Quilting Basics Tutorial: Cleaning a Sewing Machine

Posted on May 13th, by Amy in Tutorial. 29 comments

If you sew lots (chances are you do) you need to take a few minutes to clean your machine.  With every bobbin change, (if you can take the time to stop) and in between piecing and quilting – those are my usual intervals between cleaning.

I recently mentioned needing to have my machine serviced, but decided to figure a few things out on my own! After a reading my manual and a bit of research online, I learned that my Janome should not be oiled.  Huh?  Ya, that’s what I thought!  There’s one little oil wick beneath the bobbin that needs a teeny bit (not very often), otherwise just clean it.  Check your manual for specifics for your machine!  It makes a difference.  I also switched thread, which has made a huge difference in the amount of lint generated – who knew!?

Here’s the basics for regular cleaning —

See your face plate – take it off.

Undo the screw(s) to get to the inner workings of you bobbin case.

Remove the bobbin case too.

Take your little lint brush, and brush everything clean.

In and behind the bobbin case.

Take some spray air, or a mini vacuum if you have one, and clean out all the lint. ETA – there’s been an ongoing conversation about not using canned air in the comments. It’s best for your machine if you don’t push it further in, so brush and vacuum are best!

Also clean the inside of the bobbin case.

And the outside.  You want everything to be smooth and clean.

That way your thread runs over everything easily and smooth :)

Now you are ready to quilt!

Here’s a free quilt pattern to get you started!

29 thoughts on “Quilting Basics Tutorial: Cleaning a Sewing Machine

  1. 1
    momto2wasd says:

    Wow…I've never done such thorough cleaning in the 10 years I've had my machine. I guess I'd better get to it!!

  2. 2
    Amy says:

    I just wanted to mention to you that my Viking/Bernina/Babylock/Janome dealer says you should never use the spray air on your machine because it tends to force lint down into your machine where it will build up and be hard to get out and cause all sorts of trouble. I stick with just the little brush, but a mini vacuum attachment would be nice!

  3. 3
    Amy - Park City Girl says:

    I can see that being a problem. I was super gentle with the air and not a lot – I did notice a little fluff ball come out a small hole in my free arm. When in doubt us it sparingly :)

  4. 4
    Gerry says:

    Thanks for the reminder.
    I have a new Bernina and am getting used to the difference between it and my previous machine [Viking]/
    Thread, I know, does make a difference –

  5. 5
    live a colorful life says:

    Thread makes so much difference. I LOVE Superior thread. Masterpiece rocks. I have even taken Bob's (from Superior) course in threadology. I found learning about thread fascinating. Yep, pretty geeky when it comes to stuff like that.

  6. 6
    Happy Cottage Quilter says:

    Wow thanks for the tutorial. I've used the special attachment for my vacuum cleaner and that really helps to get some of the fluff out. I know I really should do it more often.

  7. 7
    Sara says:

    You forgot to say, "Put it back together!"

    My machine is going in for maintenance at the end of the month, I'm going to ask them about taking out the bobbin case. I never heard of doing that before.

    • 7.1
      Reverant Stitcher says:

      Oh my goodness you would not believe what you find if you have not ever taken out the bobbin case. The silver outer ring with the delivery hook that surrounds the black I have literally taken out lint that looked like a thin sheet of felt. The person who I did this for had never taken her machine apart like that before & thought it was one of those felt disks that sometimes comes with machines to place under spools of thread. She was absolutely amazed how much better her machine worked once I had cleaned out under the bobbin plate.

      Depending on how old your machine is it should have come with a flat silver “key” shaped like a profile of a mushroom (domed top with a rectangular base to loosen & tighten the screws that hold the bobbin plate.

      Right now I am cleaning out my machine every night at the end of the day because of the amount of sewing I have been doing.

  8. 8
    Angie says:

    it is amazing what a difference cleaning your machine does!! Do you oil your machine too?

  9. 9
    Melanie says:

    Hmmm mine has been cranky lately, maybe I should clean it up!
    I totally know about the thread though… whenever I use my cheap thread, there is lint everywhere!!

