Tips for Cleaning Your Sewing Machine

Since your sewing machine is your best friend, why not take excellent care of it? There are several things you can do for your favorite companion to keep him healthy and happy. Here are a few easy steps to clean, maintain, and keep your sewing machine in tip top shape!

After every few uses, it’s a good idea to open up all the parts of the machine that are accessible (meaning you don’t need a screwdriver to open them) and get out all that thread and fuzz that tend to accumulate with use. They make these tiny little vacuum attachments that fit onto the end of your vacuum hose that can reach inside the little nooks of your sewing machine to suck all the gunk out. Such a great little invention!

For a deeper clean, break out your tools (your machine will often come with a special screwdriver) so you can carefully remove the more permanent panels to vacuum out the interior areas. Refer to your manual for specifics for your individual machine.

Most of the newer machines on the market today are self-oiling, but be sure to read your manual to make sure. Some machines have 3 to 5 points that need to be lubed with a drop of oil every few uses. If your machine came with a little tube of oil, chances are you need to oil that guy to keep him happy.

Once a year, I like to take my machine to a professional to have it cleaned. Cleanings can run anywhere from $80 to $150 depending on the machine. Yes, I know that is a pretty price to pay, but here is why it’s important: The lubricants they use in the larger joints of the machine dry out over time and lose their viscosity. Left without maintenance for years upon years, this stuff essentially turns to glue! Ick!

You will notice when you have left your machine too long without a professional cleaning. Symptoms include a stiff handwheel, changes in stitch length, skipped stitches, loose tension, and groaning noises. This is especially important if you live in a dry climate, as the lubricant dries out even faster! Be kind and keep your machine hydrated! (Did you know your thread can dry out too? Here are some tips on how to deal with that.)

Do a combination of these things for your buddy, and you will both have a long, happy relationship and MANY years of sewing to enjoy together! Happy sewing (and cleaning)!

Related Links:
Sewing Machine Maintenance Tips
How to Prepare a Sewing Machine
Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needles Cleaning and Maintaining Your Sewing Machine

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Reply to Anita Kramarz
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61 Responses to “Tips for Cleaning Your Sewing Machine”

  1. Felisa Cino
    Felisa Cino

    E ‘davvero blog informativo! Mi è piaciuto molto il modo di claen qui circa la macchina da cucire. Grazie per saharing questo blog informativo con noi.

  2. Sue Clement
    Sue Clement

    I buy the fuzzy sticks (a/k/a pipe cleaners) to get out fuzz I cannot see. They work well, are bendable and reach into spots I cannot see.

    • Linda

      Elizabeth, that was an unexpected & unusually unkind comment from someone who sews. To a novice this could be very helpful. I’ve been sewing for over 60 years, but I was not taught anything about taking care of my machine. It was something I had to learn from more experienced sewers.

      • Fern

        First time I’ve clicked on one of these sites and there was Elizabeth’s rude comment. I’ve sewn forever as well, but the newer machines are tricky. I always wonder if we should oil them. And thank you for your suggestions,

        • San

          I clean my machine every few years depending on how often I use it. I agree that you need to vacuum it. I usually just blow to release any item stick within it. Not too sure if I would have it regularly maintained one a year. For my purposes, I can maintain it unless I have a serious problem. That being said…let’s be nice to each other especially since we have a love for sewing.

          • CAROLYN S YOUNG
            CAROLYN S YOUNG

            Never hurts to be REMINDED of something we may have learned years ago. If you know something you can just move on and be kind.

            Been told to NEVER blow or use canned air, it will drive the dust bunnies or lint back in the machine we can’t reach???

    • Helga

      That Elizabeth sounds like a real winner. If she’s been sewing for 50 plus years she has got to be in her 60s or older. The stupidity of some people just amaze me sometimes. I think most of us need reminders of our machines as to how to care for them,and your right the newer machines are tricky. She is probably just a troll, looking to amuse herself, or that bad apple in the box, wanting to spoil all the apples. If we are lucky she will stick her head in the soil, and keep it THERE!

    • Jan

      I did not find anything in the article that was untrue or unrelated to the topic, so I think Elizabeth is having a bad day. I believe she is a sweet person who just had more than she can handle right now. I hope things settle down for her so she can enjoy her sewing and her machine.

      • Lynn

        I clean my machine every time I use it on a project. And plan to take it in this weekend for a cleaning. The cleaning is usually about $100 which is pocket change compared to what I payed for it. However, my first sewing machine only cost $69 in 1971. My parents gave it to me for my 16th birthday!
        Maybe Elizabeth has a machine that’s not quite as expensive and could go by a new one with a little extra$ added to the cleaning amount.
        I understand it hard to give up $ that if she could do that. Enjoy your sewing experiences everyone!!

