What is it about cleaning your sewing machine that just makes you think….hmmm, no thanks!? It’s such a vital, yet easily overlooked, and widely avoided aspect of sewing machine maintenance.
There are some sewists who have developed very good habits over the years and regularly clean out their sewing machines. When I quizzed these diligent folk in my sewing group, I was impressed to find out that the majority of them who regularly sew clean out their sewing machine at least once every few days. Only a very small few reported doing so daily.
Unsurprisingly, it was generally reported that sewing machines are rarely being regularly cleaned. With lack of interest in the task, limited time, or deeming it a pointless task for the amount that they sew being cited as reasons. I personally clean out my machine every 3-4 days, even though I sew every day. I admit, I need to increase the frequency of my cleans but being honest, I do find it an arduous task.
The cleaning out of our machines could prove to be cost effective in the long run. “A regularly cleaned machine will lessen the need to service your machine over time,” says Jenny Field, owner of Needle and Shed. “I regularly receive sewing machines where the owners think there is a major issue and it turns out the machines just want a good clean.” So what really is keeping a large proportion of us from regularly cleaning our machines?
If you sew infrequently, the need to clean your machine as regularly isn’t as great, but it is still an important part of maintaining your machine. There is no harm in cleaning your sewing machine after every use, or at the very least, after every project. It’s a great habit to start forming and means that your machine is ready for the next time you use it.
If you’re encountering any weird and wonderful, unexplained issues with your machine, it could be that it needs a good clean. (DISCLAIMER: If you think there is something seriously wrong with your sewing machine, please do not hesitate to get it checked out by someone who knows what they are doing. There could be a plethora of other reasons as to why your machine isn’t sounding right or working correctly. A sewing machine that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, or never, can present sounds and actions that appear to be a major issue but are resolved with a good clean).
Perhaps some sewists are reluctant to clean their machines because they aren’t sure how to clean them. Our sewing machines can look very complicated, internally. They are such a big investment that the thought of unintentionally breaking them, or messing them up in some way, can be greater than the need to remove a few bits of thread and dust. If you fall into this particular camp, here’s quick a video I put together of me cleaning out the bobbin area of my sewing machine. I use an old makeup brush and tweezers that came with the machine. That’s my preference. Your machine should at least come with a cleaning brush that you can use. Other things that I’ve heard being used to clean machines are pipe cleaners, miniature vacuum cleaners, and mini paint brushes, to name but a few. Once you get into the habit of cleaning your sewing machine, you can get creative as to how you go about doing it.
If your machine doesn’t allow you to get underneath the bobbin area with the push of a button, it’ll require you to unscrew the plate. This can be a bit of an arduous task for some, scary for others. Especially if you’ve never done it before. The benefits of cleaning out all of the dust are far greater than the potential risk of causing any damage. Be gentle and anything that you remove, pay attention to how it slots back in place to make sure you can put it back correctly once you have finished cleaning.
Our sewing machines are a big investment, so it’s important that we maintain and look after them as best as we can. Regularly cleaning your sewing machine is a big part of ensuring it remains in the best condition possible, for as long as possible.