How to Clean a Sewing Machine – EASY Guide

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Treat your machine with care and learn how to clean a sewing machine and you will reap the benefits as you 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 a sewing machine that is part of your family life.

How to Clean a Sewing MachinePinHow to Clean a Sewing Machine


How to Clean a Sewing MachineStep 1 – Unplug Your MachineStep 2 – Read Your ManualStep 3 – Check Positions for CleaningStep 4 – Brush Lint fromt The MachineStep 5 – OilingStep 6 – Clean the ExteriorStep 7 – TestingHow Often Should You Clean a Sewing Machine?PreventionHow to Clean a Sewing Machine – In ConclusionMore Troubleshooting Articles

How to Clean a Sewing Machine

Before you start to learn how to clean a sewing machine, it is important that you do 4 things:

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 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 – Check Positions for 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 fromt The Machine

Once you have checked the 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.

Keep a little brush and some tweezers handy to clean out lint and stray threads. Use a stiff brush to get the best results.

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.

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.brushes for cleaningbrushes for cleaningPin

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 lint out with your mouth will cause similar problems.

DON`T VACUUM – Some people use small vacuum attachments to clean lint in their machines. Personally, I worry about sucking up a screw or something important so prefer manual methods. In saying that, there shouldn`t be loose screws in your machine so perhaps this is over worrying!

Step 5 – Oiling

Many modern machines do not need oiling so double check your manual before squirting oil everywhere.

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 a hard plastic so 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.

Step 7 – Testing

Now 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.

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.

Clean immediately after sewing fluffy fabrics such as fleece, fur and wool as they clog up your machine very quickly.


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 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 how to clean a sewing machine could make the difference for you and your machine – A trouble-free experience and hours of pleasurable sewing.

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