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How To: Clean/Oil Your Sewing Machine


I know it’s not spring, but it’s time to “spring clean” those sewing machines.


Not sure how to to actually clean up and add oil to your machine??

Well, if you’ve never done it before, it’s a lot easier than you’re probably thinking.


You know, this is a tutorial request that I get asked for pretty often.  And I’ve never pulled together a tutorial because everyone uses a different machine.  But I decided to show you how I keep my own machine purring (…or how I change it from growling to purring again).  And I’m sure you’ll be able to use bits and pieces of this for your own machine.




And how often should a machine go between cleanings?


Well, for sure before your machine gets too gunked up like mine.  Ooops.



It’s probably been about 4-5 months since I last cleaned out and lubed up my poor little Bernina.  And she’s not very happy about it.  Sorry, my friend!



So if you really want to keep up on your machine maintenance, you’re supposed to clean it out and add oil after every few projects.  (Not small projects like hemming some pants.  I’d say after making a couple dresses, some curtains, and then maybe a baby quilt.  Then it’s probably time to spruce it up again.)


Here’s how I clean my own machine:





Then, gather some tools.  Grab your machine’s owners manual, some machine oil, a stiff brush, a soft lint-free cloth, and maybe some tweezers.  That’s it!  (Be sure to take a look in that owner’s manual and see what it says about cleaning and oiling your machine.)



Now, take off all the extra parts of your machine that are in the way of your cleaning.  If you have a drop in bobbin, your machine will look a little different, but take off plates, remove thread, presser feet, needles, and bobbin cases.


And if you have a similar Bernina, you’ll have to push on the back right corner to release the stitch plate.



Then, start cleaning up. Brush all that icky lint away. I’ve always been told to NOT use compressed air inside of here.  It will force pieces of lint into places that could harm or jam up your sewing machine.


If you have a bottom load bobbin, start brushing down below as well.


If necessary, use some tweezers to grab those compacted clumps of lint.  They can be too stubborn to just brush away.


Now, again, your machine may be very different so take a look in your owner’s manual to see if there are other moveable parts that need to be cleaned behind.  But if you have something similar to mine, you can move that bobbin housing out of the way and start cleaning behind it.


Then, on my machine, there’s a bobbin hook that comes out.  So I pulled it out and very carefully cleaned it out and wiped all the gunk out with a soft cloth.


Now, add oil.  All you need is a small amount.  Take a look in your owner’s manual to see exactly where to drop it.  I added a small drop right inside the hook race.  It’s the silver ring on the inside that the bobbin hook fits onto.  These two pieces rub together, so keeping them oiled keeps the machine quiet and performing correctly.  I also added a drop of oil to the outer ring of the bobbin hook, where it slides along the hook race.


Then, if there are other pieces of lint that aren’t coming out with your little brush, place a little bit of oil on a q-tip and grab that excess lint with your q-tip.  The lint will stick to the oil on the q-tip and you can really spruce up the innards of your sewing machine.


As for the outside care of your machine, slide a folded piece of lint-free fabric along the inside track of the tension disks (folded edge facing down), removing any lint or stray pieces of thread.  Be sure to slide it inside there towards you, in the same direction that the thread is pulled through.


Then wipe down the outer surface of your machine, making your little friend sparkle. :)



Now, plug your machine back in and rev it up!  Push your foot pedal all the way down and let your machine run steady for several minutes.  This will move your oil all around, just where it needs to go.  Do you hear an improvement??  Hope so!


And lastly, wipe out the bobbin case and remove any unwanted lint that’s inside.  Then re-load with your bobbin, put your thread back in and put all your plates back on.



But instead of putting your old needle back in, replace it with a new one.   It will really help your machine’s performance.


And that’s it!  Now sew a few stitches along some fabric to soak up any unwanted oil, just in case a bit of excess rubbed off in some places.


Now, enjoy your nicely cleaned machine.


**Even though this regular cleaning can really help keep my machine happy and lubed up, I like to take my machine in about once a year to get it serviced.  They check all of the settings, tensions, and machine parts……and adjust/replace anything if necessary.  If you don’t use your machine much at all, you could go longer in between shop visits……….but this is just what I do. :)


Best of luck!




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Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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