    • Remy

      Soo Elizabeth – tell us what about the article is stupid. I’ve been sewing since I was 10 years ( learned & helped my godmother w/ her sewing – she was a professional Tailor) & I’ve sewn wedding dresses, prom, christenings for all my nieces, granddaughters & so on – currently sewing for a competition Halau group from Sacramento & there are 5 of us & one of my Ohana ladies does Quilting – have gone to several Quilt shows & actually bought a couple of sewing machines (I have 5 I’m currently using). And to my knowledge this article actually matches up with what I’ve learned from the retailers & the people I actually bring my sewing machines to get them maintenance every year(it’s like getting your car’s oil changed to keep it going for a long time) I have a Husgvarna Viking that I’ve had for 11 years & my baby I still sewing great) so yes that was a very negative & unkind reply to this article. This plus your sewing machines instructions are a great help to keeping your machine to last for a long time 🌺🥰🌺

    • Julie Thomas
      Julie Thomas

      Would you like to tell us why you labeled this as stupid Elizabeth, I have been sewing for about 50 years also and I found it helpful, especially for the ladies and gents that may be new to seeing and machine maintenance, at one time I didn’t think about cleaning my machines, all I wanted to do was sew

    • Dawn

      Wow, you must be very intelligent! I have been sewing for over 60 years and I found it very interesting, All the new machines are so different and have so many features etc. Maybe it is just you are still sewing with just a needle and thread! That doesn’t take more than a new needle occasionally, and some thread.

  3. M ball
    M ball

    Please could you put subtitles on your videos to help hearing impaired people like me. Many hard of hearing and deaf people are very keen sewers and would subscribe to your circle if they follow your info’.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Thank you for your feedback. We apologize for any inconvenience and have forwarded this suggestion on to the proper department.

      • OrahLee Hoose
        OrahLee Hoose

        I agree so much!!! I cannot hear most of the videos on this or other sites, so PLEASE DO ADD THE SUBTITLES !!!

        • Customer Service
          Customer Service

          Hello OrahLee,

          Thank you very much for the feedback. This is something we’re working towards getting applied to our videos very soon so please keep an eye out for future updates!

          Thank you!

          National Sewing Circle Video Membership

    • maria

      subtitles on your videos to help hearing impaired people like me.please

      • Customer Service
        Customer Service

        Dear Maria,

        Thank you for contacting us.

        I appreciate your feedback and it has been forwarded to the proper department. Your comments are important to us and help with the development of our online video streaming community. We will continue to listen and work hard for your complete satisfaction.


        National Sewing Circle Video Membership

        • ,Pamela

          Great article . Threads and fluff catch in the upper parts of a machine you can use a credit card to remove many of these . Simply slide top to bottom gently . A tip given by a sewing machine repair man. He said most faults were caused by poor maintenance . Enjoy

    • Anita Kramarz
      Anita Kramarz

      I’ve been sewing for 61 years. The first thing my mother taught me before I put machine to fabric, was how to take the machine apart. Removing the covers, and all removable parts, cleaning and oiling and reassembling her beautiful Singer. I still sew and to this day, I still maintain and use my first sewing machine.

  4. Molly

    I am rediscovering the delight in sewing after a number of years of not sewing. My new machine has good instructions but watching this was very helpful and I thank you, Aurora (Hope I spelled your lovely name correctly.)

      • Eva

        I clean my machine every time I use it and oil it about every two months. My machine is about 25 years old & runs great.

      • Marci

        I don’t join because I’m retired and too busy taking care of everything to sew. Really wanted to during retirement.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Kathy!

      That’s a great question and we’d love to help!

      The ‘Ask an Expert’ section is currently for members to our online community. We do have a promotional offer if you are interested. This would include access to expert advice (like this), plus discounts, hours of Premium videos, etc. Please feel free to take a look. You can message us right back with your question if you decide to become a member and you will have a response within 1-2 business days from our experts!

      Please follow the steps below to receive the annual membership at the introductory rate:

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      If you have any further questions, please contact Customer Service at 1-855-208-7187 at your earliest convenience, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!


      National Sewing Circle Video Membership

    • Sheila Metcalf
      Sheila Metcalf

      If your thread is dryed out put it in your freezer for awhile – that will revive it. I’ve been sewing for over 70 years – learned on my grandmother’s Treadle machine with a shuttle bobbin. I currently own 5 machines plus a quilt machine and a serger. The advise given was right on,. Yes I still use them all. My 2 Featherweight 221’s I use for quilting (Peicing the top) my “baby” was my mother-in-laws 1938 Featherweight My regular machine a 1963 Singer slant-needle They are all still working and in use. Yes they all have medal parts and hopefully my daughter and grandaughter will get years of use after I’m gone. Listen to the advice from these people.

