10 Commandments of Machine Embroidery – Thou Shalt Oil

This may be the most controversial post I have ever created, and I love opening up a debate for people to give me their opinions.

Thou Shalt oil their machine!

In my humble opinion, if you have been advised not to oil your machine, I am betting it is by your dealer, who you bring your machine to for servicing.  Now I fully endorse servicing, and believe everyone should service their machines on a regular basis, but in the same way that I refill my car with petrol, oil and water between servicing, I will clean and oil my sewing machine between servicing.

but in the same way that I refill my car with petrol, oil and water between servicing, I will clean and oil my sewing machine between servicing as well.

Now the reason many of our dealers/manufacturers advise us not to oil our machines, is that we over oil.  Many of us have the singer bottle of oil that we purchase, and then we clip off the tip, and squidge out some oil into our bobbin area.  This is over oiling.

The actual amount of oil that we should be using, is a pin prick tip.


a pin prick of oil, on the left, as opposed to a drop from the larger retail sized bottle

Sewing machine oil can go off!  If you have a wonderful old can of oil that you inherited from your grandmother, check to see if the oil is thin, free flowing, and clear.  If it does not meet all of these requirements, you should empty out the container, and purchase new sewing machine oil.


Some of my favourite customer questions come from sewing machine oil.

Oil should be kept in a cool, dark place.  I don’t keep it with the threads (I am always worried about something going wrong), however I keep the oil in my pen drawer, away from the sunlight.

Sewing machine oil is a specialty product.  It is a lightweight oil that is perfect for keeping all of the parts of the machine lubricated.

One of my favourite questions at an event has been “Is it ok to use Olive Oil instead of machine oil?”  the answer to this one is NO.  Olive Oil is for dressing your salad, sewing machine oil is for the machine.

Sewing machine oil is basically white mineral oil. As long as the oil you have is made specifically for sewing machines, you will probably not have any problem switching between brands of oil. The problem comes when you try to substitute all-purpose oils, that say on the container that they can be used in sewing machines.  Many of these contains additives to penetrate rusty bolts and who knows what else. Likewise, WD-40 was designed as a water-displacing compound and is not to be used as a lubricant. I have been told that automotive oil should not be used in sewing machines because it contains additives that can cause problems. Many sewing machine repair shops are now using Tri-Flow products containing PTFE (Teflon). I have not found Tri-Flow superior to good, old Singer oil and have had a problem with Tri-Flow leaking out of the head for days after lubricating with it. Allegedly, Tri-Flow will last longer between lubrications, however I recommend oiling your machines regularly which discounts that feature.

Thank you for allowing me to share the third of my commandments with you.  I look forward to sharing more with you in the weeks to come.

Until next time, have a Stitchin’ Day.  Julie.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Valerie Lilley
    February 13, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you for the great advice

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