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$ $ $ $ $
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• • • •
Time
45 mins

Save your sewing machine from extra wear and tear by servicing it yourself!
This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to thoroughly clean and re-oil your sewing machine from top to bottom. No need to pay someone to service your machine when you can do it yourself.

Posted by Palindrome Dry Goods Published See Palindrome Dry Goods's 7 projects »
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  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 1
    Step 1

    Your manual can be a crucial resource to assist you in this process. Look for the sections labeled "maintenance" or "troubleshooting". The manual will also have helpful diagrams of your machine that you can reference throughout this tutorial. If you don't have a manual, most can be found online to download, or on sites such as Ebay or Etsy to purchase.

    I would like to say that these instructions are best for older machines. By older I mean most machines from the late 90's and older. Most brand new machines don't leave you the option to service them this thoroughly, and therefore you'd have to take them to a sewing machine repair shop. This is a good example of why I prefer vintage sewing machines to new ones, but that's info for another post in the future.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 2
    Step 2

    Remove all thread spools, the bobbin, the bobbin case and the needle. Set them aside, somewhere safe.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 3
    Step 3

    Remove the screws from the top of your sewing machine. Mine in particular has 3, yours may have more or less. Some machines don't have any screws at top, but instead have a hinged lid that opens.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 4
    Step 4

    Note if there are washers with the screws and that they may be different sizes. Be sure to make a note of which screw fits in which opening. I recommend making a sheet that looks like this:

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 5
    Step 5

    Next, remove the top cover. Some machines have a metal bracket underneath that keeps the lid on tight, you may have to push the lid back (away from you), or forward (toward yourself) to get the bracket to unhook.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 6
    Step 6

    And then you'll see this! The inner workings of your machine. Take a moment to appreciate all the work it does for you :) Turn your hand wheel towards you and take a look at everything that moves in there.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 7
    Step 7

    Cleaning the Top of the Machine:

    You're now going to take a rag and clean out all the old, nasty, dirty grease. A knitting needle tucked inside a rag becomes a handy tool for reaching those smaller spaces. A toothbrush may come in handy during this step as well. I wouldn't advise using your soft brushes for removing grease, they're better for lint removal later on.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 8
    Step 8

    Be gentle: Use kid gloves when cleaning your machine. It doesn't require a lot of force or pressure to get your machine nice and clean. No sharp jabbing! Being too rough will greatly increase your chances of bumping springs, and dislodging crucial pieces.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 9
    Step 9

    Watch out for springs! These little babies are sensitive, fragile and will screw up the entire function of your machine if they're dislodged or broken. See the photo below for examples of placement. If they are covered in lint, use a soft brush (like a makeup brush, or the sewing machine-specific cleaning brush) to brush it off. If they are coated in dirty grease, use the rag to gently wipe it off.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 10
    Step 10

    Here are pictures of the gross stuff you may encounter in your machine. Hunks of dried grease, dirty grease, lint, threads, etc. all needs to come out! Be sure to clean each place, then turn the hand wheel 1/4 turn so that you can see and clean all sides of the wheels, cogs, etc.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 11
    Step 11

    You'll also want to turn your stitch selector, stitch width, and stitch length knobs (depending on where they're placed on your machine) to make sure that you clean all sides of their mechanisms. The photo below shows the built up grease on my stitch selector knob. To get it all clean, I turned the knob through each stitch to clean entirely around the cog.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 12
    Step 12

    Oiling the Top of the Machine:

    Once you've thoroughly cleaned the top part of your machine, we need to replace all the grease we just removed. Oil helps to keep all the parts and pieces moving smoothly, and prevents excess wear, friction, heat and noise.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 13
    Step 13

    We are going to grease any two parts that move against one another.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 14
    Step 14

    Here, I have pointed to the places I put oil. Your machine may have more or less moving parts.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 15
    Step 15

    ...

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 16
    Step 16

    What not to do:
    • Don't grease the belts. I am pointing to the drive belt in my sewing machine in this picture. If any of the belts looks frayed, or cracked, take your sewing machine to a professional to have it replaced.

    • Don't over oil. Too much oil can cause the pieces to slip and malfunction. If you're using the liquid oil, it only takes a drop or two per part. If you're using the thick stuff, a half-pea sized will be more than enough.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 17
    Step 17

    Cleaning the Left Side and the Bobbin Housing:

    Now, open the left side panel on your machine. Mine has a hinged door that opens, yours may have screws. If it has screws, be sure to add them to your paper sheet and label them so that you don't forget where they go! It's also a good time to brush any lint off of the tension knob (if that's where yours is placed), and the thread guides along the front of the machine.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 18
    Step 18

    Next remove the foot, and the needle if you haven't already.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 19
    Step 19

    Take a soft brush and clean the dogfeed (those are the little teeth that stick up from the bottom of your machine).

