Monday, 12 May 2014

"Oil Be Back!"

Alternative Post-Title: "Just a Drop Or 2 Please!"

01 - Sewing Machine Oil - Standard, Small Size Bottle (20ml)

I gave *2 of my sewing machines a good clean, de-linting and oil-up a couple of weeks ago. (*Yeeeeessss I own even more...hehe!)

The recipients of the spring-clean were my beloved vintage, all-metal, super heavy (it weighs 19.8kgs / 43.7lbsNovum New Mark IX - Sewing Machine and my Brother 1034D Overlocker (serger).


Brother 1034D Overlocker (Serger)
Using my mini-vacuum attachments to suck out all the
nasty bits from the insides of the overlocker. 
I posted the photos shown above of my machines mid-clean onto Twitter and Instagram and @ali_goddard asked me on Twitter which oil did I use? So, I decided to share a few of my thoughts on the topic of purchasing sewing machine oil.

If you pop into your local sewing, fabric, quilting or craft store you'll likely encounter one of these small plastic bottles of sewing machine oil (see below). In my experience these are the typical offering in the shops and online stores here in the UK.

Left:  Prym Sewing Machine Oil (Image Source: John Lewis)
Right:  Hemline Sewing Machine Oil (Image Source: Popular Patchwork)

Here are some photos of just such an "average" bottle of oil that I have at home.

Sewing Machine Oil: Standard Bottle 
Typical Size ~ 20ml

01 - Sewing Machine Oil - Standard, Small Size Bottle (20ml)

02 - Sewing Machine Oil - Standard, Small Size Bottle (20ml)
Typical, standard sized sewing machine oil bottle.
The lid unscrews, and you then screw on the long spout/tip
with which to dispense your oil carefully!
Now, if like me you have a vintage sewing machine - then [hopefully] you've read the instruction book and might have noticed that it asks you to oil your machine regularly... my book requests a weekly oiling! I'm guessing that back then, the manufacturers thought a whole lotta sewing was happening each and everyday LOL! Anyway, if you were to oil your vintage sewing machine even on a monthly basis - it's clear to see that you'd soon eat your way through a fair old amount of oil....

...hence why I purchased myself a large, more economical supply. Below, are pics of my Large Bottle: Typical Size ~ 120ml

03 - Sewing Machine Oil - Large Bottle (120ml)

This larger bottle holds 6-times the contents of the smaller, 20ml standard-sized bottles. The metal spout is approx. 10cm/4" tall, and the metal nib can be unscrewed (although I'm not sure of the purpose for that hehe!)

More recently, I purchased for myself a much smaller bottle... in fact it's a Precision Oil Pen, with typical contents of 5ml of oil.

04 - Sewing Machine Oil - Precision Pen (5ml)

05 - Sewing Machine Oil - Precision Pen (5ml)

Needle Length is approx. 25mm/1”.
Total Length is approx. 13cm/51/8”.
1.2mm Diameter Needle Tip.
Needle can be unscrewed to allow re-filling with more oil.

06 - Sewing Machine Oil - Precision Pen (5ml)

The tiny 1.2mm sized tip is what drew me to purchasing the Precision Oil Pen. I had previously been guilty of over-oiling my machine with the standard/large sized bottles (not a good thing as excess oil can attract dust/lint and eventually gunk up your machine, so impeding performance). The tiny tip can dispense very small/fine droplets of oil to precisely where it's actually needed
. This style of oil dispenser is often sold for watch repairers - who work on very small sized machinery and mechanics indeed!

Here's a photo comparison of tip / nib sizes:

07 - Sewing Machine Oil - Precision Pen vs Standard Size Bottle

The Precision Oil Pen tip is approximately x3 times smaller in diameter than the standard/typical 20ml sized "small" sewing machine oil bottle.

Check your sewing machine manual! In regards to [non-vintage] newer machines it's vital to check your user manual / instruction book to find out whether your manufacturer recommends oiling before use. It may seem odd to us non-sewing engineers but many, many modern machines do not require oiling. It seems intuitive that any moving parts where metal moves against, or on another metal part should be oiled, however for new modern machines this is not always the case. Your sewing machine dealer or manufacturer should be able to advise you whether your particular model can or cannot be oiled - and if so, which parts are safe to be oiled (without causing damage to your precious!).

Here's a little table I drew up summarizing my thoughts on these 3 different sizes of bottles:

Shopping... some places to try:
Big Bottles (search for 120ml /150ml size, 'Singer' bottles are often larger too): eBay is great - try
 AlanSews (AlansAlterations)

Precision Oil Pen: eBay again! ClockStoppers seller has some

Standard/Small Bottles: Save on P&P delivery fees and hunt around at your favourite local quilting / sewing / craft shops for Hemline, Prym brand bottles. John Lewis also stock this size of oil too.


  1. Thanks for the review. I've had my sewing machine for about 3 years now and have never oiled it (but cleaned regularly). Because I just have no idea where to put the oil, haha. Seriously, I'm scared of having oil stains on my thread/fabric if I do it wrong. Do you have some tip for a standard sewing machine?

  2. Thanks for this review Claire. It's very useful!


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