A Guide to Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance

Its not the most glamorous part of sewing, but keeping your sewing machine in tip top condition is a necessary and ultimately rewarding job.  I spent years just sitting and sewing and totally neglecting this aspect of being a sewing enthusiast, and as a result my machine got very weary; sluggish, dusty, ineffective and a bit frustrating to work with.  So I highly recommend you get in the habit of regular maintenance and cleaning, in the long-run it will make your sewing all the more enjoyable.

So, how do you do it?

Well, first of all, please always read the manufacturer’s guidance for your machine, and use this advice in conjunction with anything written there…

Clean out lint (and other nasties)

All manner of dust and thread and fuzz can built up in the nooks and crannies of your machine, and especially under the needle plate, so a thorough clean does it a world of good.

Follow manufacture’s guidance and take out your needle and foot holder.  Use the brush that came with your machine (or buy one) to gently wipe off the dust on every surface.  Do this before taking the needle plate off to clean under there, as you’ll only be causing the dust you brush away to fall in the hole.

You can also use a pipe-cleaner to clean in between the tension disks (make sure your pressure foot is up).

Once you’ve done the outside of the machine, follow your manufacture’s guidance to remove the needle plate.  It can be a bit fiddly and time-consuming, but it can get pretty grim down there, especially under the bobbin case.

Some people have a routine of doing this once a month, I aim to go for after I’ve finished each project so it leaves me all set up and ready for the next one (I say aim…I’m not always a saint in this area, the need to crack on and sew can get the better of me).

Change needles 

Changing your needle makes a big difference to your sewing experience.  But how often should you do it?  Truthfully, we probably don’t do it enough, but as with all of this it is worth making more of an effort.  Some people gauge by hour (around 8), but who out there is keeping a log?  Others by number of bobbins used (around 3 full bobbins).  I tend to aim for whenever I start a new project (as mentioned before, I say aim…).

You might also like to check out my post ‘Which Sewing Machine needle Should I Use?‘ as this is something else that can really make a difference to your work.

Dust cover 

Keep the dust away as much as possible by using your machine cover when its not in use (or make a fabulous one all of your own!)


Check your manufacture’s guidance, as most advise against oiling your machine altogether.  However, some will give clear instructions as to how to oil your particular machine.  If this applies to you, pay attention and stick to these steps, using good quality oil especially for sewing machines, and only one small drop in the recommended places.  Lots of oil throughout the machine can really do damage so be very careful here.  If in doubt, leave it to a professional when you have a full service check.

Full service by a professional (every couple of years)

To get your machine serviced by a professional, find a local sewing machine repair service (try a google search), or go back to the shop you bought it from to see if they have any recommendations or dealership partners.  Its recommended you get your sewing machine professionally serviced every 2-3 years (it kind of depends how much your machine gets used).  As with garages and cars, finding somewhere you like and trust is a bit of a learning curve, but once you have that contact its one to be treasured (you never know when you may need their help with an actual repair).

And just like all those jobs which can seem a bit dull but really must be done, once you get into good habits with looking after your sewing machine you’ll be left feeling all virtuous and on top of life.

If you’re here because you love to sew, why not take take part in my Creative Sewing Challenge.  Its open to any type of sewer, and is completely free to take part.  Sign up below to receive monthly sewing advice and inspiration, or find out more here.

And here’s a handy pin if you you want to save on Pinterest…