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 20
    Step 20

    Now remove the needle plate (also known as the throat plate). Mine has screws, (see above) some have a bracket underneath so that you can slide the plate off by pulling it towards you.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 21
    Step 21

    ...

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 22
    Step 22

    Remove the lint that builds up underneath the needle plate. Below, you can see that mine was so dirty, I used a small screwdriver to gently push out large pieces of lint. Here's a good time to use your soft brushes & grease-free toothbrush as well.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 23
    Step 23

    Removing the Bobbin Housing:

    Taking apart the bobbin mechanism can be a little intimidating, but follow along and you shouldn't have a problem. If you have a top loading bobbin, you do not need to follow these steps. Because I don't currently have a top loading machine in my possession, you may want to see what you can find on YouTube, and I will add pictures of that process as soon as I can!

    For a front loading bobbin: you should see two small arms on either side of the bottom of the bobbin mechanism. Gently push those arms away from the case.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 24
    Step 24

    You can then remove the first metal piece (known as the 'race').

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 25
    Step 25

    You will then be able to remove the second metal piece (known as the 'hook').

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 26
    Step 26

    Gently brush out the entire bobbin mechanism. Brush over the hook and race and collect all the lint you find. Mine is below. Gross.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 27
    Step 27

    Now, to oil the left side and the bobbin housing:

    Again, turn your hand wheel and watch what moves inside the left side panel. Place a drop of oil anyplace where two mechanical pieces move against one another.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 28
    Step 28

    ...

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 29
    Step 29

    Be sure to place a small amount on the needle bar (the cylindrical piece of metal that moves the needle up and down).

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 30
    Step 30

    For the bobbin mechanism, be sure to place a small amount behind the part that swings back and forth (move the hand wheel in full rotations to find this part). See the photo below.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 31
    Step 31

    Cleaning the Underside of the Machine:

    My machine has a small plastic arm at the side that holds the machine into it's bottom case.Whether your machine is in a case like mine, in a table, or not in any kind of housing, you'll need to tip it back so that you can look underneath it. I rested mine on a stack of books, but you could also lay a towel down on your workspace and set it in on it's back.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 32
    Step 32

    Take your soft cloth and gently wipe down the underside as well as the bottom of the case, if the machine is in one.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 33
    Step 33

    ...

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 34
    Step 34

    Oiling the Underside of the Machine:

    Once more, turn your hand wheel and watch what moves underneath the machine. Place a drop of oil anyplace where two mechanical pieces move against one another. Look for very small movements at the underside of your machine, not all parts here make drastic movements.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 35
    Step 35

    ...

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 36
    Step 36

    ...

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 37
    Step 37

    Reassembling the Bobbin Housing:

    Firstly, turn your hand wheel until the inner crescent moon shaped piece in the housing is on the right.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 38
    Step 38

    Secondly, pop the 'hook' into the housing, it will only fit in all the way if the crescent-moon shaped piece is in the right place. You may have to adjust it's position using the handwheel.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 39
    Step 39

    Third, place the 'race' over the top of the hook and the crescent-moon shaped piece. See that itty-bitty notch at the bottom of the housing between the two black arms? That notch helps align the 'race' to the rest of the hous

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 40
    Step 40

    Lastly, pop the little black arms over the little metal buttons on the housing. Be sure that the dogfeed lever to the right of the housing (it usually has little red arrows on it), is in it's upright position.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 41
    Step 41

    To Finish Up:

    Lastly, replace all the screws in your machine (top, side and bobbin), and give the machine one last good wipe down. My machine gets especially dusty on the back side and in the grooves of the case.

  • How to sew . How To Service Your Sewing Machine Yourself - Step 42
    Step 42

    Then, replace the needle, and using a piece of fabric that you don't care about (you could even use the rag you've used through this whole process), run the machine at full speed, without any thread in it. This moves the oil throughout the machine and allows any excess oil to work it's way out. You may see oil on the fabric, and that's OK. Continue using the machine without any thread until you don't see oil on the fabric anymore. Then, using thread you don't care about, thread the bobbin and the top of the machine and sew some more. You may see that the thread is greasy (either on the top or the bottom), and this is OK too.

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Comments

Chloe
Chloe · Burnaby, British Columbia, CA · 1 project
This is a great tutorial. Nothing I didn't know, but it's great to see that other handy women out there educating others on things like this.
I just wanted to point out one thing; for personal safety, it would be a good idea to unplug the machine before servicing it yourself.
Reply