Cleaning your Sewing Machine

Those that sew with me, know that I am almost anal about cleaning the lint from my machine.  (OK … I can already HEAR you saying, “Gail, you are anal!”)

I have a personal rule that my sewing machine gets the bobbin case cleaned after every two bobbins.

IMG_4086This is the lint after sewing two bobbins!!  Yes, I was quilting – so I was going through 2 layers of fabric and cotton batting.  I was using a good quality cotton thread. Can you imagine the lint that would accumilate if I left it for 3 or 4 bobbins?

It takes no time at all to clean your machine and it will run smoother!  The other bonus is that it doesn’t need to go to the sewing machine doctor as often!

SEW – How do I clean my machine?

  • First, I take out the bobbin case.
  • The bobbin case area is wiped out with a make-up brush with natural bristles.  Do not use a dollar store one as the bristles tend to come out and you do not want those pesky things down in your machine.
  • I dust the bobbin case and then put it back together.


  • I will use a special attachment and vacuum it out.  You don’t want to put the full strength of the vacuum right up to the bobbin area.  There are little tiny springs and what-nots in the area and you don’t want to dislodge them.
  • I will fold a pipecleaner in half and get the lint that is further down in my machine.

Do not use canned air.  It will blow lint further into the machine.  And you don’t want lint where no lint should ever go!  As well, there is often moisture in canned air and you really don’t want to water your sewing machine – it is not a plant!

Oiling my machine

I have a Janome, so the only oiling I do is to put a drop on the wick at the bottom of the bobbin case.  I do this about every 3-4 months.  Check your machine manual for oiling directions.  USE ONLY SEWING MACHINE OIL!!!!!!!!! (other oils will gum up your machine)

Things I have heard from sewing machine technicians

  • “Machines can catch fire if there is a lot of lint, then the machine is literally toast.”  This tech had a machine brought in for “fixing” after the lint caught fire. It couldn’t be fixed.
  • “If a machine hasn’t been cleaned, it can take me hours and hours to pull all the lint out.  Sometimes, there is so much lint, I need to use a pair of tweezers to get it out.”
  • “If people don’t know how to clean their machine, they should check their manual or ask how to do it.”
  • “Sewing machines should be covered when not in use. It keeps the dust off.”

One who sleeps under a quilt is covered by LOVE!

Happy Quilting! 

9 thoughts on “Cleaning your Sewing Machine

  1. Great post on the importance of cleaning your machine. I admit, I don’t clean my machine as often as I should, but I like the idea of setting it by how many bobbins I go through. I have been wanting to make a sewing machine cover for a while, I guess this is a good reason to move it up the list!

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  2. With my exs[ensive janome, I too clean every two bobbins! My featherweight gets cleaned less. I just lubed, oiled, waxed, and de linted that machine. I need to give that little machine more respect. I practically removed lint so packed it, it was felt. Shame on me. Those that have new machines and do not clean reg, your feed dogs will quilt working because of lint build up creating felt!

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    • Good for you, cleaning your machines!!! I had forgotten about lint building up sso that the feed dogs don’t work! Good reminder – Thanks! And our machines will last longer if they are taken care of! Happy Quilting! 🙂

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  3. Nothing at all wrong with being tidy. I brush lint after every bobbin and oil daily. BUT, since I’ve been using Materpiece thread there is no need to clean with every bobbin change.. There is an exception to this though. If using any fabric other than batik I clean with each bobbin change. You keep it up and will find your machine lasts longer than those whose owners shake their heads at you.

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  4. Believe it was you who showed me how to clean machine – as you say, it is amazing how much lint builds up – I use the pipe cleaner and the silver sticks that look like q-tips but much thinner and not sure what is on cleaning end but they work great and get into smaller spaces …

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    • Hi Judy,
      I vaguely remember showing you how to clean a machine … i’ve shown so many people!
      I too, occasionally use a pipe cleaner (folded in half, so the metal doesn’t scratch), but those thin silver sticks are a nuisance to me! I have lost 2 of them down in my machine and it takes me forever to take my machine apart and get them out. So, I don’t use them anymore.
      Happy Quilting! 🙂


  5. Hi Gail! I use the same rule of thumb for cleaning my machine – every two bobbins. I have an Elna, which has to be a sister/cousin to your Janome because the bobbin area looks the same. I was told to use a Q-tip to get the fuzz and link out of the bobbin area. It does work well and I only poke it where it fits. It is AMAZING the amount of lint collected during two bobbins use. I also take a pipe cleaner and poke around where it fits – in many more spots than the Q-tip does. I still bring my machine in for a spa day about once a year. I have never oiled my machine – I should check on that. Great topic for a post! ~smile~ Roseanne

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