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Sewing Machine Maintenance

There’s no place like home! And while all the rain is keeping us out of our gardens, it might be fun to tackle some sewing machine maintenance to keep our sewing machines in good running order.

Let’s begin with some general sewing machine maintenance that applies to most machines. There are two equal and opposite errors. One is never to clean, oil or change the needle on your machine. The other is to be too rough or to go too far. There is basic maintenance that we can do at home. Then there is the machine servicing that can only be done by a qualified mechanic. It is good to know when to stop. It’s best to leave the complicated adjustments to the experts.

Follow our tips to avoid these errors and your sewing machine will love you for it. Basic home maintenance for your sewing machine requires 3 steps: cleaning, oiling and changing the needle.

Tools for sewing machine maintenance

  • microfiber cloth and water
  • craft pipe cleaner
  • sewing machine oil
  • small brush that came with the machine
  • eyebrow tweezers with a LED light (a fun extra)
  • T-shaped screw driver
  • new sewing machine needles
emerald city scrub scrub

Cleaning your Machine

Let’s start with cleaning your machine. Cleaning the outside of your machine is simple. First turn off the power, then remove the needle and the presser foot. This will allow you to get to the necessary spaces without getting pricked.

Cleaning the outside

Use a slightly damp microfiber cloth. For tough stains you could add a small amount of detergent. Do not use harsh chemicals or solvents.

A simple craft pipe cleaner is brilliant for getting into all those hard to reach places.

Be very careful when cleaning any of the moving parts. Go gently and take special care not to bend any of the wires especially near the tension discs.

Cleaning the inside

Cleaning the inside of your machine is very important. Sewing machines can get full of lint and thread and this fluff can interfere with the smooth running of the machine.

Removing the needle plate

To clean the inside of your machine, you’ll need to remove the needle plate. Each machine is different. Your sewing machine manual will have a page on sewing machine maintenance which gives step by step instructions on how to remove the needle plate. You can also google the directions online. In future posts we will share detailed home maintenance advice for each of our most popular Juki machines. But this post will show basic instructions for most machines.

Remove the screws from the needle plate. I use the T-shape screw driver to loosen the screws and then finish by twirling them with my finger. These are special bevelled screws and are not easily replaced. Put them in a safe place and don’t loose them.

Under the needle plate Removing the needle plate gives you access to the bobbin area of the machine. Gently brush the lint and fluff. Many machines come with a small brush in the accessories bag but I prefer using a small paint brush or cosmetic brush. You can use tweezers to gently grab any stray threads. I have eyebrow tweezers with a little light that helps me to see inside the machine.

NEVER use canned air. This pushes the dirt and lint farther into the inside of the machine where it can do more damage. Just get what you can see with a pipe cleaner and brush.

Cleaning the bobbin area

Be sure to take out the bobbin case and clean inside that area. It’s a favourite hiding place for thread and fluff. As a final step, Garry from Franklins recommends putting a small amount sewing machine oil on a piece of kitchen roll and gently wiping the inside of your machine. The oil acts as a magnet for any remaining dust or fluff and the tiny swipe of oil keeps all the moving parts happy.

I’m going to state the obvious here, sewing machines have lots of moving parts, and most of us have no idea what they do! Be gentle when cleaning. Simple mechanical machines like the Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch are more robust. But newer computerised machines such as the Juki DX7 and NX7 have sensitive parts like sensors that can be damaged by rough cleaning. So be gentle. Take your time. If in doubt, stop and get advice online, from the manual or a knowledgeable friend.

How a sewing machine works

Make a point of getting your machine serviced regularly. Machine technicians can get to all the places that we can’t access and give your machine a thorough clean. Once your machine is nice and clean we can move on to oiling.

Oiling your sewing machine

Some machines need regular oiling and some do not. If you’re wondering whether to oil or not to oil, read your manual. If you’ve lost your paper copy you can usually find an online version. As a rule of thumb, non-computerised mechanical machines DO require oiling. The Juki straight stitch machines in the TL series DO need regular oiling.

Most computerised machines do NOT need oiling, these machines are self lubricating. The Juki DX series and the new Juki NX Kirei fall into this category. They are self lubricating. They have been sorted at the factory and any additional oiling or lubrication can be taken care of by a shop mechanic when you take it in for its regular check up.

Juki machines come with a plastic container of sewing machine oil. You can also purchase this clear sewing machine oil from sewing machine shops or online. Your manual will show you exactly where to oil your machine.

Changing the needle

Changing your needle is one of the most important ways you can keep your machine performing well. With normal use, needles get dull, bent and damaged. They should be changed every 8 hours or at the start of every new project. I make a point to change my needle each time that I clean my machine.

Once again, your manual will show you how to change the needle on your machine. Usually the flat side of the needle faces away from you. This is true for the HZL DX series and the Juki NX7. But on the Juki semi industrial TL straight stitch machines, the flat side of the needle faces towards the right. Refer to the manual. When you change the needle make sure that the needle is pushed all the way up and that the screw is tight enough to hold the needle secure.

Be sure that you are using the right needle for the job. There are different types of needles. And each type of needle has different sizes. The needle type has to do with the the fabric you are using while the needle size usually corresponds to the thread weight. Consider the fabric that you are stitching and get the appropriate needle.

