Oiling your sewing machine is one of the most essential maintenance activities you can do to extend its life. In fact, regular lubrication with the right amount of oil at the right frequency will get you years, if not decades, of trouble-free service from your machine.
So, how often should you oil your sewing machine? If you use it at least three times per week, then we recommend oiling before every project, if possible. On the other hand, over-oiling could result in some unpleasant consequences and an oily mess. If you are not a frequent user, oiling it once a month will keep its parts lubricated.
That being said, sewing machines, like many tools and devices, can all be a little different. Usually, the user manual will tell you how often your sewing machine should be oiled, if at all.
Newer models typically come pre-lubricated, so they don’t need additional oils added to them. However, it is generally safe to add one or two drops in the bobbin case every four months for regular use of your sewing machine.
Purpose Of Oiling A Sewing Machine
The purpose of lubricating a sewing machine is to reduce friction, heat, and wear that could otherwise damage delicate internal components like gears, cams, and stitch regulators. These components include surfaces that rub against each other during regular operation of the machine.
To this end, sewing machine manufacturers usually provide oil bottles with their machines. They recommend a specific type of oil, such as 3-in-1 (motor) oil, readily available at most hardware stores.
Moreover, machine oil is generally affordable and can be used for both vertical and horizontal movements of the machine’s bed, main body, needle plate, and other moving parts. The idea is to have a continuous film of oil providing lubrication on these moving surfaces whenever the sewing machine is in operation.
Typically, lubricating your sewing machine involves pouring an appropriate amount of motor oil into a prescribed area on your machines, such as the bobbin cover.
How To Tell If Your Sewing Machine Needs Oiling
If you want to work out how much oil your machine needs without the use of measuring equipment, there are three indicators that can help you:
- If the needle skips when stitching, there’s not enough oil in the machine.
- If needles (in particular ballpoint needles) become hot during operation, then it means that there’s not enough oil in the machine.
- If you can smell burning, then there’s too much oil, and it needs to be cleaned out.
Each sewing machine is different, but all of them require a certain amount of oil. When using your machine, you will notice that you have to wind more than halfway around before the bobbin thread forms a loop.
This enables quick changeovers from one color to another without having to rewind bobbins or change scissors constantly because they’re rubbing against each other.
Amount Of Oil Required For Sewing Machines
Generally, the amount of oil needed is 0.004 – 0.005 liter per 10,000 stitches worked by the machine under normal conditions and at a speed of 500-700 rpm. The average degree of evaporation for sewing machines, in general, is about 1 ml per day, which equals a loss of just over 20 ml (even more in summer) per month.
Where To Apply Oil On Sewing Machines
There are several places where you should apply the oil if your machine requires it. These include the hand-wheel and shuttle race in a bobbin case. Sometimes other parts will need lubrication too, so be sure to do some research first.
Moreover, always clean your sewing machine before applying oil. If not appropriately cleaned, dust can get in between all those gears to cause a malfunction or jamming, affecting its performance.
After you have finished applying oil to your sewing machine, clean the excess oil before using it on a new project. And, make sure it is completely dry so that the extra oil doesn’t get on the fabric or inside of the machine.
Then test if everything works correctly by assembling and disassembling some parts before trying again with a small sample material just in case there are any errors.