5 tips to keep your sewing machine clean

If you take care of your sewing machine it will last longer and sew better. The instructions in this entry apply primarily to traditional mechanical sewing machines operated by an electric motor. To clean the more fragile computerized machines, follow the instructions in your owner's manual.

5 tips to keep your sewing machine clean

1. Oil for a mechanical sewing machine

  • Always use the right oil to keep it humming. Use sewing machine oil (available from fabric shops and sewing machine shops).
  • Other common lubricants dry too fast and will eventually cause the machine to seize and stop.
  • Put no more than one or two drops of sewing machine oil in each of the 30-odd holes that pockmark your machine.

2. Floss your machine

  • Do this to banish the fuzzies and keep it running smoothly.
  • Slide the edges of a credit card between the tension disks (those metal pieces the thread passes through).
  • Make sure the presser foot is up to slacken the tension springs.
  • Remove the machine's cover.
  • Using a can of compressed air or a hair dryer, hit movable parts with a stream of air, from back to front, to remove any loose threads, lint and fuzz.

3. Take off the throat plate

  • This is sometimes called the needle plate. Pay close attention to how it is removed and replaced. On some models, it screws in. On others, it's spring-loaded.
  • Same thing goes for the bobbin, bobbin case (also called the shuttle) and hook race — watch what you're taking apart, or you may not get it together again.
  • Use compressed air, a hair dryer or a small, stiff-bristled nylon brush to clean these parts.
  • In a pinch, a pipe-cleaner will extract small fibres from moving parts. But don't use toothpicks — they're too flimsy and could break off inside and wreak havoc with the mechanism.

4. Dust the outside with a clean cloth

  • Microfibre cloth works well.
  • A mild household cleaner does the job on grimy fingerprints.
  • Spray first on a cloth and then wipe.
  • If the case is metal, sewing-machine oil sprayed first on a rag, will shine it up nicely.

5. Keep your machine clean

  • Cover it when you're not using it. Ready-made plastic covers can be bought at fabric and sewing machine shops.
  • Or make one yourself from an old pillowcase.
  • Keep the machine away from heat, light and open windows

6. Use caution with computerized sewing machine

  • Never oil a computerized sewing machine (unless the manual specifically instructs you to do so) or use any kind of liquid anywhere near it.
  • Oil and liquids can irreparably damage the computer circuit boards.
  • Use a hair dryer to blow away lint.
  • If you're unsure about cleaning your computerized sewing machine, take it to a sewing machine repair shop.
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