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Holly Winter from Kennesaw, GA writes in:

I was wondering when, how and what kind of oil I should use when oiling my sewing machine?

The short answer is to read the manual that came with your machine. It should recommend a brand of oil, show you which parts to oil, and how often. Many of us don’t have our original manuals, however, and some manuals may not contain that advice. You can usually download a PDF of your machine’s manual from the manufacturer’s website (or email in to request one), which could help.

As for oil, look for something that is clearly labeled “sewing machine oil.” It’s a clear oil in a bottle with a long narrow nozzle. Some brands that make it: Singer, Dritz, Zoom Spout, and others. When you open up your machine, look for marked spots to oil, since some machines will have markings. Others won’t, so you’ll have to look up your model online to see if the manufacturer published the diagram, or perhaps another crafter has been kind enough to blog about his/her sewing machine oiling process. A few drops will do in each place.

Oiling your machine lubricates the moving parts so they run more smoothly, and it also prevents rust. After oiling, sew for a bit on some scrap fabric in case any oil wants to come out, after which you can resume sewing as normal. I’ve heard you should oil your machine after every 20 hours of operation, but how can you tell when that’s been? I’d say that oiling your machine once every few months should be sufficient unless you’re sewing all day every day. If you have more advice for Holly, post it in the comments!