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If you’re anything like me, the thought of maintenance will make your shoulders slump.
It is, however, a necessary evil, so today I’m taking a look at the best sewing machine oil on the market. Yeah, I’m an exciting guy. But, then again, you’re reading this, so quit judging!
Let’s get this post started before we both drift off, shall we?
What is sewing machine oil?
While “What is sewing machine oil?” might seem like a ridiculously straightforward question to answer, it’s actually more nuanced than you might think.
Sure, at its most basic level, the obvious reply would be something along the lines of, “It’s a lubricant for sewing machines”…possibly followed by face-pulling and name calling.
The real answer, however, is a lot more detailed, and I’ll explore the whole “What is sewing machine oil?” query more below.
Do I really need sewing machine oil?
Yep, I’m afraid so. In the majority of cases, regular maintenance is a must.
While sewing machines have come a long way over the last few decades, with the introduction of computerization, they are still machines with moving parts that need oiling from time to time.
The good news is that it’s not that difficult to do…even if it’s not as exciting as planning your next project. If you’ve never done it before, I’ll touch on how to oil a sewing machine later in this post.
NOTE: There are some appliances out there that are self-lubricating. Check your manual before you even think about oiling your sewing machine. If the user manual says don’t do it…don’t do it!
Will oiling my sewing machine really make a difference?
Again, if your device’s user manual states that yours needs oiling, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Regularly oiling your sewing machine will benefit you and your appliance in several ways.
Firstly, there’s a reason why the phrase a well-oiled machine has become a common idiom. Maintaining your device with a drop of sewing machine oil now and then will keep it running smoothly and help prevent unnecessary wear and tear on its metal parts. 
This will, in turn, prolong the life of your appliance and help maintain the accuracy of the stitches it produces.
A little bit of sewing machine TLC will save you money and make your sessions more enjoyable and less frustrating. A worthy investment of your time, wouldn’t you say?
What are the best sewing machine oils made of?
This is a good question, but there’s not really a definitive answer, as certain types of sewing machine oil are best suited to specific tasks.
There are really only two main types of sewing machine oil to speak of: mineral and synthetic. You might read elsewhere about the use of natural oils, but these are generally best avoided, as they can quickly turn rancid, deteriorate quickly, and may even harm your machine rather than protect it.
Here’s a bit more detail on the big two:
Unsurprisingly, mineral oil is derived from…minerals. In the case of sewing machine oil, the mineral in question is usually petroleum (or, more precisely, a distillate of petroleum). 
Mineral oils are usually recommended for domestic appliances and will help prolong the life of such sewing machines.
Again, no surprises here: synthetic oil is largely artificial in its makeup.
While the base of these lubricants is still essentially crude oil, its component parts are chemically modified and synthesised to produce an oil that is capable of withstanding far higher temperatures than mineral oil. 
This makes synthetic oil especially well suited to industrial sewing machines. These workhorses run at very high speeds and it’s not uncommon for them to be in almost continuous use.
As such, their moving parts can hit far higher temperatures than would ordinarily be found in a domestic device, which makes synthetic oil the best choice for extending the lifespan of these hugely expensive pieces of apparatus.
Synthetic oil is generally priced higher than mineral oil, but it’s widely regarded as a superior lubricant for sewing machine maintenance. 
So, not all sewing machine oils are the same?
No, and not even all groups of sewing machine oils are the same. You’ll see different types of synthetic and mineral oil, too.
A key characteristic that is often mentioned in the product blurb is viscosity. Basically, viscosity is just a fancy word for thickness. The higher the viscosity, the thicker the oil. 
You’ll be pleased to hear that most manufacturers will provide guidance on the optimal viscosity for your particular machine. Check the user manual or drop them an email to find out.
As a general rule of thumb, the vast majority of home sewing machines will require oils at the lower end of the viscosity scale, but be sure to double check before you add any to your device.
Can I use 3 in 1 oil for my sewing machine?
This is a common question, and it’s easy to see why one would think that 3 in 1 oil would be fine for sewing machines…after all, it looks after those bike chains ever so well! Sadly, however, things aren’t as straightforward as all that, and a lot comes back to the aforementioned viscosity.
3-In-One oil got its name thanks to its triple purpose – to clean, lubricate, and protect. The formula used to create such an all-purpose oil means that it’s a lot thicker than lubricants made with sewing machines specifically in mind.
This difference may seem inconsequential when inspecting the oil in its unused state. However, over time, the composition of 3 in 1 oil will cause it to become tacky rather than silky smooth, which could gum up the moving parts of your sewing machine causing them to fail.
So, to reiterate: 3-In-One oil is not to be used as a sewing machine lubricant.
Key things to look for when buying sewing machine oil
Other than what we’ve already covered above, there are three key things to keep an eye out for when choosing the best oil for sewing machines. These are:
- Is it odorless?
- Is it colorless?
- Will it stain?
The reason why these three points are so important is because some of the parts that require oiling may, at least initially, come into contact with your work.
Choosing an oil that doesn’t meet all three requirements could result in either your thread or fabric smelling, discolored, or permanently stained.
Can sewing machine oil go bad?
