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Lubricating Your Sewing Machine

Various Sewing Machine Lubricants
By Ron Bergquist

One of the most misunderstood maintenance subjects for your sewing machine is lubrication (oil and or grease).  The older, more mature users were brought up and taught that if our sewing machine was not working correctly, oil it; that will fix everything.  Well, this was partly true for the machines years ago but not so for today’s modern, computerized and highbred machines.  All sewing machines do require lubrication in some form or manner, but it is not the answer to all ills as it used to be.

Here is a cute little story that actually happened.  A young lady came into a sewing machine service shop.  She looked around and then asked the salesperson for lubricating oil.  She purchased an 8 oz. bottle and left.  Customers purchase lubricants all the time.  A good tech will always ask what sewing machine the customer is trying to maintain so they get the right lubricants.  The same lubricant does not fit all sewing machines.  A few hours later, the same young lady came back to the shop.  She purchased a couple of other items and another bottle of lubricating oil.  Two days later, this same young lady returned again and purchased another bottle of lubricating oil; that now makes three.  WHOA! We need to check this out.  We asked what she was doing with all the sewing machine lubricating oil.  “Do you have several machines you are working on?”  She answered, “No.” Her sewing machine was not sewing correctly and her instruction manual said that when the machine isn’t working correctly to add lubricating oil.  Need I say more?!  She returned shortly after with her sewing machine and we cleaned it (a lot) and adjusted it, and it works fine now.

Many of the newer machines are self-lubricating, meaning that the parts are made with lubrication injected into them.  Read your instruction manual to understand what is recommended for your sewing machine. Yet even the most expensive, top-of-the-line sewing machine requires occasional lubrications though the manuals state they are not needed.  This lubrications should be done by a qualified technician who knows which sewing machines and parts require it.

Each sewing machine manufacturer will recommend their own lubricants.  In the warranty period, it is important that you lube or grease your sewing machine with their recommended lubricants.  You don’t want your manufacturer to refuse warranty coverage based on the use of an un-recommended lubricant.  After the warranty period has expired, many lubricants will work as good or better that a manufacturer’s recommended product.

Whether you use your machine daily or occasionally, it will require maintenance and lubrication.  Consider a sewing machine that is over 10 years old that has never been serviced, and may even have been in storage.  Chances are that those old lubricants have dried up and may have even gotten hard. We have seen lubricants so discolored and hard that even the hand wheel cannot be turned manually. It happens and it happens more often than you might think.  These old lubricants will need to be removed. If they are hardened too much, they will have to be chemically removed. If the hardened lubricants are not eventually removed, you have further issues as particles of hardened grease come loose and lodge into the sewing machine’s working parts.  They can cause extensive and expensive repairs. 

Let’s talk about oils and lubricants you should never ever use.  This is not a complete list, but I think it is extensive enough for you to get the point.  The following are not to be used on sewing machines.

  • WD40
  • 3-in-1 oil
  • Motor oil
  • Spray automotive lubricants
  • Alcohol cleaners
  • All-purpose grease
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Waxes of any kind

If it is not sold specifically for a sewing machine – stop.  Call me and I will help you find the right product for the right use for your sewing machine. Any sewing machine center also should know what products you will need. Be cautious though of the salesperson at the big box stores; they will not usually have this detailed information.  That salesperson will know what they have it stock – not that it will or won’t work on your specific sewing machine. Realize that a quality product may cost you a little more, but down the road, it will save you a lot in money, time and headaches.


Ron Bergquist is a certified sewing machine technician.  Not only that, he is co-owner with Barb, his wife, of A Block Away Quilt Shop.  After keeping Barb’s machine in running order so she can continually enjoy creating quilts for family and friends, he decided to become a certified sewing machine technician and today has serviced machines in Texas, Virginia and Florida.

Contact Us:

Phone: (956) 638-1961
Location: A Block Away Quilt Shop
                 2706 N. 10th Street
                 McAllen, TX 78501
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9AM-4PM, Sun: Closed

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