How often do you clean your sewing machine? If you do not have a regular machine cleaning routine, now is a great time to use your Quilter’s Planner to establish the habit by writing a reminder in your planner on the first of each month. Depending on how often you sew, you might want to increase your cleaning habit to clean after every other bobbin you complete.

If you are ever in doubt about how often to clean your machine, the quality of your sewing stitches will often give you a clue. If your machine begins skipping stitches or you find lint balls collected in your stitches, it is probably time to clean your machine.

We have collected tips on the best ways to clean and care for your sewing machine here as a resource for you, and as always, when in doubt, please consult the manual for your sewing machine. (Tip: If you do not have your manual, many can be found by searching the internet and downloading a PDF or contact a dealer near your that specializes in your machine.)

Collecting Supplies

The first step in establishing a new sewing machine cleaning habit is to gather all the supplies you will need. You will likely have most of what you need right in your sewing area, and if not creating a space for the supplies nearby can help make this habit easier to develop.

  • Sewing Machine Manual
  • Screw Driver(s) / Tools to Remove Needle and Presser Foot
  • Lint Brush – Many machines come with a lint brush. Alternatives if your machine did not come with a lint brush:
    • Chenille Stem
    • Small Paintbrush
    • Small, Clean (New) Makeup Brush
  • Oil
  • Soft Cloth
  • Needles

Cleaning Preparation

The first step for cleaning your machine is to turn it off and consider unplugging it. Safety first!

To prepare to clean your sewing machine, unthread your machine and remove your bobbin case.

TIP: When removing thread from your needle, grab the end of the thread that has already been passed through the needle, clip the thread by where it comes off the spool at the top of your machine, and pull the thread in the same direction it would normally pass through your needle.

Check inside the bobbin case for any stray thread that you can remove from inside the case.

After the thread and bobbin are taken away, remove the needle from your machine. Even if you will replace and continue using the same needle (see discussion below for how to decide when to switch your needle), having the needle removed will make it easier to clean and protect you at the same time.

Remove presser foot. If you use the same presser foot and rarely change it, it can be a good idea to also remove the presser foot and clean around all the upper attach areas on your machine for lint accumulation. If you remove the presser foot, it also makes removing the needle plate easier (which is necessary to get access for lint removal).

Removing Lint

Using your lint brush, reach around in all the areas that you can see and around the race area below the feed dogs and around where your bobbin sits to collect and remove lint. The more frequently you clean your machine, the less lint will accumulate and this step will become quicker to complete. Also use the lint brush to brush around all of the upper mechanisms that hold your needle and presser foot. Be sure to clean as if the presser foot were installed and in both the “up” and “down” positions to gain access to areas where lint can accumulate.

TIP: Do not use canned air to blow into your machine. Blowing the lint into your machine will just send the lint into other areas of the machine that you cannot reach. Also, canned air will introduce moisture (as will your breath if you blow into your machine). An alternative is to use a small vacuum or dust buster to suck out instead.

Oil Your Machine

Following the instructions in your manual, oil and lubricate your machine. It is common to add a drop of oil to the hook of your sewing machine (the area that you place your bobbin). If your machine requires oiling your hook, turn your machine back on briefly to run it to allow the oil to settle before you replace the bobbin. Once you are done running the machine, turn it back off.

One thing to pay attention to during the oiling process is to not over-oil your machine. After applying oil to all the locations specified in the manual, use the soft cloth to wipe up any excess oil.

Reassemble Machine

Replace your bobbin case and close up the machine. Reattach your presser foot. Replace your needle or insert a new needle, making sure the flat side is facing the correct direction. We suggest replacing your sewing machine needle after a large project, like a queen size quilt. If you normally make smaller projects, replace your needle after ever 3-4 projects.

TIP: Save your used needles to use for paper piecing!

Wipe Machine Down

Using the soft cloth, wipe down the exterior of your sewing machine. It’s amazing how fast lint can accumulate and statically cling to the surface of a sewing machine.

TIP: Cover your sewing machine when it is not in use can prevent dust and debris build-up. Your machine may come with a cover already, but you can also make your own.

Re-thread your sewing machine and enjoy your crisp stitches!