What is Sewing Machine Oil?

An essential part of sewing machine maintenance, learn all you need to know about sewing machine oil and how to use it.

Whether you have been sewing for a few days or several years, there are a few things that are still a mystery. We hear the following question a lot: What is a Sewing Machine Oil? Sewing machines, like other mechanical pieces, must be lubricated every so often in order to work properly.

Sewing machine oil is a lubricant specifically made for sewing machine parts, recommended to be used approximately every 8 hours of sewing. The use of sewing machine oil lessens the friction between the machine’s parts, keeping them from grinding on one another and wearing down.

Therefore, the extra lubrication keeps the machine running smoothly and quietly, and it helps prolong the machine’s life. These oils can be synthetic, natural, or made from petrochemicals, like mineral oils.

Types of Sewing Machine Oil

  1. Mineral oil
  2. Synthetic oil
  3. Natural oil 

This type of oil is made from petrochemicals, or substances produced from petroleum. This type of oil is odorless, watery white, and the most effective. Most sewing machine oils are made from petrochemicals.Synthetic oil is an artificial alternative to mineral oils and is generally safe to use on plastic, rubber, and painted surfaces. This type of sewing machine oil is generally more expensive than mineral oil.Natural oils are natural substitutes to sewing machine oils and can be made from jojoba, silicone, and ester oils. Though natural, natural oils often don’t work as effectively as mineral or synthetic oils and may gum up your machine if not mixed properly.

Note: Never use oils that are not specifically made for your sewing machine, like motor oil or cooking oil. These substances may gum up your machine or cause parts to malfunction.

How to Use Sewing Machine Oil

In a SewingMachinesView.com article, “Best Sewing Machine Oil,” Barbara Harris states that it is recommended to oil your machine after approximately 8 hours of sewing in order to effectively prolong its life. Every sewing machine should have detailed instructions on when, where, and how to oil your machine. However, here are a few tips on how to use sewing machine oil:

  1. Never oil your sewing machine while it is plugged in.
  2. You may have to disassemble parts of your sewing machine in order to reach individual pieces.
  3. So that you don’t trap lint or dust in your machine, you should always brush your machine’s parts with a small brush and/or air compressor before applying the sewing machine oil.
  4. If you ever apply too much oil, wipe away excess with a towel or rag. This way, extra oil does not get on anything it shouldn’t, like wires or fabric.
  5. Don’t use sewing machine oil that has gone bad. You can tell if it has gone bad if the usual clear-white, odorless substance becomes thick, yellowish, and/or smelly.


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