The #1 thing you can do to keep your sewing machine running smoothly is clean your machine. The more you sew, the more lint gets into the guts of your machine. A little regular cleaning will keep your machine running better and quieter and it can also save you money on major repairs. Learning to clean your machine is a basic sewing essential. I’m going to share how to clean your sewing machine.
How often to clean your machine depends on how often you use it. Most sewing machine manufactures recommends cleaning a machine after at least every 10 hours of use. (10 hours is also the recommended sewing life of a machine needle.) I have always been told to try three things if I am experiencing an issue with my machine;
1) Re-thread the needle and bobbin
2) Insert a new needle (make sure it is appropriate for the project)
3) Clean the machine
If #1 and #2 don’t clear the issue, it’s time to clean your machine. Here is what you will need:
Your instruction manual
Lint brush (most machines come with a lint brush. If you don’t have one, you can buy one at your fabric store or from your dealer.)
Needles (You should replace the needle each time you maintain your machine.)
Lint-free wipes or a soft cloth – muslin is a good choice
Now let’s get started:
Unplug your machine To save yourself from accidents unplug your sewing machine from the wall plug . A desk lamp can provide additional lighting if necessary.
Remove your thread spool and clean the surfaces Raise the needle to the highest position. Whenever you are removing the thread spool cut the thread between the spool and the thread races. Do not pull the thread backwards through the races forcing the gears to go a way they are not designed to go. Remove the thread from the eye of the needle and pull it out of the machine. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to clean the top surface. (Lint settles on the top of the machine and eventually sifts into the thread races. This is the reason you should cover your machine when not in use.)
Disassemble the machine This is the scary part for some people. Have a small bowl handy to put the small pieces in. Refer to your manual for instruction on how to do disassemble your machine for cleaning. These are the steps that I follow:
Step 1 Remove the presser foot and the needle first. (Dispose of the needle safely. I use an old pill bottle with a child proof cap for this purpose.) Unscrew the presser foot adapter. Put these things aside in a secure place such as a small bowl.
Step 2 Remove the throat plate. Pull out the bobbin. (My sewing machine has a front loading bobbin.) Remove the shuttle cover and the shuttle race. (Before removing the shuttle cover and the shuttle race, you might want to take a picture with your smartphone. This will help you put it back together if you get confused.)
I wanted to make sure you could see the accumulation of fibers so I sewed very linty projects before taking these pictures. I would have normally cleaned this out long ago.
Use a tiny hard-bristled brush to remove the dust from this area and the feed dogs. Brush out the lint, making sure you’re not pushing it inside! Check between the feed dog teeth. Lint loves to hide there!
At this point I reassemble my bobbin area before moving on to the upper portion of my machine. To complete the cleaning:
1. Run the brush gently through the thread path slits to remove any dust that might be hiding there.
2. Use a Q-tip with a little rubbing alcohol to clean the glue and gunk from the presser feet, foot adapter, and throat plate. (You have not replaced the throat plate yet.)
3. Replace the throat plate, foot adapter, and presser foot.
4. Install a new needle
5. Use your lint-free wipe or dry, soft cloth to remove dust from the top of the machine and the foot controller.
6. On a scrap piece of fabric, sew a few lines of stitches to be sure you don’t get lint on your next project and everything is working OK.
I have not talked about using oil on your machine because not every machine needs to be oiled. It is best to follow the instructions for oiling your machine found in your owner’s manual. Following this cleaning routine should keep you machine healthy and happy for a long time.
Next week’s Basic Sewing Essential will be How to Sew a Zipper.
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