Ask CRAFT: Sewing Machine Oil

Craft & Design

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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!

4 thoughts on “Ask CRAFT: Sewing Machine Oil

  1. Ashley says:

    I just wanted to reiterate your mention of the bottle type.
    In my experience, this is the most important factor. The oil bottles with long, narrow nozzles are the most helpful and worth any additional cost.
    For example:
    It prevents oil spill disasters, and makes the job much more pleasant.
    As for the frequency of oiling, I would suggest only to oil when the machine has been packed away for a bit.
    I have a 1970’s Sears Kenmore Zig Zag. I only oil this machine after I have stored it for several months. It has always operated perfectly.

  2. ichabod says:

    I use Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant, on my machines. They’re a bicycle lubricant sure, but after months of research and trial and error, this was the best lubricant that the people of the internet suggested. I am very pleased with it, it comes in a 2oz bottle with a long thin tube that can be attached to a drip sort of thing, it makes it incredibly easy to oil the small oiling holes and metal moving parts.
    I have a singer 201-2, a 401a, and a shark by euro pro (i was young and naive).

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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