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How To Clean a Sewing Machine: Detailed Guide

When you buy a sewing machine, you want your investment to be worthy, right? For that, you must want it to run a long way. Dealing with its functional problems every now and then is quite annoying. But what’s more important is that it consumes your valuable time and money. It’s indeed a loss for your sewing business.

But there are certain things you can easily do at home to keep it running smoothly. Periodic cleaning is very important to give it the full-service life. But how often you’ll clean it depends on how often you use the machine.

However, as you may already know, a sewing machine consists of some intricate parts.

So, you must follow a sequential cleaning process. Care should also be given so that you don’t damage any parts while cleaning. So here’s our step-by-step guideline on how to clean a sewing machine.

Clean Your Sewing Machine in 7 Easy Steps

Step 1: Go Through the Instruction Manual

This is not only true for a sewing machine but also other electric or non-electric device. The user manual contains dos and don’ts which you must follow strictly to keep it operational.

If you’re not finding it or never had any, you can search on the internet. You can easily download it from the manufacturer’s website and take a glance. If you don’t find it there either, contact with a sewing machine dealer for providing one. Mention the machine model and serial number if possible.

Step 2: Collect the Tools

You often get free tools like a screwdriver, small lint brush, oil etc. when you buy a sewing machine. But if you don’t get them, you must collect these three items. Link brushes are available in any fabric stores.

Or you can use a painting brush or a camel hair artist’s brush as a lint brush.  Even the small mascara brushes are also well fitted for this purpose. Some people also use pipe cleaners.

Other additional items are-

  • Vacuum attachments for pulling out lint from hidden spots.
  • A set of new needles. It’s wise to have a stock as you’ll often find it handy.
  • Soft cloths like muslin
  • A pair of tweezers
  • Cotton buds

Step 3: Start Cleaning Form the Bobbin Area

  1. First of all, turn off the sewing machine and also unplug it for your safety.
  2. Then, discard the needle and the foot such that it directs the flat side of the needle.
  3. Now discard the needle plate and pressure foot according to the manual instructions.
  4. If your machine has lower feet teeth, then remove them too.
  5. Lever off the needle plate screw.
  6. By using a fine brush, lint off the feed teeth. You can use an old needle to clean off the feed channel. You can also use tweezers for removing any balls of dirt.
  7. As you finished brushing off lint, now wipe the residual dirt by using a cotton bud.

Step 4: Then Move To the Under Bobbin Area

  • First, you have to remove the bobbin holder. But before doing so, take a snap of it so that you can place everything correctly when you’re done the cleaning.
  • Now remove the lint as described above.
  • While cleaning the hook race, you must be very careful. Follow the manual guide.
  • Using a small vacuum attachment or canned air will also be helpful. But if it isn’t 100% clear to you, better skip this or left it for your dealer to do.
  • While using canned air for blowing out the lint and gunk, keep the nozzle at least 4” away from the race area. Otherwise, the moisture in the air can corrode the intricate parts.
  • Also, be careful so that you blow the lint out, not into the machine. For that, blow the sir form an angle.
  • Blow from right to left and back to front.

Step 5: Clean the Tension Discs

Various sewing machine dysfunctions occur due to thread tension related problems. Cleaning the bobbin and tension discs can solve them.

  1. Lint, dust and broken pieces of thread often block the area between the discs. If the thread path has a side cover, you have to open it for cleaning.
  2. One popular method of cleaning the discs is to disengage them by raising the pressure foot. Then take a piece of thread of thick cotton or dental floss and run it back and forth in between the thread channels. Any residual dirt will be removed.
  3. You can also blow out lint from tension discs. But you should be aware of breath moisture.
  4. Before replacing the parts, plug in the machine and run it for a few seconds to see whether it’s running smoothly or not.

Step 6: Reassemble the Machine

While replacing the parts, follow the manual or see the photos you took while removing them.

  • First, line up the bobbin case by turning the hand knob back and forth until it’s rightly placed.
  • Then slide the needle plate and place the screws as before. Put back the pressure foot and set a new needle. A needle has a flat side and a round side. See the manual to know the way the needle has to face.
  • Now push up the clamp of the needle as far as it goes.
  • Finally, make the thumb screw tight. A screwdriver can be used only if the manual allows you to.

Step 7: Clean the Exterior

Finally, wipe off the exterior of the machine to clear away any residual dirt and dust. Use a soft and slightly damp cloth for the purpose. But before start wiping, squeeze the cloth firmly to remove any excess water. So no water can get near the moving part. Then wipe it with a dry cloth for the final polish.

Congratulation you’ve done cleaning your sewing machine!

Tips for Sewing Machine Maintenance: Do’s and Don’ts


  • After finishing each project, wipe over the machine and put a cover on it to keep it free from dust.
  • Keep the machine covered when it’s not in use.
  • Brush out wipe of the sewing machine on a regular basis.
  • Clean a small area at a time.
  • If the manuals recommend lubricate the machine once it’s lint-free. Only use the manual recommended oils.
  • After finishing lubrication, place a remnant made of fabric to soak up the remaining oil. So next time, when you’ll start sewing a new cloth it won’t leave any oily strain on your cloth.
  • If you face a problem sewing smoothly, look for the troubleshooting tips in the manual.
  • Before taking it to a technician, try out the following things-
  • Re-threading the machine
  • Replacing the needle and
  • Cleaning it thoroughly.


  1. Don’t ever clean the machine when it’s plugged in.
  2. Don’t use any lubrication oil if your manual doesn’t include the name. Avoid using any household oil and WD-40.
  3. Don’t over oil.
  4. Don’t wind a new thread over an existing bobbin to avoid extra tails that jam up the machine.
  5. While brushing off the lint, don’t push them so that they get stuck deep inside.
  6. Don’t blow out lint using your breathe as there is a higher chance that the moisture will corrode the parts.

Final Words

Lint can be referred to as a byproduct of cloth sewing. No matter what you do, it’s obvious. But what you can certainly avoid is its consequence by cleaning it at a regular interval. Usually, cleaning after every 10 hours of use is recommended. But it’ll be even better if you clean it more often.

Isn’t it wise to clean and feed it before it needs a major servicing?

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2 thoughts on “How To Clean a Sewing Machine: Detailed Guide”

  1. You got my attention when you said that you should cover your sewing machine after using it to keep it dust-free. This was something that I failed to do with my sewing machine which is the probably the reason why it got damaged. It stopped working right, so I’ll make sure to have it repaired professionally and follow your tips after. Thanks!


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