Friday, 18 April 2014

How to Clean Your Sewing Machine


For this post I'm going to have a look at a pretty important thing - cleaning your sewing machine.

Keeping in mind that a sewing machine is a 'power tool with thread' its hardly surprising that a little maintenance is important. And respect. Respect it because it punches a metal needle through stuff faster than you can even see. 

Disclaimer: I'm a blogger, this is my just my thoughts on stuff. If you hurt yourself or break something doing this, I'm not legally responsible. Because you're a grown up, and if you take random advice from the internet, you want to think about whether its a good idea first. Seriously, I have seen some stupid and dangerous things on Pinterest. If you're not a grown up, ask one.


Now that I've covered the idiot proofing part, it’s really not that difficult to clean a sewing machine, and it is absolutely necessary.

If you've noticed that your machine just hasn't been running as well as usual lately, or if you've noticed bits of lint coming up on your sewing, build-up of lint in the machine is a likely culprit. If that's the case, you can take it for an expensive service, where it is likely the people in the shop will look at you judgmentally as they exhibit all the fluff they found in your grubby machine (not that this ever happened to me I swear). Another option is to just get on with it and clear it out properly yourself.

If you're unsure, you can talk to the people in the shop / service centre about what you should do, and if there's anything that you shouldn't do to keep your warranty. (Again, their advice trumps mine). Who knows, they might even show you. Then you can sort it yourself, because this is the sewing equivalent of checking the oil in your car.

Speaking of, its also worth finding out whether your machine needs regular oil, and how to apply it. Some machines will even have a little indicator as to where you should put a drop of oil every so often.

The next thing you want to do is check out your manual. There may be instructions there.

And then before you start taking everything apart, UNPLUG YOUR MACHINE FROM THE POWER SOURCE. 

So here is my machine. And yes, I realise I have not unplugged it yet.

Each machine is different, but the basic principles are the same. Some are much easier to open than others. Take it slowly, and when you reach a point where you're no longer comfortable, stop and put it back together.

All of the action happens in the bobbin area. This is where the lint gathers. So I am going to take as many components out as practically possible and clean them all.

I would like to note, for the sake of my own pride, that the amount of fluff in there is pretty unusual. I have been sewing with fake fur! I would normally want to clean it more often than this, but for the purpose of photographing the procedure, this is ideal.

So the first thing I will do is remove the foot, the needle, the thread and the bobbin.

Now I’m looking at the plate which covers the inner workings of the machine. You’ll notice it has 2 handy screws, so that’s where I start. I have a weird but surprisingly effective screwdriver here.

You can probably already see what the problem is!

Once I remove the cover, I have a look to see which other parts can come out easily. I take each piece in turn. DO NOT drop the screws into the machine because getting them out again is a pain (not that I’ve ever done that either).

This exposes the bobbin case, which in this case is built into the machine. This is a really important area to keep clean because the pieces need to be able to spin freely.

I take that out as well.

A couple of quick hints for keeping track of things as you do this.
1)     Lay out the pieces in order as you remove them. Here I’ve worked from top to bottom. When I need to put them back in, I work from bottom to top. I’ve kept the screws I need next to the pieces. This helps enormously in terms of getting it back together smoothly.

2)     Snap photos as you go. Then if you aren't sure which way up something goes, you can go back to your photos and use them as a reference.

It’s not that the process is hugely complicated, but heck, why work harder than you need to?

Now all off the pieces are out, time to get the fluff!

My machine kit came with a little brush. You can buy ones for this purpose from sewing shops, and the ones you buy are much better, with a long brush end and a pipe cleaner end. A long pair of tweezers is also pretty useful.
Image from
 Grab out the fluff!

All of it!


If you turn the hand wheel a couple of times as well, it will throw out bits of lint that are otherwise inaccessible.

Use the brush, but don’t try and wipe or dry the moving parts, unless you are re-applying oil. They are machinery, and they need lubricant to run smoothly.

Give the brush a good clean afterwards too.

Once it’s back to being pretty, reassemble piece by piece. I wiped down each piece as I put it back in.

Couple more bits here (no photo but its like the ones above sans fluff).

 Then you can re-thread, and test to see that it’s working. Before you plug it in and run it at full speed, place a piece of fabric under the foot, and make 5-6 stitches using the hand wheel. That way if something is wrong, you’ll have the chance to figure it out before running the machine at full speed and risking damaging it. If it's running ok, try the pedal.

I also wiped down the outside of the machine, and I’m declaring it done.

If you do this fairly regularly, it should help keep your machine in good running order, and reduce wear and tear.


  1. I'm lazy. When fluff starts to build up i use the hoover extension.

    1. Better than nothing I guess. I don't know that it would have been able to sort the fuzz in this case though...

  2. This is brilliant, thank you! Just one question, I have same machine as in pictures, do I ever need to oil this machine? If yes, how, where and how often? Thanks =)

    1. There are no instructions for oiling it in the manual, and the FAQs on the website ( have this to say:

      Q. How often should I oil my machine?

      A.Good question! If your machine manual does not include instructions on oiling, your machine has been pre-lubricated at the factory and will not need additional lubricating. However, you can put 2 to 3 small drops of sewing machine oil in the bobbin case area and on the needle bar as this will not harm the machine. You may also put a few drops on the handwheel where it meets the side of the machine.

      If your manual does call for you to oil the machine, and you use your machine every day, we suggest that you lubricate once a week. If you use your machine once a week, lubricate once a month. If you only use your sewing machine once a month, lubricate once every three months.

      We also recommend that you have your machine tuned-up by a qualified SINGER technician every 3 to 4 years to keep it in good running order.

      So there you go. :)

  3. This is something I should do more often. I did buy one of those little brushes from Amazon and they are good for the job.
    I can't remember the last time I gave the machine an oil, I do have some handy.
    I think a mini self service is on the cards........