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How to Clean Your Sewing Machine in a Smart Way

A Sewist’s Guide to Troubleshooting, Maintenance, Tips & Techniques by Bernie Tobisch
A Sewist’s Guide to Troubleshooting, Maintenance, Tips & Techniques by Bernie Tobisch

Sewing machines forms such an important part of your life, maybe as your go-to hobby or your full-time profession.

The least you can do is maintain it at its maximum performing output by regularly cleaning them.

The more you take care of your sewing machine, the better its performance gets.

The maintenance ranges from the thread you sew with and the type of fabric you use to how often you give it a good clean-up.

To ensure that your sewing machine keeps running efficiently and smoothly, then you must clean out the lint, which is a by-product of sewing that you can never avoid.

More lint keeps shifting and accumulating in the gut of your machine as you keep sewing; thus, to keep it quiet and efficient, you must religiously clean it.

Quite a number of problems are caused by the accumulation of thread bits, lint, or dust on the working parts of the machine. Whenever you are having trouble with your machine, try cleaning it unless it’s at an advanced stage when you consult the local dealer.

Most of the brands recommend that you clean your machine after 10 hours of usage, but we don’t, they are still fine.

Below is a breakdown of the best way to clean your sewing machine. 

1. Get your manual

Your best reference for proper maintenance of your sewing machine is the specific manual since you wouldn’t want to do anything irreparable. You wouldn’t want to take it apart incorrectly or clean it wrongly.

It is very imperative to get it right; thus, if you don’t have the exact manual for your model and make, then you should get one from the manufacturer’s website.

If you fail to get anything online, then directly contact the manufacturer and request one.

2. Gathering the tools

  • Instruction manual
  • Lint brush: Most often than not, the machines come with a lint brush, but if you don’t have one, get one from your dealer or fabric store.
  • Needles: It is always important that you stock some new needles and replace the needle every time you do the maintenance.
  • A soft cloth: muslin is always the perfect choice.
  • Small-scale vacuum attachments: come in handy when pulling out lint off hiding spots. Available where vacuums are sold or online.
  • Canned air: since your breath contains moisture, it can easily cause corrosion over time hence spraying with canned air at 4” away(since it contains moisture that can be corrosive) on the cleaning parts will easily blow out the lint rather than on it.
  • Disposal mascara brushes/pipelines: some people prefer them when cleaning.

3. Give lint the brush off

  • Start by unplugging the machine
  • Carefully remove the needle and discard it, ensuring that you are noting the flat side of the needle.
  • Following the instructions on your manual, remove the presser foot, needle plate, the bobbin, and finally, the bobbin plate.
  • Using your lint brush, vacuum, or canned air, carefully remove the lint and gunk from each of the pieces.
  • Using the manual’s instructions, remove the race area (where the bobbin case sits) while paying much attention to know how exactly you are going to put it back. (Only go through with this step if it’s 100% clear, if not skip it because ideally, it’s supposed to be done by your local dealer.)
  • The best place to start removing the lint is off the feed dogs.
  • Then blow the lint collected under the feed dogs or in the race area using a vacuum, a brush or canned air(be very careful not to blow lint into the machine)
  • If you took the race apart, reassemble the race.
  • Some machines have a side cover; hence, you will need to open it and clean out the thread path. If not, clean the thread paths by blowing air through them. This will, in turn, clean the tension disks.
  • The tension discs are also popularly cleaned by raising the presser foot to disengage the disks followed by running the length of dental floss or cotton thread back and forth several times through the thread.
  • Use a soft cloth to clean the exterior of the machine.
  • Plugin the machine then turns it on. Run it first without the bobbin case, bobbin, presser foot, needle plate, and needle to gauge how smoothly it’s working.
  • Turn it off, then use the manual to replace the bobbin case, bobbin, needle plate then the presser foot.
  • Correctly insert a new needle, the flat side facing the right way.

4. All about lubrication

Once the machine is clean, you can then lubricate it exactly as it is written in the manual. Use the clear oil recommended by the model’s manufacturer, precisely follow the tips and techniques provided in the manual.

However, some machines are self-lubricating hence do not need lubrication. Only lubricate your manual if it tells you to do it. Be careful not to over oil since it can get very messy.

After lubrication, place fabric beneath the presser foot to soak up any oil left behind.

5. Additional maintenance tips

  • Don’t leave your machine uncovered since lint, dirt, and hair easily enter the sewing machine.
  • Keep your machine out of a dusty place
  • Change the needles as often as you can since if the needle is dull or bent; it damages the machine
  • Clean your hands before using the machine
  • Every two years, get an authorized dealer to do basic maintenance on the machine, which includes extensive cleaning, oiling, tension adjusting, and general test on work parts.

Final thoughts

It is imperative to remember that regular cleaning keeps the machine happy, lubed up, and efficient. The best way to clean the sewing machine is by carefully following the manual instructions and cleaning it on a regular basis.

It’s imperative that you keep the machine well maintained and ensure that if disengaging the machine, correctly assemble it and when in doubt, consult the manufacturer.
Ensure that the machine is unplugged when working on it since safety is paramount. 

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