  5. Mrs. Angela E.
    Mrs. Angela E.

    Although the presenter suggested using canned air, my dealer (I’ve purchased 2 high-end machines and 1 high-end serger) recommends using the small vacuum with the tiny attachments for tight spaces. That way there’s no danger of any lint, threads, etc., getting into the gears, motor, etc.
    Thanks for all the videos!

    • Rose A Estrada
      Rose A Estrada

      I really do appreciate all the info shared on this sight. The comments I find quite informative also. Thank you very much. The lady with the negative comment has every right to vent…perhaps she has no quilting/sewing buddies ….so she vented here to all of us…we’re all here for you my dear.

  6. Diana Goodman
    Diana Goodman

    Very good tips, I have been sewing for 30 years and find that cleaning my machine consistently keeps it working like new/. I have 2 machines that I utilize as well as an old trends that I learned to sew on and by cleaning them and having maintenance done yearly keeps all of them working like new. Since the trendal is an older machine I clean it every 2 months and had to learn where to put the oil as there is no manual. I only have srvice done on it at irregular intervals as it is rarely utilized it keeps it working in the condition that is better than when I learned on it. For those who like sewing and embroidery the maintenance is what keeps you up and going and saves money in the long run by making less repairs required

  7. Rida Budde
    Rida Budde

    I knew about oiling my older machine. I keep mine covered when not in use. Thank you for sharing these tips. A sewing machine is an expensive tool and must be cared for properly.

  8. Laymon McCumber
    Laymon McCumber

    As a beginner I’m thankful for this and ALL information that will help in this learning process. I just finished my cutting table and realized I made it too short, but no problem I’ll be raising up today. Thanks to everyone that’s provided insightfull information regarding this journey.

  9. Diane Vernita Mathis
    Diane Vernita Mathis

    I would never buy a mini vacuum cleaner to clean out my sewing machine, when a make up brush will do just fine.

  10. Nancy

    I heard you should NOT blow into your machine to get lint and thread out because moisture from your mouth is also blown into it and your machine does not need any moisture. Use a vacuum!

  11. Karlen

    Elizabeth you need to apologize to the community, if not get off this site. I have been sewing for over 55 years and have 4 machines, so these ideas and thoughts are important to any sewer.

  12. Linda

    I dug out the sewing machine to make masks for my family and friends to help protect themselves during this pandemic. I haven’t sewn since my last grand baby’s quilt. Thank you for this timely reminder!

  13. Linda F.
    Linda F.

    I dug out the sewing machine to make masks for my family and friends to help protect themselves during this pandemic. I haven’t sewn since my last grand baby’s quilt. Thank you for this timely reminder!

  14. Fran Feil
    Fran Feil

    reading all the info/suggestions, is always informative & I seem to pick up some new tricks. I read it all, weigh the possibilities and go forward. Elizabeth’s comment was not a pleasure to read…take care. I have a comment on cleaning the machines: I purchased a set of hose/nozzles which fit my regular vac and cleaning the machine is a snap. Canned air seems like a good idea, but unfortunately it pushes “stuff” into, not out of, the machine mechanisms. I keep a note pad handy to keep track of when I clean/oil the machine as well as what needle/when put in machine. At 76, I need reminders! So enjoy the notes here. Keep it coming…happy stitching ladies(and guys). Stay safe…be well.

  15. Christine R
    Christine R

    What a good idea on the vacuuming! I have those little attachments & never thought to use them on my machine. I will do that this weekend.

  16. Rosemary

    Bought my first machine when I was 12 years old. I am eighty this year so have lots of sewing in my lifetime as we had four daughters. I still do craft shows & make over 1000 pr of recycled woollen mittens each year so I am continually cleaning my machines. (Have three) I taped a plastic drinking straw to the end of one of the vacuum parts & it works great for places you can’t reach. Happy sewing everyone!!

  17. Shammy Peterson
    Shammy Peterson

    It caught my attention when you said that symptoms such as a stiff handwheel, changes in stitch length, skipped stitches, and many more are caused when you have left your machine for too long. This could have been the reason why my late grandfather’s sewing machine feels too heavy to use. We never had the chance to have it serviced in the past, so I will make sure that it will be repaired by a professional. Your tips will surely allow us to care for it for a long time.