Sewing Machine Oil: A Quick Trick For Your Sewing Experience

Ready To Tackle Another Sewing Challenge? Our Take On Sewing Machine Oil

If you think that a sewing machine oil is something your sewing device doesn’t need, this article is for you!

Many sewers underestimate the power of a sewing machine lubricant oil and the influence it can have on your sewing process.

It’s a good idea to rethink the necessity of oiling every sewing machine brands device. This quick trick may appear to be this one piece missing from your sewing experience. To be sure if your sewing machine was designed to be oiled in the first place, check your sewing machine’s manual.

If you know how does a sewing machine work, you’ll appreciate a good old oil (it shouldn’t be old actually, but we’ll get to it later)—a solution made to deliver what’s best for your sewing device.

In this article, we’ll guide you through several essential questions, such as

    • What is sewing machine oil? 
    • How and where to oil sewing machine?
    • Which oil is best for sewing machines? etc.

What is sewing machine oil?

Before we tackle what to do to oil your sewing machine, let’s see what to bear in mind when it comes to precautions. 

You want to pay attention to this part to prevent potentially damaging any part of your machine. 

Safety precautions maybe a little boring, but it’s a necessary introduction. Scroll down and make sure you’ve given it a thought.  

    1. Don’t oil your sewing machine while still connected to an electric circuit. Otherwise, you may be at risk of an electric shock.
    2. Dismantle your sewing machine to clean and oil every part that needs it.
    3. Ensure your oil hasn’t expired before you apply it. 

Using expired oil can wreak havoc on your sewing machine, and you definitely don’t want that! Changes to the color, texture, viscosity, or odor indicate that your oil expired. 

How to oil sewing machines at home
Image source: Design My Costume

According to Sewing Machine Buffs, your sewing machine oil should be 

      • smooth,
      • completely transparent, or white;

Your sewing machine oil shouldn’t 

      • be dark or cloudy in color,
      • have an unpleasant odor,
      • show any sedimentation in the bottle,
      • have a thicker consistency than oil, 
      • be sticky,
      • cause your sewing machine to make noise after oiling;
    1. Oil your sewing machine as frequently as possible to ensure it keeps working correctly. How frequent is “frequent”? For instance, if you use your machine every week, it’s recommended to oil it weekly—claim the authors on the Sewing Machine Buffs blog.

Sewing machine oil
Image source: Crafty Sewing Sew

Yet, responding to “How often do you oil a sewing machine?” isn’t easy as there are many differing opinions about it. 

Based on the article published on the Sewing Society, many newer sewing machines come pre-lubricated and do not need additional oil, but you can still add a drop or two in the bobbin case. 

Authors claim that the more often you use your sewing machine, the more often it needs oil. As a rule of thumb, every four months is a good frequency.

Plus, if you haven’t used your sewing machine for a couple of years, it is likely to need oiling and professional service. Remember that your sewing machine’s lubrication dries out over time.

Pay attention not to over oil your machine—it could lead to oil getting on the fabric of your next project. 

What is sewing machine oil
Image source: Goldstar Tool

What type of oil is used for sewing machines? What is sewing machine oil made of?

Is sewing machine oil mineral oil? Not only. 

There are many variables, so let’s tackle the topic below. 

According to Goldstar Tool, there are three types of oils:

    1. Natural—mainly coconut or jojoba oils
    2. Synthetic, 
    3. Petrochemical—mineral-based oils 

Let’s take a closer look at their advantages and disadvantages.

Type of oil Pros Cons
Mineral-based oil (comes from petroleum)
    • it’s easy to find and affordable,
    • it’s safe to keep around the house,
    • it can be very pure, it’s colorless and doesn’t smell,
    • it’s non-toxic;
    • It doesn’t protect metal pieces from oxidation
Natural oil
    • Seems like the best choice because it’s natural.
    • all-organic, no-GMO product is fashionable, but some natural oils and overpriced forms of ester or silicone can harm your machine
    • if you don’t mix it right, it can end up thick or sticky and jam the sewing machine;
Synthetic oil
    • synthetic oil can also lubricate plastic parts (which mineral oil cannot do),
    • it protects from oxidation,
    • it won’t damage any projects that it might drip onto,
    • it provides the benefit of minimal damage in the event of over oiling; 
    • It can be quite expensive.

As noted by Goldstar Tool

“Sewing machine oil goes against the “you get what you pay for” value system. Mineral-based oil is affordable and fulfills its purpose.”

Natural oils are a hot topic for good green-oriented reasons, but they’re actually expensive and ineffective.

All in all, synthetic oils are believed to be the best ones. 

When choosing the right oil for your machine, consider what machine you own and how often you use it. 

For those who sew and, therefore, oil their machine frequently, the best choice for initial phases (read about sewing machine for beginners) is mineral oil. 

With time, you may want to switch to investing in synthetic oils. 