While talk of oils going bad is usually reserved for the kitchen, it’s still a good question when it comes to sewing machine lubricant.
So, can sewing machine oil go bad?
In short, yes. But, again, it depends on the oil in question.
To keep things super simple, the best advice is that if your oil doesn’t have a specific expiry date on it, keep it for five years and then replace.
While it’ll probably be good for longer, why take a risk? Sewing machine oil is relatively inexpensive when compared to the cost of replacing a broken device, so throw out (properly disposing, of course) the old and bring in the new.
Your sewing machine will thank you.
How to oil a sewing machine
Time for a quick disclaimer: Always, always, always consult your machine’s user manual. Every manufacturer and model is different, so follow their advice for your particular appliance.
The first, and possibly most important step in the “How to oil a sewing machine” process is to get everything as clean as possible.
Use the lint brush that came with your machine (or treat yourself to one of these from SINGER, they’re great and very affordable) to get rid of any build up around the hook, feed dogs, and anywhere else that needs attention.
To avoid unnecessary accumulation of dust and dirt, make cleaning part of your sewing session. I know, it’s a pain, but if you do it each time you finish up it literally takes seconds. I regularly break out the mini vac to clean things up. Make it a habit.
If you have lint in an area where your brush or vac can’t reach, try a canned air duster. I always keep a few of these handy, and it’s surprising how many uses around the home they have. Just be sure not to push the lint further into the machine when you’re using these. Choose your angles wisely!
Oil your sewing machine
Now you have everything spick and span, it’s time to get the oil out.
As you’ve probably already gathered, every make and model is different and will require attention to specific places. Where exactly yours needs oiling will depend on which machine you own. I can’t say this enough…read your manual!
Generally speaking, the areas where oil will be required are inside the bobbin’s housing unit and on the hook and needle bar. Some machines will also benefit from a drop of oil on the hand wheel from time to time.
One thing that’s the same regardless of the make and model is the amount you need. Sparingly is the buzzword here. Remember, a little oil goes a long way, so try to limit the amount you use to a drop on each required part.
You are always much better off going little and often where oiling is concerned. Keep it to small drops, done regularly.
Yeah, I know. But, really, all I mean here is wipe off any excess oil.
Not too difficult, huh?
How do I know where to oil my sewing machine?
As I’ve already mentioned, the only way to guarantee that you’re hitting the right spot for your machine is to look at your user manual.
If you no longer have yours, or if you bought your machine used without one, check out the manufacturer’s website. In most instances, you’ll find a copy on there available for download.
How will I know when to oil my sewing machine?
To be honest, you really shouldn’t be waiting for a sign.
While you could wait for your machine to start to feel out of sync and sound clunky, that’s not the best course of action. Think prevention, rather than cure.
Keeping a regular maintenance regime is the best way to go. Set a reminder on your phone using the guidelines laid out below, or any specifically mentioned in your user manual.
How often do you need to oil a sewing machine?
Your user manual should also give you directions on how often you should oil your sewing machine, but, as a general rule, the more you sew, the more you oil.
Here’s a broad rule of thumb for how often you should oil your sewing machine:
- If you use your machine daily, oil weekly
- If you use your machine weekly, oil monthly
- If you use your machine monthly, oil every three months
Will I need to buy a separate oil dispenser?
Pretty much all of the best sewing machine oil brands ship their product in bottles that have built-in droplet dispensers, so it’s not really necessary.
However, some are better than others at the task they’re designed to do. The plastic nozzle types (you know, the horrible ones you have to cut?) are often substandard and can result in a messy job.
I’m a bit finicky about things like this, so I’ve got a McKay Precision Oiler Pen Applicator. It’s fantastic at getting just the right amount of oil where you need it to go and it saves a lot of hassle.
It also stores away nicely in my desk drawer, rather than having a perilous bottle of oil just waiting to be knocked over. I love it.
Those of you who are buying sewing machine oil in bulk will find that the larger bottle sizes means you’ll need either a dispenser or an applicator. Factories will no doubt want something a little larger than the McKay, so I’d recommend these Precision Tip Applicator Bottles instead.
Best sewing machine oil reviews
So, now that you are fully equipped with a whole lot of lubricant knowledge, it’s time to find the final piece of the jigsaw, namely, what is the best sewing machine oil?
Let’s take a look at some of the contenders:
Tri-Flow TF0021060 Superior Lubricant
Now, for those of you who have been paying attention, you’re probably thinking, Hang on a minute, didn’t he say 3-In-One oil is a no-go? and you’d be right…I did indeed say that.
Tri-Flow, however, is different.
While it’s used for similar purposes as 3-In-One oil, Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant won’t gum up, nor will it stain anything. It does have a slight smell to it, though, but this isn’t altogether unpleasant and certainly not what one would consider offensive. Many have actually likened it to bubblegum.
The viscosity is relatively low, especially when compared to the aforementioned 3-In-One oil, and it doesn’t even feel all that greasy to the touch. More smooth and silky, which is perfect for our intended purpose.
Tri-Flow contains PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), which is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene. No, I’ve got no idea what that means either.
