How to Use Sewing Machine Oil

How to Use Sewing Machine Oil

Sewing machine oil acts as a lubricant and cleaner to keep the motor and moving parts in your sewing machine running smoothly. Some sewing machines require that you add oil to your sewing machine after you’ve cleaned your sewing machine which you should do every few weeks.

You apply the sewing machine oil to wherever your manual tells you to, but most commonly it’s put on the bobbin case housing unit and the hook race, which is the circular groove that runs around the bobbin case.

Do You Even Need Sewing Machine Oil?

Your sewing machine manual will give you the specifics on if you need to apply sewing machine oil, where to apply it, how much to apply, and how often to apply it.

Many modern sewing machines state in the manual to not use sewing machine oil. If your manual, says that – don’t do it! That means your machine is self-lubricating and it’s made from special parts that don’t need any oil added to them.

Buying Sewing Machine Oils

You can use most brands of sewing machine oils interchangeably on different brands of sewing machines. So if you have a Brother sewing machine,  it’s perfectly fine to use a Singer branded sewing machine oil.

Since sewing machine oil is basically all the same, you’ll want to look at price and application when you go to buy it.  It only takes a drop or two to oil a sewing machine, and a nice applicator will make this easier. It’s not necessary though, you can always add some drops to a cotton swab and use the swab to apply the oil to your machine.

Here are some of the most popular sewing machine oils you can find online along with what I like about them.

  • Zoom Sewing Machine Oil – This is the sewing that I personally use. It’s fairly inexpensive and has a long applicator tip, making it easy to apply directly from the bottle
  • Singer Sewing Machine Oil – I’ve also used the Singer oil and it worked well. While the applicator is small so a lot doesn’t come out at once, it’s short and you’ll need to apply it with a cotton swab if the parts you need to oil are hard to get to
  • Imperial Sewing Machine Oil – This bottle has a clever spout that extends so you can oil those hard to reach spots
  • Liberty Oil – This bottle also has an extended spout to help oil your machine

Sewing Machine Oil Substitutes

A metal can of 3-In-1 Oil

Steve Snodgrass/Flickr

If you don’t want to spend the money on a specific sewing machine oil, or you’d like something a little more natural, there are some substitutions you can use. White mineral oil, 3-In-One oil, and Marvel Mystery oil have all been used as sewing machine oils over the years.

Before you use a sewing machine oil substitute, please consult your manual to make sure it doesn’t specifically tell you to stay away from substitutions.

White Mineral Oil

White mineral oil, which is clear in color, is cheap and easy to find and makes a great sewing machine oil substitute. Take a look in your cupboards, you may find you already have some. Baby oil is mineral oil with perfume added and many people use it as a sewing machine lubricant.

Mineral oil is a great thing to have on hand because you can also use it to clean cutting boards, stainless steel, knives, and much more.

3-In-One Multipurpose Oil

3-In-One oil is an old-school substitute for sewing machine oil and quite a good one. You use it just like sewing machine oil and it’s usually a little less expensive.

The great news is that you can use this oil on just about everything like squeaky hinges, bicycle gears, skates, fans, and just about anything with a small motor. Since you can use the oil for so many things, it would make a great addition to home cleaners.

Marvel Mystery Oil

Marvel Mystery Oil is now marketed as an automotive oil but got its start during World War I when it was made to clean and maintain jet engines. You can use it to lubricate your sewing machine plus it can be added to gasoline to just about any engine to keep it clean.

The oil tends to be very popular to use on vintage sewing machines, given that it probably was used originally on them.

How to Use Sewing Machine Oil

What You’ll Need:

Supplies needed to oil a sewing machine

  • Sewing Machine Oil
  • Sewing Machine
  • Sewing Machine Manual
  • Cotton swab
  • Cloth

How to Oil Your Sewing Machine

It’s important to consult your sewing machine manual before you apply any sewing machine oil. Your manual will tell you if you need to apply any oil and if you do where you should put it on your sewing machine. Notice that mine says not to apply oil. In this tutorial on how to oil your sewing machine, I’m going to show you the steps on where to apply the oil but I won’t actually be applying oil.

The Maintenance section of a sewing machine manual

Before you add any oil to your sewing machine, you need to clean your sewing machine. The last thing you want to do is to make the lint that has gathered up inside your machine oily, this will only clog up your machine and make it really tough to clean afterward.

Using a paintbrush to pick up lint

Turn off and unplug your sewing machine. This can be tempting to skip because the extra light from your sewing machine will help you see everything better, but the last thing you want to do is injure yourself.

Unplugging a sewing machine

Unscrew and remove your throat plate so you can get to the inside of the machine, where the bobbin goes.

Taking off throat plate

Take out your bobbin if you have one in your machine as well as your bobbin holder. Pay attention to how you take out the bobbin holder, they can be a bit tricky to put back in. Make sure everything is clean before you add oil.

Removing the bobbin case

Test to see how your sewing machine oil comes out of the package. If you find that it comes out too fast, then apply a drop or two to a cotton swab.

Adding sewing machine oil to a cotton swab

Apply sewing machine oil to wherever it says to in your sewing machine manual. You’ll only need 1-2 drops in each spot. If you turn the handwheel of your machine, you can see where the parts inside the machine are rubbing together, causing friction. This is usually where you’ll want to apply oil. This is usually the hook race and the inside of the bobbin holder.

Applying sewing machine oil to hook race

If you accidentally add too much oil, use a cloth or small piece of muslin fabric to soak up the excess. If you skip this step, you might get oil on your next sewing project.

Wiping extra oil off with a cloth

Put your bobbin holder back in and screw back on your throat plate. You can keep your sewing machine purring nicely by cleaning and adding oil after every few sewing projects. Making a sewing machine cover is a great way to keep everything clean when you’re not using your machine.

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