Next think about the thread, If you are using a fine thin thread you can use a needle with a small eye. If you are using a thicker thread you will need a needle with a bigger eye. Bear in mind that the higher the thread weight, the thinner the thread. If you are shredding your thread, it is likely that you are using a needle with too small of an eye.

Needle types and sizes

Using the right type of needle makes all the difference. The Schmetz graph below shows all the different needle types and gives you an idea of the fabrics that they work well with.

The following video clip shows how easy it is to perform basic sewing machine maintenance on the Juki TL 2200 QVP Mini straight stitch sewing machine. See how we clean, oil and change the needle on my favourite quilting machine.

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  1. That’s a good idea to take your machine in to be serviced every year. That way you could be sure that it’s in peak condition. I would want to make sure that my machine works properly so it doesn’t ruin a project or I don’t injure myself.

    1. Hi about the Juki DX7, it doesn’t need oiling. 🙂 any lubricating will be done during servicing.

  2. I have a juki dx7 do you oil this machine? If so where,some say in the bobbin,other say don’t oil it at all.

  3. Audrey Bryngelson says:

    can a person over oil, and will it damage the machine, and I how can it be corrected? I have a juki tl2010q

    1. Hi Audrey,

      Just one or two drops in each porthole is all that’s needed. If you’ve over oiled, use a bit of tissue to mop it up. It usually goes to the bed of the machine. 🙂

  4. Carol Hyche says:

    My Juki TL 2200 QVP mini keeps sewing after I take my foot off pedal. I first noticed this when I used the automatic thread cutter, the machine would continue to take 4 to 6 stitches. However, it doesn’t matter if I use the thread cutter or not, once I take my foot off the pedal the machine continues. I’ve cleaned, rethreaded, changed needle and bobbin. Any advice from other Juki sewers is appreciated.

    1. Emily says:

      I often use pre-wound bobbins from Superior Threads. I find that they work well and are so convenient.

  5. dani says:

    Hello, I have a juki qvp 1700 mcs and going through the owner’s manual there is no mention of what kind of oil is used or if it’s self lubricating ( which I have my doubts). Do you have any recommendations or point me in the right direction where I can find the accurate information for this specific machine?
    Thank you for your forum. it’s been helpful

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Dani,

      I found a really good video on YouTube about the Juki coverstitch. Here’s a link:

      In the comments someone asked about oiling and this was the reply.

      Echidna Sewing

      Hi again Lid, you will do no harm to put a drop of oil on the needle bar or looper shaft. It probably is more important to have the machine service annually though! We have the where to oil on the MCS-1500N on our video list, so stay tuned!

      Hope this helps,

  6. Julie Wilson says:

    How often do you oil the TL2000QI holes, in relation to sewing hours?

    1. Emily says:

      I oil at the start of every new project. If I’m busy on a project and am sewing all day, I’ll oil it every 8 hours or once a day, just a drop and only that often if I’m really working the machine.

  7. Hi, Emily. That’s a nice written article and I found it helpful. I always found Juki sewing machines looking for proper maintenance. It would be good if less maintenance is required for Juki machines so that sewers do not get overwhelmed.

    1. Hi Maria, Every sewing machine needs maintenance, whatever the brand. 🙂 If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can always take it to your sewing machine mechanic for maintenance. But these are simple things that anyone can do to help any sewing machine keep running well.

  8. Jenelle says:

    I have a brand new Juki DX2000QVP. I noticed a small amount of what looked like horse hair coming up from underneath the throat plate. I removed the throat plate ever so carefully as I’m not confident when it comes to this sort or thing and found a tiny tufted brush like piece. I googled the Juki maintenance site and this particular piece is suppose to be fixed just to the top left of the bobbin case area. I am wanting to know how do I just fix it back into place and maybe if anyone can tell me what is it’s purpose. Thanks

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Janelle. Sewing machine oil is universal. So go ahead and use what you have. When I asked the Juki machine mechanics, i.e. sewing machine guys 🙂 They just said that it needed to be clear sewing machine oil. Hope this helps.

  9. Candace Hassen says:

    Is it important to use a special oil to oil my juki TL-98 Q? I got it an estate sale. It did not come with oil and I would prefer to use the seeing machine oil I already have on hand, rather than going out to buy a different seeing machine oil.

  10. coco says:

    hi there, any help or advice is appreciated.
    i have a tl2010q it powers on fine however it will not stitch nor cut when i use the foot petal or even the cutter button. any ideas? i have cleaned and oiled it and nothing is loose or stuck .

    1. Emily says:

      When the cutter doesn’t cut, I find that it is usually because there is some fluff or thread under the needle plate blocking the cutting mechanism. If you’ve taken off the needle plate and carefully cleaned the area, the next step would be to take it to your Juki dealer for a service. Hope this helps. Martha

  11. Cathy says:

    Hi. I work in a costume shop and our Juki serger is definitely everyone’s go to machine. We have noticed that the reservoir for oil over which the threads run has to be topped off everyday, usually dropping to the halfway mark at the end of the day. Does this sound right or excessive, I keep looking for a leak.

    1. Emily says:

      I think if there was a leak you would notice it. You guys are giving that serger a good workout and it’s most likely just thirsty. Sounds like you are maintaining the machine just as you ought to.

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