Is your sewing machine producing some squeaking sounds as you work on your projects?
The MAIN cause for this is lack of oiling. As your machine consists of many moving parts, lack of regular and proper lubrication will increase the friction of the moving parts—making your machine less efficient wear out (cut down its lifespan).
To solve this problem, all your machine needs is proper oiling... and it’ll start running smoothly, quietly, and efficiently again.
Let’s discuss how you can correctly oil your sewing machine at home:
Things You’ll Need:
- Lint brush/dust cleaner/stiff brush
- A piece of fabric
- Your instructional manual
- Sewing machine oil
A NOTE about sewing machine oil…
Before we delve into more details, let me make it clear that you cannot use just any type of oil to lubricate your machine. Instead, you should only use the sewing machine specific oil (which is usually clear, lighter and finer).
Your machine manufacturer might send a bottle of machine oil alongside the machine or recommend you the specific oil brand to use with their machines (check your manual for more info).
Alternatively, you can get your oil from your local sewing and fabrics stores. In this case, you’ll come across two types of oil—synthetic and mineral.
Mineral oil, or simply the petroleum-based oil, is the least expensive of the two. It’s 100% odorless and doesn’t contain harmful substances that might end up damaging your fabrics.
Synthetic oil has a plus over mineral oil in that it can lubricate the steel as well as plastic parts of your sewing machine. It does an excellent job for polishing plastic and preventing thread breakage throughout your project. However, this oil costs more than mineral oil.
Both oils are suitable for lubricating your machine as long as you apply them correctly.
Assuming that you’ve got all the necessary tools, materials, and sewing oil needed for the job, let’s get into details of how to apply the oil the right way…
How To Oil a Sewing Machine:
Step I: Clean Your Machine First
One of the biggest mistakes sewists often make is jumping right into the oiling part before they can even clean their machines.
Cleaning your machine before lubrication will help prepare it for lubrication and ensure proper oiling results.
Each machine might come with its own cleaning method (which is why I advise you to keep referring to your manual) but here’s a generalized approach that applies to all machines:
1. Unplug your machine and remove the throat plate to gain access to the area where most dust and lint tend to collect. Consult your user manual on how to remove the plate—some simply slide off while others require some unscrewing.
You might also consider removing other machine parts that might get in your way when cleaning it, e.g., the plates, bobbin cases, thread, and presser foot.
2. Now grab your nylon brush or any other stiff brush you’re using and brush away all the lint and dust present. Be sure to get in between the nooks and crannies as well.
If you’ve difficulties picking some lint pieces that in hard to reach areas, like in between the feed dogs, you can count on a pair of tweezers to easily get hold of them.
If your machine has a bobbin case, consider taking it out and cleaning it thoroughly as well.
NOTE: You might have heard that using compressed/canned air is good for cleaning your sewing machine. But we don’t recommend it as it tends to blow the lint even deeper into your machine.
Step II: Oil Your Sewing Machine.
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve thoroughly cleaned your machine, it’s time to oil it.
This part isn’t as hard as you might be thinking…you just need to drop a few drops on the moving parts of your machine.
Again, you can refer to your user manual to see exactly where you should squeeze the oil.
In most cases, you’ll need to put a few drops on the housing unit in which the bobbin case sits. You’ll also need to oil shuttle hook (the thing you see spinning inside the bobbin case). You’ll need to lubricate the inside of the hook race as well as the housing of the machine (the silver ring where bobbin hook fits into).
You might also need to oil the bobbin hook’s outer ring.
The simplest approach to oiling your machine is turning the hand wheel back and forth with one hand to help you spot all the moving parts. This is precisely where you need to apply the oil to reduce friction and enhance efficient operation.
When you’re done applying the oil, you can crank the hand wheel back and forth severally to work in the lubricant.
Step III: Wipe Off Excess Oil & Put The Machine Back Together
The final step involves wiping off excess oil from your machine to ensure it doesn’t mess up (stain) your next project.
To do this, you’ll need to use a piece of cloth and soak up all the excess oil on your machine. If you’ve applied too much oil, you might consider using a muslin clothing instead; run it through your machine and wipe the machine’s exterior.
Lastly, put back the throat plate and your sewing machine should be ready to use again.
PRO TIP: Plug in your now oiled sewing machine and run a few tests using a scrap of fabric before you kick off your next project. This will help you see if there’s any excess oil on your machine and if the machine itself is running smoothly.
How Often Should You Oil Your Machine?
Before we close this guide, let's discuss how often you should lubricate your sewing machine…
Cleaning and oiling your sewing machine should largely depend on how much you use it as well as the types of fabrics you usually sew.
If you use your machine on a daily basis, you’d want to oil it at least 3 times every week. Likewise, if you sew fabrics that usually shed (e.g., velvet), you’ll also need to grease your machine more frequently.
For the light to moderate users, consider cleaning your machine every once in a month.
All in all, the rule of thumb should always be respected:
Whenever you see lint build up and hear squeaking sounds from your machine, it’s time to clean and oil it!
Learning how to use and apply the sewing machine properly is crucial for all sewers.
Proper oiling of your machine will help reduce wear on its moving parts, extend its lifespan, and make it run more smoothly.
Follow our guide and tips above on how to lubricate your sewing machine the right way!