  10. 10
    laurenaphelps says:

    Should we be worried about the other mechanics of the machine? Thanks for the post! I've always wondered how I should be cleaning my machine.

  11. 11
    audrey says:

    I do this after each project and it helps! One other thing to consider with the canned air is that if you have a computerized machine you want to be extra careful with the canned air, when it gets cold enough liquid will come out and can rust the innards of your machine.

  12. 12
    Annelies Dease says:

    My husband is a photographer and has this cool thing for cleaning lenses. It looks like a turkey baster, gives puff of air for gentle cleaning and works like magic on my sewing machine too. So no more canned air….and a very inexpensive thing to pick up in a camera shop.

  13. 13
    Leah S says:

    I used canned air on my modern singer machine and it blew out the wick under the bobbin that has oil in it. It was a MESS trying to get that wick back in!!

    Now I have front-loading Berninas, no more wick worries. Just a drop of oil in the bobbin area after you clean out the lint. :)

  14. 14
    Terriaw says:

    I often neglect cleaning out my machine, but this is exactly what I do when I make the effort. The manual really is becoming my friend too!

  15. 15
    Suedio says:

    I find that a cotton bud (q-tip) is really handy for grabbing the lint from in and around the bobbin compartment. I've been using my Janome for 22 years and have only had to add to the tiniest drop of oil to a belt wheel last year as it developed an annoying squeak. I usually give it a good clean around the bobbin and change the needle after I've finished a quilt, as well as a bit of a vacuum about once a year. That seems to keep everything ticking along nicely.

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

    Regards, Sue

  16. 16
    OliveStreetStudio says:

    oooo my machine is so overdue for a good cleaning….it is on my morning "to-do" list. Thanks!

  17. 17
    "Lois Grebowski" says:

    When I purchased my big Janome a few weeks ago, the repair guy at the store said to use a Q-tip to lightly remove the lint in and around the bobbin case. the q-tip is like lint and will pick up lint. The dealer also stressed using good thread.

  18. 18
    Kari says:

    What thread do you like best? I just started using some Presencia to see how much lint it makes. I just had some bad luck with Valdani.

  19. 19
    Sherry says:

    I have a Janome 6600. Should I also remove the bottom and clean or leave that to the dealer?

  20. 20

    This is an old post I know, but I have always been told to not use spray air in my machine. The reasoning being that dirt or fluff is pushed into other areas of the machine. I could see using a vacuum though. Have you ever had a problem w/ using the spray air?

  21. 21
    Cathy Byrd says:

    Who would have thought it! No oil!? Crazy but true.
    Thank you for the tutorial!

  22. 22
    Connie says:

    Thanks for the cleaning tips. You might try using a pipe cleaner very gently. It works well for me.

  23. 23
    Nancy says:

    I know this is an old site but hope to find someone who can tell me about the threads mentioned. My long arm is using one thread from Connecting Threads site ,Essential (a 50 wt) and the quilt shop Signature machine quilting thread of 40 wt. Which is sthe better weight to use and are there any places to get a good line of threads on line?

  24. 24
    LaRena says:

    I clean my machine at least every time I finish a project. but if I have a very large project I clean it several time. It runs better when it’s clean. If I forget it doesn’t run well. And I never use air just my rush I don’t even blow into it. It’s a great machine Emerald 118.

  25. 25
    chickadee says:

    I was told by Singer to use unwaxed dental floss to clean between the tension wheels. Just run it thru like your were threading your machine (works great) I had got some of that real linty thread and you would not believe how much was in the tension wheels. Now I just need that little vac.attachment and pipe cleaners. Thanks

    • 25.1
      Dixie Lee says:

      I thought I knew just about everything about cleaning a machine but never about dental floss for the tension disc’s.
      I done some teaching kids to sew and we had a bunch of old machines given to us and they came in every brand, shape and year but most where mechanical machines and I did a lot of work on them and learned a lot at the same time. I have always kept my own machines cleaned and use good thread and change needles when they have about 8 hours on them.

  26. 26
    LaRena says:

    I clean my machine evey time I run out of bobbin thread.

  27. 27
    John Brown says:

    Wow thanks a lot for this in-depth tutorial. I need to clean my machine sparingly now.

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