure it is sewing oil specifically. Your machine may come with a small oil container. After you oil crank the wheel back and forth a couple of times to work the oil in.


Step 4

Take a piece of fabric (muslin is good to use) to absorb any additional oil on the body of your machine. You don't want any oil to get on your next project! Then, install back on the throat plate and your sewing machine is now ready to use again. You may want to take a dust cloth and wipe down the entire body of the machine, brushing along the thread path.


Plug your machine back in and use a scrap of fabric to do a few test seams before starting on your next sewing project.


Here's our last tip: The best thing to do to prevent dust and debris build-up in your sewing machine is to cover it when it's not in use! Your machine may come with a cover already, but you can also make your own.


[MAKE IT YOURSELF: A Sewing Machine Cover]

And voila, you're ready for your next project! Might we suggest a denim tech case: