How To Repair Vintage Sewing Machines

Step 2 of Vintage Sewing Machine Repair – Cleaning Sewing Machine Feed Dogs

Sometimes we bring home a sewing machine that the original owner said, “Well it just stopped working. It won’t feed the fabric anymore.” So they were going to toss the machine, we know that those vintage machines seldom have anything wrong with them that can’t be fixed. When we get it home nine times out of ten the issue will be dirty feed dogs.

I don’t mean just a little dirty I mean packed. If the grooves of the feed dogs are full of junk there is no way for them to feed the fabric. All that dirt in the feed dogs of your sewing machine is just like dropping the feed dogs for free motion quilting. So how do you get all that dirt out of the feed dogs? It’s going to take some elbow grease but you can do it. This needs to be done with all sewing machines, not just vintage sewing machines.

Supplies For Cleaning Feed Dogs

Sewing Machine Oil
Wire Detailing Brush
Cotton Swabs

In order to keep your feed dogs from looking like the picture below clean them out regularly. Lint piles into the feed dog area just like it does your bobbin area. When you brush out your bobbin area brush out the feed dogs. The paintbrush and cotton swabs are certainly the easiest portion of the supply list. Keep your machine where that’s the only part of the supply list that you need. Otherwise, you’ll need the rest of this post and it will take you a lot longer. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way.

So let’s get to cleaning these feed dogs. Not only are you going to need what I listed above you are also going to need elbow grease. It’s going to take a lot of elbow grease too. It took a long time to get this bad it’s going to take a long time to get it clean again. It’s also time to put on your glasses. But when you are done it’ll look like new.

How To Clean The Feed Dogs

Cleaning dirty feed dogs is actually fairly easy even though it can be very time-consuming. We start by putting oil onto the feed dogs. The oil will start to soften the dirt and junk. You want to let this sit for a little bit so it can do its thing. Use your tweezers to pull off any big chunks. If you don’t get any chunks add some more oil and wait a little longer.

Patience is key here and really anytime you are working to get a machine back in tip-top shape. Once you’ve got the junk loosened up it’s time to do some arm workout. With the wire brush start scrubbing adding oil as needed. DO NOT GET THE BRUSH ON THE PAINT. The wire brush will scratch the paint on your machine. We don’t want to make a repaint job go to the top of the list. Continue adding oil, pulling off big chunks, and scrubbing with your wire brush.

I told you that you could get them looking new again. Even if you are taking your machines to a professional to be serviced take a few minutes every so often to clean out the feed dog area. DO NOT USE CANNED AIR! Stick with the paint brushes and cotton swabs I recommended. They won’t pack the junk into your machine.

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