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How to Maintain A Sewing Machine

Unlike most home appliances, the use of sewing machines is hardly predictable – sometimes you may use the machine for hours on end to create a beautifully sewn and embroidered piece of drapery or clothing, and sometimes you may need it for only a few minutes to repair a piece of stitching that came off. While it is true that the more you use a sewing machine the more maintenance it needs, it is a myth that the best sewing machines can handle high workloads for extended periods of time without even basic maintenance. Thankfully, the answer to “how to maintain a sewing machine” is relatively simple when broken up into daily maintenance regimes, those required after every big project and yearly maintenance requirements. For your convenience we have compiled a list of ways by which you can ensure the health and efficiency of your machine over a long period of time.

Daily Tasks

  1. Remove the lint and pieces of thread that may have become enmeshed in the feed dogs and/or throat plate. This should only be done after the machine has been stopped, the needle removed and the foot removed from the pedal as otherwise there is a high chance of grievous injury. Use a lint brush for best results.
  2. Remove the bobbin from the bobbin housing (shuttle cover) and clean the compartment thoroughly before replacing the shuttle cover and storing away the bobbin (or winding thread onto it for another round of sewing).
  3. Wipe all parts of the sewing machine with a damp cloth. However, avoid wiping the throat plate area as lint from the cloth may enter and remain within the structure.
  4. Cover the machine with the sewing machine cover or an improvised one to protect it from dust.

After Every Big Project

Very few of us have the time to clean out the machine thoroughly or perform other maintenance tasks while pursuing a large and labor intensive project. It becomes imperative to carry out a thorough maintenance after each project then. To perform such maintenance you will need –

  • Lint Brush
  • Sewing Machine oil( a light oil that can be found in virtually any sewing shop or online). Do not mix it with other types of more viscous oil.
  • Can of compressed air
  • Lint Brush capable of reaching most nooks and crannies of the sewing machine.
  • Screwdrivers
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If you’re wondering how to maintain a sewing machine using these items, here is how you should go about it –

  1. Release the foot pedal (or pressure foot) to allow the tension discs to relax as well. This makes it easier for you to clean the tension discs. To do so, run a thin piece of dry muslin between and under the discs and remove the lint and dirt that may have collected there in course of your project.
  2. Cleaning the bobbin should be the last step of any sewing machine procedure, but given that many forget to do so (even as part of everyday maintenance) it is best to see the condition of the bobbin and its association with the bobbin cover by removing both from their spaces below the needle and cleaning both thoroughly using a lint brush.
  3. Remove the metal throat plate (if it is removable) using screwdrivers and take out the throat plate. It may also be wise to remove the feed dogs using the screws with which they are held in place. Use compressed air to remove the lint that adds up overtime in the feed dogs.
  4. Use the lint brush to explore and remove dirt and lint from the extended area uncovered by the removal of the throat plate. It is not likely that all of lint would be removed by the brush. Use the compressed air to remove such stubborn particles. Carry out this step only when the machine is cold but the room temperature is not too cold as the ideal room temperature has come to be held as the ideal temperature for creation of gas.
  5. The next phase of the answer to “how to maintain a sewing machine” begins with removing the top cover. Remove the plate using the larger screwdriver and remove the top cover. Inside you will find various components. Some machines may come with special markings that indicate the areas where it requires regular refill of oil.
  6. Use a dropper (if you have one) to drop one or two drops of sewing machine oil on each of the mechanical units marked for oiling regardless of whether they appear well oiled or not.
  7. Once you have dropped sufficient oil onto the parts, rotate the hand wheel to apply the oil evenly to both the top side and the underside of the components. Make sure however that you have not applied so much of oil as to cause it to drip onto the sensitive components that may surround the oil-hungry ones.
  8. Replace the top cover, screw it back into place with any screws that may be involved and your sewing machine is once again ready to perform.
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Annual Tasks

Rust weakens the internal components and in time can cause mechanical failure and injury to one’s person. To avoid rust, one should always store the product away in a clean and dry area. However, regular users often cannot follow this golden rule to the letter and so cleaning rust becomes part of the answer to “how to maintain a sewing machine”.

  1. Take apart the necessary components, including ones that you would normally not remove but which have developed rust (no circuitry though, as that cannot be put back together by users).
  2. Coat the surface well in sewing machine oil, taking care that the oil is spread evenly (and not concentrated in areas with rust issues).
  3. Use steel wool or similar product to remove the rust while taking care not to damage the structure or cause imbalances in the fine settings involved.
  4. Once sufficiently clean, put the components in their correct positions and replace the external components (such as top cover) that you may have removed to access the internal parts.

Professional Help

Though most steps of “how to maintain a sewing machine” are easy to do at home, it is advisable to consult a maintenance expert every year to ensure that the product is working well. Experts can gauge risks in advance of actual appearance to the naked eye and can advise accordingly.


Though the processes that we have suggested for post-large projects can be done daily (and vice versa) without hurting the machine, it is obvious that unless one is a professional tailor the time required for the more complex tasks will likely not be available. For this reason, we have placed some of the basic and necessary steps in the section that answers – how to maintain a sewing machine on a day to day basis, while others more complex but somewhat less regularly required methods are placed in other sections.

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Whatever method you choose though, it is important to remember that certain tasks, like taking apart the circuitry, should be left to only the skilled technician no matter how easy and tempting such tasks may seem. Excepting circuitry and some of the more intricate technology, it can be stated without doubt that this guide should contain most of the steps you would need to keep that lovely sewing machine in top shape for years to come.

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