Yet, the best method of all is to go for oil produced by your machine’s manufacturer. For example, oil for sewing machine Singer or Janome.

Don’t steer from investing more considerable sums of money in this seemingly nearly unnecessary item. Properly oiling and lubricating your sewing machine could dramatically extend its life, constantly keeping it in top shape. 

How to oil sewing machine properly
Image source: Blog Bernina

What is sewing machine oil substitute, if there is any? 

It’s important to note that 

    • car oil,
    • WD-40, and
    • 3 in 1 oil (typically used for bicycles; it will evaporate, gum up, and make things worse than they were before)

are NOT a sewing machine oil alternative—reminds Sewing Society

Similarly, sewing machine lubricant substitute is NOT: 

    • cooking oil such as olive oil or vegetable oil,
    • cooking spray,
    • paraffin,
    • butter,
    • lard,
    • kerosene,
    • gasoline,
    • grease, and
    • automotive oil

Any product listed by Measure by the Yard, isn’t a sewing machine oil substitute and should not be used as such.

So if you have ever asked yourself, “Can I use any oil for a sewing machine?”, now you know that the answer is pretty straightforward. 

The only time you can get away with WD-40 or 3 in 1 oil is when you’re just cleaning the parts of your sewing machine: you spray the oil and immediately wipe the parts clean so there is no oil residue left.

Goldstar Tool also suggests not to use any of the substitute options, with the small exception of white mineral oil, easy to find in many stores. 

You can also mix natural oil by blending 1/3 cup jojoba oil with one tablespoon ester and one tablespoon of silicone oil. 

Alternatively, utilize a bike lubricant or Vaseline, but neither is recommended. 

Yet, Measure by the Yard finds a few solutions to the main types of oils for sewing machines:

    1. Clock Oil,
    2. Marvel Mystery Oil, 
    3. White Mineral Oil,
    4. Tri-Flow Oil, and 
    5. Clipper Oil;

Sewing machine lubricant substitute
Image source: YouTube

Take this advice as seriously as possible: Sewing machines feature low tolerance for the use of the wrong oil and are likely to get damaged in the long run because of your choice. For example, WD-40 can cause the graphite on your machine gear to lose its own lubricating properties. Read about sewing machine repair and sewing machine parts

Let’s put it straight: oiling and lubricating is not for fun or a way to spend time in the move. 

It’s a fact-proved method of preventative maintenance of your best sewing machine

These lubricants are meant to keep your machine working correctly by reducing friction between moving parts of the machine. 

Don’t be surprised when some machine parts become brittle over time because of 

    • temperature changes and 
    • wear and tear;

Parts of the machine may also rust with time.

Using the right oil works ideally as a maintenance technique and can prevent or significantly slow down that time-driven deterioration.

So, ensure you only apply sewing machine oil and lubricant and avoid any suggested at-home alternatives.

Where to buy sewing machine oil, anyway? Domestic sewing machine lubricating oil is available in most specialized online stores, Amazon, Walmart, etc.

Oil for sewing machine singer
Image source: Crafty Sewing Sew

How to oil a Singer sewing machine and other brands

Let’s start with something relaxing before we get to the more demanding part.

“How to oil your machine | Sewing” by Sikana English takes us to the world of oiling vintage sewing machines. 

Her beautiful sewing device isn’t the newest, and few of us will have anything similar at hand. 

And that’s what we have Denise Wild for!

In her video “SEWING HOW-TO: Oil Your Sewing Machine,” she ensures her beloved Janome ends up in good condition thanks to the oiling process, and she shows us how to deal with the more updated generation of sewing machines:

But before you actually start the procedure, it’s helpful to learn to read signs showing that your machine calls for oiling. Be aware of:

    • an unpleasant burned smell,
    • slower sewing speed than before,
    • detectable overheating in any mechanical part of the machine, 
    • unusual sounds while working,
    • poorly aligned seams (learn to sew with our guide), 

—according to Measure by the Yard.

Sewing machine oil is sold in impractical large volumes that we usually aren’t able to use in time. So although this product typically lasts for about five years, we have a lot of it stored in the basements. 

How to make the best of it for the possibly longest time?

    • avoid storing the oil in sunlight and in the cold,
    • avoid any contact with water,
    • don’t mix oils, 
    • avoid introducing unnecessary oxygen, condensation, or foreign liquid to the oil; oxygen and water can both encourage bacterial growth, which will probably turn the oil bad in the blink of an eye. 

Instead, keep the oil in a transparent container to observe sedimentation or changes in color. The best environment for this container is in a dark but room temperature area. 

Sewing machine oil is necessary to keep your machine in top shape! Keep a bottle at hand and check it for aging before application.

Sewing machine care and cleaning
Image source: The Ruffled Purse

The sewing machine oiling procedure differs across brands. 

