January 14, 2011

HOW TO: Clean your Sewing Machine and Serger

I love my serger.  To make sure that it loves me back (and doesn't tangle threads and eat fabric) I try to keep it happy be cleaning it once a month.  

Can you see all that yucky lint and dust buildup?
How often should I clean my sewing machine or serger?
I've read and heard many different opinions on how often to clean and oil your machines, but once a month seems to work for me.  Mind you, I sew almost every day.  
Anytime your machine sounds loud, rough or thump-y means that you have waited to long.  I think it all depends on the newness of your machine and how much you use it.  If you're questioning whether or not to clean it - it's time.

How do I clean it? 
First, make sure you're not wearing black clothing...I learned this one the hard way.
The dinky little brush (on the far left) that came with my machine is only fit for house gnomes!  
I quickly learned that I needed a bigger brush if I wanted to finish the task in less than a day.  You can use an old makeup brush (wash the makeup off), or you can find larger brushes in the notions aisle of Joann Fabrics.  I've also used the spiral brushes made for cleaning baby bottles and nipples.  

Remove the throat plate on your sewing machine (don't forget to dust the underside of the plate) or open the front door of your serger.  Don't be afraid to use that little screwdriver to get access to all those nooks and crannies.
I happen to have a drop-in bobbin on my brother sewing machine.  Your sewing machine might look different, but clean is clean on any machine!  Just make sure to remember how things were arranged before you take them apart - take photos if necessary.

My throat plate and screwdriver.  

Can you see the fuzzies and lint?  You can also remove the bobbin and the race (bobbin holder) to dust and oil the machine. 

My dirty serger - BEFORE
Gently brush away ALL visible lint and build up.  I tend to stab at the dust and it clings to the brush - then I lift it out and use my hands to clean the brush before gathering more lint and dust. 
The tweezers are great for the big globs of lint and fabric that might get pushed back into the corners.
After I've brushed away all the visible lint and dust, I take my vacuum cleaner and gently suck out any lint or dust that is hiding out of view.  Just hold the nozzle attachment close to openings or hard to reach areas.  Again, work gently.

AFTER - In this photo the race has been removed and oiled. 

Ah - the clean machine looks so much BETTER!

Try to avoid blowing the dust away with your breath or a canister of compressed air. It will blow the dirt and dust deeper into the machine - usually to places you cannot reach.
How do I oil it?
Take out that dreaded manual.  It should have a little diagram of your sewing machine or serger pointing to the spots you need to oil.  Both of my machines take very little oil.  I've labeled the spots I need to oil with a red sharpie and that seems to have taken out the guess-work.  It usually takes just a small dab (1 drop) of oil.  Use sewing machine oil only. 

-This is also a great time to change your needles or serger blades.  I like to write the date I changed my serger blades in sharpie marker right on the blades.
-Listen to your machine as you sew - it should sound quieter and smoother after a cleaning.
-It is recommended that you unplug your machine from the power supply before doing any maintenance.

If you have any tips or tricks you use to clean your machines - please let me know!



  1. I am such a weirdo but I absolutely LOVED doing this as a child. I would religiously clean out my grandmother's machines. Funny enough I don't even know how to thread my machine but it's clean!

    1. Yes, Shea; you're a weirdo.

  2. I also don't think the public view of me should include parts of my flesh only I should see so tops need to be long enough to tuck in and waistbands need to be nearer my waist and not my knees. http://sergerworld.com/


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