I’ve learned from teaching workshops that many sewers are hesitant to give their bobbin cases a good cleaning as often as they should. It seems as if some are afraid to remove the parts necessary to give their machines a good cleaning and others simply forget.
So my partner in crime, Bill, and I have put together a series of tips and photos that should help you get started. While there are a lot of different machines out there, we trust that you will be able to extrapolate the information here and consult your manual to figure out the differences between the machine we photographed and your own. If you have questions, don’t be shy about asking your machine repair person to show you some maintenance tips. They want your machine to run well. If you have other tips, please post them in the comment section. We’ve left the photos large so you can see the parts easily.
If you get in the habit of cleaning and oiling your machine every time you change the bobbin, you won’t forget when you last cleaned and oiled it. At first it may seem like a lot of steps but once you get used to it, the whole process takes less than a minute.
Here’s our general cleaning routine:
First, remove the foot and the needle.
Then remove the throat plate.
Remove the lint from the feed dogs and the area under the throat plate.
Wipe it down with a soft cloth and replace the throat plate.
Now direct your attention to the bobbin.
Remove the bobbin and lift the lever to gain access to the bobbin hook and race. Clean each part as you go with a small brush.
Remove the bobbin hook and wipe any lint off.
Inspect the hook for blunting, burring or damage at the point. This could cause skipped stitches, split threads or other problems. A new hook is about $70.
Use a pin to clean out the groove near the race that accumulates lint. Once it’s clean, place a drop of clear machine oil on the race. Replace the hook, close the latch and reinsert the bobbin.
If you have a thread cutter, remove it.
Clean the debris from the thread cutter and put it back in place.
Rub the side of your needle along the top of your fingernail. If there’s any mark left on your fingernail, it’s a sign that your needle has a burr and should be replaced.
Here are some additional Dos and Don’ts
DON’T use compressed air, it simply blows the dirt deeper into the machine. This can cause future problems or premature wear of hard-to-reach parts.
DO use vacuum attachments for small-scale cleaning. They are available online, at vacuum repair stores or often at computer stores (techies use them to clean keyboards and CPUs).
DO use clear machine oil, not yellow machine oil. Our machine repair guy, a second-generation sewing machine repair expert says that the yellow oils can gum up parts over time. He even said that although our Bernina’s manual states that oiling the hook race (the circular point inside which the hook rotates) is unnecessary, he advises using a small drop of oil from time to time. We’ve done so for years with no problems and it certainly makes it run more quietly.
Once your machine is clean, listen to the sound of it sewing. It should be more quiet. Try to remember this sound so you’ll know when it gets louder that it needs another cleaning.