Whether you have a domestic or an industrial sewing machine, keeping it clean from impurities like lint and dirt is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that it is kept in good working condition.
Because your sewing machine is in constant state of motion, you can expect gunk to accumulate in areas that constantly come into contact with the fabrics and threads you are working on. These include the part underneath the needle plate, the bobbin case and compartment, the area behind the face plate, and the thread path.
Cleaning these areas is essential for the upkeep of your sewing machine because it does not only prevent potentially costly breakdowns and lost sewing hours, it also helps in prolonging the service life of your equipment.
What you will need
- Lint brush – Most sewing machines come with a small lint brush that you can use for cleaning. If your machine doesn’t have it, buy one from the store or get one online. You can also use other small brushes like an artist’s paintbrush or a pipe cleaner, which is basically a wire covered with tufted fibers.
- Muslin cleaning cloth – This soft cotton fabric is a great choice for wiping the dirt off your sewing machine.
- Miniature vacuum cleaner – Many computer shops sell small vacuum cleaners that are used to clean computer keyboards. You can get one of these for your sewing machine.
- Canned air – Canned compressed air can be used to blow lint and dirt off your sewing machine, but the cold air it produces can also introduce moisture to your machine’s metal parts. To prevent corrosion, only use compressed air if necessary, and don’t hold the nozzle too closely to the parts you are cleaning.
- Machine oil – Refer to your sewing machine’s user manual to check if it needs lubrication. It might also say what type of oil is recommended by the manufacturer. Some sewing machines (usually the industrial variants) have a built-in oil tray in which the oil is stored. Such machines are able to self-lubricate by getting oil from this reservoir while they are in operation. Self-lubricating machines don’t need to be oiled.
The cleaning process
- Wipe the exterior of your sewing machine with the muslin cloth.
- Turn your sewing machine off, and unplug it.
- Remove all parts and components that can get in the way of your cleaning. These include the needle, the presser foot, and the thread spool.
- Follow the manufacturer’s manual to remove the presser foot, needle plate, bobbin, and bobbin case.
- Using the lint brush, vacuum cleaner, and compressed air, clean these individual components. Also clean the exposed interior parts of your machine, including the feed dogs, the bobbin compartment, and the race.
- If your sewing machine has a face plate cover, open this to clean its interior. Also clean the tension discs and the thread path.
- Use a piece of oiled cotton swab to remove stubborn lint and other gunk.
- Oil your machine as detailed in the user manual. Important components to oil include the hook race and the bobbin hook. Leave a piece of muslin cloth under the presser foot to soak any remnant oil.
- Plug in your sewing machine and let it run for a few minutes to let the oil move around.
While the accumulation of lint is to be expected in any sewing machine, you can minimize the amount of dirt that gets into your machine’s components by keeping it covered after every use. Also bring your machine to your dealer every year for routine maintenance and to have it checked for problems.