Let’s talk oil! No not the oil you fry food in and not the oil you put on your hair to keep the frizz down. Today we are going to talk about sewing machine oil. Not just any oil but the absolute best oil to use for your sewing machine no matter if you have a vintage sewing machine or a new modern sewing machine. Let’s get to it!
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Paul wrote an excellent post on what to use to lubricate your sewing machine several years ago. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that post. Paul writes very technical pieces. That’s great for a lot of people but there are a lot of people like me who need it in plain language. I’m also going to cover modern sewing machines. We will also go into the difference between oiling for use and oiling to clean your vintage sewing machine.
Best Sewing Machine Oil For New Sewing Machines
The best sewing machine oil for modern sewing machines is whatever the manufacturer tells you to use. The inner workings of sewing machines haven’t really changed since Elias Howe patented the original lockstitch machine in 1846. What has changed is the materials used to do the work and because of that, we need to listen to the manufacturer when it comes to oiling the sewing machine. Modern sewing machines cost too much money to take chances with damaging the inner workings.
Some sewing machines are oilless. They don’t want you to do any oiling. Some will tell you that any oiling will happen when you take it in to be serviced. I have seen some modern machines call for WD-40 to be used in very specific places. There are some machines out there that give you a full diagram of oiling ports and tell you to use regular sewing machine oil. If you have a machine that calls for regular sewing machine oil you can skip down to the best sewing machine oil section.
Best Oil For CLEANING Vintage Sewing Machines
What we use for cleaning our vintage sewing machines is different from what we use for maintaining our vintage sewing machines. They serve two different purposes when we are cleaning we want to get rid of the old oil. When we are maintaining we want to just keep everything moving.
If you want a more in-depth look at all the steps of resurrecting a vintage showing machine check out our repairing old sewing machines guide. In the guide, we go through all the steps that you need to get your sewing machine working like it is brand new.
Marvel Mystery Oil
Marvel Mystery Oil is from the automotive section. It is designed to dissolve old oil shellac. Mystery Oil doesn’t have silicone in it so it won’t gum up anything or leave anything behind. It has been around since 1923 and was used in WWII in jets, ships, and tanks. Mixing it with turbine oil helps coat the metal parts.
Typically, I will continue to use this mixture of oil for about a month after the sewing machine gets put into service. I want to make sure that the inside is good and clean. When you are using the oil mixture and sewing do not leave fabric under your needle. You’ll want to put a cotton ball under the foot of the machine. Since this mixture is thinner than normal sewing machine oil it can “leak out” of the machine and no one wants an oil stain on their fabric. The cotton ball will soak up any leaks keeping the feed dogs clean as well.
Best Sewing Machine Oil
Paul has a great myth-busting section in his post that I linked above. If you read nothing else in his article read that part. If your manual calls for “sewing machine oil” or you have a vintage machine you can use ANY sewing machine oil. You don’t have to use Singer oil or Kenmore oil. If you have a vintage machine sewing machine you aren’t going to find sperm whale oil on the market today.
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People have ALL kinds of opinions on brands of oil. Honestly, a lot of time you are paying for the name. It took me a while to realize that. What finally hammered the fact home is when I saw my “sewing machine oil” in Paul’s HVAC parts house.
Yeah, the turbine oil that he uses to oil very expensive refrigeration equipment is exactly the same thing I was buying in the sewing shop. The difference? His bottle was blank where mine said “for sewing machines” and the price. His was cheaper. So the turbine oil, which is just a generic term for Zoom-Spout Oil, I marked in the cleaning section is what we really use. The difference is he’s picking it up when he picks up parts. The turbine oil linked above is $1.00 an ounce while sewing machine oil is $2.00 an ounce IN THE SAME BOTTLE at JoAnn.
I fully understand that the thought of spending a dollar an ounce for oil can make folks clutch their checkbook. It sounds really expensive but you are only using a few drops in each spot so it will last for a very long time. You can refill those zoom-spout bottles. The Lily White oil linked below is only 33 cents an ounce and that gallon will last you a very long time.
More About Sewing Machine Oil
I realize it is easy for me to sit at my computer and say whatever I want to say about oil. I also get “My husband deals with mechanical equipment worth more than most homes daily.” isn’t a solid resource. So I want to back up my claims about oils being the same even though they aren’t packaged or sold the same.
If you want to know more about oil ratings this is a great article on oil ratings. It explains how oils are rated and might help you understand what sewing machine oil is.
What you want to keep in mind when looking at different oils out there is that the oil is made for machines and it should be clear or labeled as non-detergent. Just because oil has the same viscosity rating as sewing machine oil doesn’t mean we should use it.
For example, Lily White Sewing Machine oil has a viscosity rating of 22 and butter is 20. I love butter but we don’t want to use it on our sewing machines. First, butter is an organic substance so it will draw moisture and moisture causes metal to rust and rust is no good. Second, no one wants to smell butter while they sew, it will just make you hungry.
A Caution About Oils
The other thing I want to caution you about before we go about our day is if you decide to take me up on following the links that I provided and then head over to Google you are going to see sewing machine oil called mineral oil. It is a mineral oil but it’s not the same as the mineral oil we buy down at the local Walgreens. Refer to the topic sentence of the last paragraph “The oil is made for machines”. Mineral Oil at Walgreens and mineral oil made for machinery might have the same name but it’s not the same thing.