Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance Tips


The first Saturday of every month we send out a facebook reminder to our fans that it’s time to clean and oil your sewing machine. Last month Maria J. asked if I had a tutorial for that… well I do now! Thanks for asking, Maria!

Your sewing machine works so hard for you that I know you want to keep her purring. Just a few hours of sewing will cause fuzz and lint to build up under the needle plate. Sometimes pieces of thread can get lost under there too. Cleaning your sewing machine regularly can prevent broken needles and mechanical problems. Your sewing machine might also need a drop or two of oil from time to time – be sure to check your manual about that.

In fact, if you still have your sewing machine’s manual, I highly recommend that you refer to it before you get started. Every sewing machine is different. Some of the new models don’t recommend oiling at all. There may be a trick to getting the needle plate off or the hook race out (if you have one), and your manual will tell you. 

In this post I will show you the basic steps that I follow every month (or more often) to keep my machine clean and running smoothly. If you have any tips or comments that may also help our readers, please feel free to leave them below. ๐Ÿ™‚


You will need at least one brush for cleaning. I like to use a soft makeup brush with a long handle and the stiff brush my machine came with. My sewing machine also takes oil.

Are you ready to see how much gunk is under my needle plate??? And FYI, it has been less than a month since I last did this.


Start by turning off your sewing machine, removing the extension table (if necessary), and taking out your bobbin. I have a front-loading bobbin, but you would still do these things for a top loading bobbin too.


You will have to remove your needle plate to clean the fuzz and lint that collects under it. Mine snaps off like this, but my old one needle plate required removing a screw. That’s why some sewing machines come with a stubby little screw driver.

Let’s take a look inside! Not much to see down in the bobbin area but lots of stuff right under the needle plate. I must be sewing a lot lately! 


Start removing the lint and fuzz. I like the stiff brush for cleaning around the feed dogs…


And the soft brush for picking up stray pieces. It acts kind of like a fuzz magnet.


Check your manual to see how to remove your hook race so you can clean behind that too.

I bought this oil with a long spout for using on my serger, but it seems to do well on my sewing machine too. According to my manual, I only need to apply one drop right behind the hook race. Keep a soft scrap of fabric handy to clean up any accidental drops.


Put the hook race back in and the needle plate back on…


And sew a bit on a scrap of fabric to make sure everything is working smoothly and there is no excess oil.

Don’t forget to dust and wipe down the top and front of your machine too. And if you haven’t changed your needle since last month (gasp!) don’t tell me that, just do it. I go through several needles a week.

You might also be interested in {this blog post} with troubleshooting tips for some common sewing machine issues.

So how did that work? Is she running like new? Come follow us on facebook if you want a reminder each month to clean and oil your sewing machine.

Happy sewing,


Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. ๐Ÿ™‚