How to Oil A Sewing Machine

Before I take you through the simple steps of oiling your sewing machine, take note that each machine has a different oiling method. In this guide, I’ll describe how to oil the Singer sewing machine and give a few tips for other machines whenever possible.

Constant use of your sewing machine will render it dirty and require cleaning. Unlike some machines cleaned with wet cloth or water, the sewer is cleaned by dusting and oiling it. Let’s analyze some basics then get into the steps for how to oil a sewing machine.

What Are the Benefits of Oiling Your Sewing Machine?

Oiling your sewing machine ensures all the moving parts are running smoothly and quietly. It reduces wear and tear to your machine parts. Plus, it prevents rust from occurring.

How Often Should You Clean and Oil Your Sewing Machine?

There's no one-size-fits-all procedure when it comes to oiling your sewing machine. Generally, the frequency of doing this depends on two factors - how often you use it and the kind of fabric that often goes into it.

For instance, daily use on heavier fabrics, such as velvet, equals three times a week of oiling. On the other hand, if you work on fabrics that are much lighter and use your machine only occasionally, weekly oiling isn't necessary.

Disclaimer: Don’t over oil your machine or the oil may drip into your next project. For a simpler sewing machine maintenance timeline, you can oil whenever you’re cleaning up the accumulated fabric lint, or after every 55 hours of use.

Which Sewing Machine Oil Should you Use?

We have two types of oil that you can use. One is synthetic oil and the other is mineral oil. Both these oils are good for whichever machine you use. The idea is to carefully use them and all's well that ends well.

If you’d like a more affordable oil, go for the mineral oil. This one is also referred to as the petroleum oil. It’s a vaseline-based sewer machine oil.

It is also harmless to your clothes and odorless, making the process more comfortable for you. It also leaves no residue behind after use. It will, however, leave a slight oil stain when you over-oil your machine.

The singer brands give out oil when you purchase their machine. They produce mineral oil, but this doesn't stop you from using oils of different brands on your machine.

On the other hand, synthetic oil is well known for being a good lubricant for both the steel and plastic parts of your machine. If you want to polish plastic and prevent thread breakage over your next project, this is the oil to go for.

A good example of this synthetic option is the Liberty Oil 100% synthetic oil. It's the ideal sewing machine oil for protecting your machine from oxidation and unlike the mineral oil, it's less likely to ruin your project should you over-oil. Although it's a bit more expensive, purchasing it is worth the risk, considering the many benefits it comes with.

Steps to Perfectly Oiling Your Machine

Now let's take a look at the oiling process. But before we dig deeper into it, it's vital to ensure you've reached all the steps needed to prepare your sewing machine for lubrication. This includes cleaning all the necessary tools and equipment as well as any additional parts you may need.

Always consult your machine's user manual as many models come with their own unique warnings and settings. If you don't have the manual, you can easily find it online by searching the make and model of your machine or by checking out your manufacturer's website.

For cleaning, try gathering the right tools. And by saying this I mean dust cleaners, soft fabrics, and stiff brushes like toothbrushes or lint brushes.

You want to ensure that you reach even the small spaces within your sewing machine without causing any damage. For additional tools, you can use compressed air to spray out difficult-to-reach fabric lint and dirt.

Here's how to oil sewing machines in four easy steps.

Step 1: Unplug the Machine

Before you get started, first disconnect your sewing machine from the socket. This prevents any accidents from occurring during the oiling process. Ultimately, you can simply switch off the power.

Step 2: Use a Nylon Brush to Collect the Dust

Prior to oiling, let's dust off the machine. Remember, you must ensure your machine is free from any dirt residual before oiling it. Otherwise, the oil will only make such deposits more grimy and sticky, thus harder to get rid off.
In this step, we're not only cleaning off the actual dust, but also residues of lint all around your machine. A few places to dust off would include;

  • The top part of the machine. Slowly open it and brush it off
  • Tension disk where balls of thread can accumulate
  • The needle bar system and threader's area

Take the presser foot off and use a screwdriver to take the holder off. Make sure you take out the needle as well so that you don't prick yourself when handling that area. This is a perfect opportunity to change your needle.