Update your sewing machine awareness with the manual if you’re unsure how to proceed regarding oiling. If your manual doesn’t include instructions and doesn’t show the areas you should oil, it may mean that the manufacturer prefers you to take your sewing machine to a professional service for maintenance.

Parts of the sewing machine ‌we’ll commonly oil are

    • the shuttle hook,
    • the bobbin area, and
    • the cylinder;

Here’s how to put the oiling operation in practice:

    1. First, you need to switch off the machine and unplug your sewing machine.
    2. Now, remove the thread (get familiar with our takes on sewing supplies, sewing machine thread, and how to thread a sewing machine), the presser foot, and other parts of the machine that would get in the way of cleaning.
    3. Get a brush and clean dust and other residues from the machine. Read how to clean your sewing machine in steps on The Ruffled Purse.
    4. Clean the bobbin area, the bobbin case, and every other part of the machine containing lint (not familiar with these terms? Learn how to sew with the instructions on our blog)
    5. Go further and clean the machine with compressed air. Hold the can at an angle, at least five inches away, to avoid blowing the lint deeper into the machine.
    6. After cleaning, proceed to oil the machine. Check the manual to discover which part of the machine needs oil in your sewing machine model. Only use a few drops of oil on each part, and wipe off the excess.

If you’re unsure which part of your machine to oil, simply check if they rub against other parts when the machine is working. If they do, oil them to reduce friction between the two parts. Clean the excess oil with a piece of cloth if needed.

To oil the shutter clock put a few oil drops inside your sewing machine’s hook race—suggests Sewing Machine Buffs

Since the shutter clock is the ring area that lets the bobbin hook fit seamlessly, lubricate it to stop the small part from rubbing together and wearing your machine. 

After oiling each part, move them around manually to confirm the oil applied spreads across the parts evenly.

“After oiling your machine, sew straight stitches on a scrap of fabric for about 30 seconds to a minute to soak up excess oil.”

—suggest authors of The Ruffled Purse article. 

Sewing machine oil substitutes
Image source: Measure by the Yard

Best sewing machine oil

Super Label Store stands for quality, and we can’t wait to share our selection of recommended sewing machine oil products. 

But first, consider adding a little yet significant detail to your textiles and DIY garments. 

Different types of woven labels are affordable items able to lift your creations to a higher level. 

Check out these:

to introduce professional standards to your sewing fabric or sewing leather practice. 

Custom woven label luxe design

Here’s the selection of the top six sewing machine oils. We created the list with the help of the review on Crafty Sewing Sew

Name of the oil Description
Gunold Sewing Machine Oil Pen

When you’re about to lubricate your machine for smooth functioning, you may come across a challenge: some parts of a sewing machine are hard to reach (for instance, the thread take-up lever). 

This oil pen comes in handy in such situations as it’s designed to reach those hard-to-reach parts and make sure that we oil them as required.

Prym Sewing Machine Oil Pen This acid and resin-free white oil product will perfectly do its job to oil and maintain your sewing machine. You can also use it to lubricate other appliances. The bottle contains 20ml of oil, and the design helps to apply oil to hard-to-reach parts of a sewing machine.
Hemline Sewing Machine Oil This highly reliable oil is originally intended to serve your machine, but it’s also suitable for general use, i.e., other appliances at home. It is easy to apply as its 20-ml bottle has a long nozzle, making it possible to keep your machine running smoothly for quality sewing projects. 

Using these dedicated oils and lubricants correctly will preserve your sewing appliances and present no harm to your machine.

It’s also helpful to know your equipment well. Read our blogs about

if you deal with any of them. 

Best sewing machine oil
Image source: Sewing Machine Club

Now, let’s see what other options Crafty Sewing Sew advises us to get familiar with. 

Name of the oil Description
Singer Sewing Machine Oil Good old Singer sewing machine. Coming from the manufacturer of one of the most popular and reliable brands in the sewing industry is quite a recommendation! Use the Singer’s oil for your home sewing machine to improve its functionality. It is a multi-use oil product suitable for other home appliances that will give you quality results. It’s also easy to apply thanks to the bottle’s long nozzle you place on the part that you want to oil. Squeeze the oil evenly, and there you go!
Helmar Colonial 29 Machine Oil This product serves both as a sewing machine and other home appliances’ oil. You typically apply only a tiny amount of this oil to the part that needs oiling, so it lasts long. It is easy to clean if it spills on the neighboring surface other than the part you are oiling. It’s non-toxic, so you don’t have to worry if it spills on your skin during application. This premium-grade oil is a superb choice for your sewing machine.
Lily White Sewing Machine Oil A highly refined and non-detergent option. Because of its low viscosity level, it is a suitable option for machines with high speed. It doesn’t leave grease or stain marks on the sewing fabric upon coming into contact with it. You buy a one-gallon bottle, but you will need to use a small bottle for a precise application, which you can refill once you have used it.

Read other top sewing machine oil reviews on Sewing Machine Club and check out our blogs: