Sewing Machines Pt. IV – Care and Maintenance - Essentially Loved Quilts

Sewing Machines Pt. IV – Care and Maintenance

Today’s blog is all about sewing machine care and maintenance. This one took me a bit to write because it doesn't bring me joy like sewing and teaching do, but it is a necessary evil and it must be done regularly. So even though it may not be your favorite thing to do it is not a waste of your time. I promise!

In the Army, we called it PMCS—we had a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual checklist we had to do on our vehicle. The same applies here with our sewing machines. Daily/weekly we need to dust it and clean out any lint we can remove and annually we should have our machine serviced. These checks are early on-set catches; I might notice a fan belt was cracked or split and its WAY easier to fix it by only replacing the belt than if it were to break while I or my driver was in transit somewhere, potentially causing a lot more damage.

Taking the time to clean out the dust and lint, adding a bit of oil (ONLY if your machine requires it, and sending it in for regular maintenance aka “spa days”. Doing these things on the regular for your sewing machine will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. I promise, it’s much easier to take a few minutes to dust it out than to spend half an hour figuring out why your machine isn’t playing nice later, not to mention the time saved from ripping out or even replacing damaged fabric. Trust me on this 😅. Let’s get to it 😃.

Essentially Loved Quilts Sewing Machine Care and Maintenance blog post with sewing machine manual and cleaning kit


Cleaning Tools

There are some basic tools you can use to help you clean your sewing machine, most of which you can find around your home. Tweezers, Q-Tips, a lense cloth (for glasses or computer screens), and a small, long-bristled paint or makeup brush (make sure this is a clean brush, dedicated for just your sewing machine). There are also sewing machine cleaning kits you can purchase like the one I have from Fat Quarter Shop.

Sewing Machine cleaning tools for care and maintenance blog post
Essentially Loved Quilts sewing machine care and maintenance blog post sewing machine cleaning kit


Another thing you may need is special sewing machine oil, this one I would recommend you get specifically from your machine dealer or by brand. I’d bet dollars to donuts that your machine’s manufacturer has a specific formula of specific oils that work best for oiling it versus a generic one, so double check on this. I can’t personally speak to oiling, as neither of my machines requires oil, nor can they be oiled, so please check your manual (find links here for manuals). 😊

Vintage Sewing machine and oil for cleaning and maintenance


Dusting & de-Linting

First, there are couple things to keep in mind regarding cleaning out your sewing machine.

  • This should be done after every regular-sized quilt (if you make small projects, table runners, bags, etc. then after every 2-3 projects is perfect). It’s especially important after working with flannel (it sheds more than regular cotton) and minky.
  • ONLY clean where you can reach without taking out screws! This one is important because of your sewing machine’s warranty… more often than not, if you mess around in the actual guts of your machine you’ll void the warranty, especially with computerized/digital machines.

The places you can reach are typically the bobbin and needle areas and the thread guides. Using the brush, brush your needle area to free it of excess dust and lint from the threads and fabrics of your previous projects, be sure to check around the back side of the needle area not just the front.

Essentially Loved Quilts Sewing machine care and maintenance blog post


Now that your needle area is clean, let’s brush out the thread guides. These are directly above the needle area on your machine, and it bobs up and down inside the upper arm. More than likely, you won’t be able to reach these too well or at least not too deeply—this is why we want a long-bristled brush to brush out what it can reach—and there usually isn’t much here in the way of lint, so don’t stress too much about quantity here. 😊

Essentially Loved Quilts Sewing Machine care and maintenance blog post pic of uncovered thread guides for cleaning


The next place to clean is your screen if you have one. Use your lenses cloth to wipe off any fingerprints that may mar your vision of the screen. I don’t recommend using any cleaning solutions unless talking to your sewing machine dealer or manufacturer.

Next access your bobbin area, brush out what you can reach and see there. Then, if you can remove your bobbin case and brush around behind it. For spaces too small for your brush the Q-tips will come in handy here. Again, no removing screws, just stick to the stuff you can reach and remove easily—no tools 😁.

Essentially Loved Quilts Sewing machine care and maintenance blog post with picture of open bobbin area


Oiling (if required)

Since the bobbin area is already open this would be a good time to oil your machine—if your machine requires oiling. This is definitely something you should refer to your owner’s manual for as it will give you specifics on how often and where you need oil or even whether or not it’s you who oils it or a certified technician.


Regular Maintenance aka Sewing Machine Spa Day 😁

The last thing I suggest for your sewing machine is a regular spa treatment with your dealer or other local certified technician. I know this takes your baby away from you for a bit, but it’s a great thing to do to keep everything running as it should. And it may even prevent bigger problems if you’re able to realize something isn’t quite right early on, remember the fan belt from the beginning of this post 😅.


Needles… one last, important piece

The lint is all gone from our machine as much as we’re able to do, but there is now one last piece we need to do to care for our sewing machines… our quilts and sewing projects really. That’s to change the needle! I know, it sounds so easy and so minute. There are a few good reasons to change out your sewing needles regularly. 1) reduce skipped stitches in your sewing and piecing, 2) less likely to have bent needles that can wreak havoc if it catches wrong (think breakage), not to mention “off” seams, 3) a sharp needle is less likely to cause you trouble at the start of a seam with bunching and knotting because it goes through the fabric easier, 4) as the needle gets used more the thread hole can get worn which in turn will wear on your thread possibly causing it to shred and break (mid-seam, of course 🙄), and last, but not least 5) the needle won’t be as worn, so it’ll be less likely to break mid-project. That all being said, chrome needles are supposed to be stronger and last a bit longer, so maybe you can get a quilt and more out of one needle, but don’t go too long without changing it out.


This should give you a good basis for how and why we need to regularly clean the lint and dust out of our precious machines, as well as why they need regular “spa days”. If you appreciate a little TLC so will your machine 😉.


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Warmth & Love,
💜 Tracy


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 Sewing Machine

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1 comment

I want to thank you again for the quilting help you gave me at last spring’s retreat in Cascade, ID. You let me borrow your “walking foot” and I was so pleased with the results that I bought my own and have been very pleased with it. (I even figured out how to attach it, which for un-mechanical me, was cause for celebration!)

Cherlyne Allen

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