Next, remove the stitch plate. If your screwdriver can't fit that area, use a coin or the edge of a knife (be careful not to hurt yourself in the process). Note that screws are hard to replace, so ensure you place them in a safe place where you can't lose them. It's wise to keep them with the needle plate.

When using a screw driver to remove the parts, apply pressure on the push, not the twist. In case you have a problem loosening the screws, soak them with cleaning fluid before proceeding. Always use a wrench on the bolts, not pliers.

Clean the feed dogs out using your nylon brush. When doing this, try sweeping outwards so that the dirt falls on your table and not back into the machine. Remember to take out the bobbin case as well.

This is where you'll find loads of lint accumulated. However, the amount of lint in the bobbin area varies greatly, depending on how often you use your machine and the type of fabric you work with.

Check the upper thread tension disc and the lower tension of your bobbin case. Pull a thread under the tension to remove dirt.
As for the tension discs, soak a piece of clean cloth in cleaning fluid and pull it back and forth between them. Repeat the procedure with a dry cloth to ensure no thread or lint is caught between them.

After getting rid of the lint, most people use compressed air to blow off the remaining dirt on the bobbin case and its surrounding area.
Although this is a good way of finishing off the job, the spray cans mostly leave behind a lot of carbon dioxide. So, it's wise to refrain from using them. 

Step 3: Oil Your Machine

Now that your machine is free of lint, dust, and other dirty substances, you can now start the oiling process. Turn the hand wheel of your machine back and forth to check its movable parts

Alternatively, you can confirm with your sewing machine manual which parts need oiling. Generally, you should oil areas that are most likely to build up friction, such as the shuttle hook, bobbin case, and the outer ring of the bobbin hook.

By now you must have settled for your most preferred sewing machine oil, so take it and start lubricating your machine. Start by applying a few drops to these sections as instructed by your owner's manual.

Make sure you squeeze only a few drops of oil into the hook race of your machine to lubricate the shuttle hook. This is a ring section that allows your bobbin hook to fit into place. Therefore, if you apply sewing machine oil on it, the small parts won't rub together and wear your machine.

If you put too much sewing machine oil, you'll have a difficult time cleaning your machine and it can also slow down components in your machine. When oiling each part of the machine, it's wise to manually move them once you've applied the oil to ensure it's evenly spread and distributed. Feel free to change your needle during the oiling process and install a new needle.

Step 4: Absorb Excess Oil Using Fabric

After your machine's moving parts have received enough oil, use a lint-free cloth to wipe off and absorb any extra oil. This step is vital since the residual oil that remains there can later stain your fabric. Run the dust cloth through the machine parts before rubbing the exterior.

When you're done lubricating your home sewing machine, let it rest for few minutes then re-install the detached parts. Assembly the sewing machine carefully, then try it out to check whether it has any malfunctions. And remember, if you're not applying synthetic oil, don't oil the plastic parts.

Disclaimer: Make a habit of occasionally taking your sewing machine to your dealership for checkups to keep it looking new and functional.

Tips and Cautions When Oiling Your Sewing Machine

Here are some useful tips on cleaning and oiling your machine for the best results;

  • If at any stage you're not sure how to oil your machine, always follow the manual on lubrication, cleaning, or repairs. If your manufacturer's guide states that your machine doesn't need sewing machine oil, then don't perform any lubrication.
  • Only disassemble a small section of your machine at a time. Otherwise, you run the risk of complicating the entire process and even losing or breaking machine parts.
  • Although you can use a variety of mineral and natural-based lubricants as oil ingredients, always check whenever you consider other common alternatives. For instance, car oil isn't suitable for use.

Prevent Your Machine from Getting Dirty

There you have it! That's how easy it is to clean and oil your sewing machine. But did you know you can actually prevent dirt and debris build-up in your machine?

All you need to do is cover it when done using it. Most sewing machines come with covers, but as a seamster, you can make your own to ensure a smooth run for your device.

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