What I do know is that oils with PTFE outperform “pure” mineral oils. They don’t attract moisture and dirt like other oils and they can be used for a wide range of tasks. Not only that, the low viscosity makes them very penetrable and a single drop will likely be enough for most lubricating jobs sewists run into.
This particular member of the Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant range (yep, there are different products within the line) is especially handy for our needs. The drip bottle comes with one of those straw-like tubes, so you’ll be able to get into most places and apply the minimum amount without too much trouble.
Speak to anyone who knows, be they in sewing machine repair or antique sewing machine specialists, and they’ll likely recommend Tri-Flow over any other lubricant, which should tell you all you need to know.
In fact, Tri-Flow is especially useful on older machines. It’s ability to get things “unstuck” is renowned across a number of industries and there are plenty of bikers out who swear by Tri-Flow when it comes to bringing brake lever cables back to life.
Tri-Flow actually contains formulated solvents that will soften and remove dirt. If you have an old sewing machine that has been subjected to damp conditions and gotten a little rusty or corroded, Tri-Flow should be your go-to lube if you’re looking to bring it back from the dead.
For those with newer machines, this oil will help keep everything in tip-top condition. Tri-Flow has been tested at a wide range of temperatures and has been proven effective from -60°F all the way up to 475°F, so anyone looking for a lubricant capable of protecting industrial equipment could do a lot worse than opt for this product.
All in all, Tri-Flow is a high quality synthetic oil available at a very reasonable price. Even if it’s not marketed as a true sewing machine oil, Tri-Flow’s lubricant is indeed Superior.
- Doesn’t gum up
- Contains PTFE
- Softens and removes dirt
- Reasonably priced
- Works especially well with old, stubborn machines
White Diamond Sewing Machine Oil
On to a product that is, unlike the Tri-Flow above, actually marketed as a lubricant for oiling sewing machines – a 1 gallon bulk buy from White Diamond.
As you can see by the packaging, this is a no-nonsense sewing machine oil that will be perfectly suited to those who have a number of machines requiring regular attention. It’s also ideal for anyone who has a self-oiling sewing machine, as you can fill the oil pan or well straight from the jug. A precise drip bottle is not what’s required for that job!
Diamond White’s sewing machine oil is clear, odorless, and will not stain. If you do happen to get some on a project it’ll wash out completely (or be easily removed with the aid of some dry cleaning solvents), which is more than can be said for many other oils on the market.
This is a fairly generic item, so there’s not much information on the formulation out there (other than it’s a mineral oil) and you’re trusting to luck somewhat if you buy this product. That said, there are plenty of happy customers out there who have had good results with this sewing machine oil, so it may be a risk you’re willing to take.
- Great value for money
- Easy to clean up after use
- No real details on composition available
Juki Genuine Defrix Sewing Machine Oil (#1)
On to our first product from a big sewing brand, then – Juki Genuine Defrix Sewing Machine Oil (No.1).
Unlike the White Diamond above, this is an item for those who are particular when choosing compatible parts and accessories for their sewing machines. There’s nothing generic about this sewing machine oil…JUKI have nailed their colors to the mast with this one.
Although this is nowhere near as big a bottle as the Diamond White, you’ll be paying almost as much for it. Such is the power of branding, I guess, but you’ll get around 84% less for your money here.
Having said that, if you’re working with a JUKI machine that has cost you the best part of two grand, you’d be forgiven for going down this route for the peace of mind it offers. Many manufacturers will naturally recommend their own products be used for maintenance, and JUKI is no different.
The size isn’t randomly selected, either. Six-hundred millilitres is actually the exact amount required for many of JUKI’s industrials, so you won’t have to worry about measuring this out if your pan is dry. Handily, the bottle also has measurements along the side as well, so you can easily calculate how much has gone into your machine, should that be necessary.
One thing to bear in mind if you buy this oil is that the bottle is completely sealed, as in completely sealed, so you’ll need to make a couple of puncture holes to get to the oil inside. Not a big deal for most workshops, but just make sure you have something to hand that’ll be able to pierce the plastic bottle. If you only need a little oil, get yourself an applicator like the McKay mentioned above.
If you’re looking for a branded oil for your JUKI sewing machines, this is the way to go.
- Branded product will bring peace of mind
- Perfect amount for most JUKI industrial machines
- Bottle is a pain to get into
AlbaChem Clear White Sewing Machine Oil
Next up, we have one of the most recognisable clear white oils on the market – AlbaChem.
Entirely stainless and lily white, this is a favorite of many and its uses go way beyond oiling sewing machines. Many of you will have seen AlbaChem in your barbers / hair salons, as some stylists also use the stuff to keep their hair clippers in good working order. The distinctive blue on white branding makes a bottle of AlbaChem easy to spot!
Although AlbaChem comes in a range of sizes and bottle types, this particular one is a favorite with sewists around the world – the Zoom Spout. The handy tubular nozzle makes getting into those hard to reach places a breeze, and it delivers a fairly tiny and precise amount…providing you don’t squeeze too hard, of course.
Having said that, while the long tube makes getting into difficult spots easy, it can actually prove cumbersome when it’s not required. Buying a separate applicator might be a good idea, especially for those spots that require frequent oiling that are simple enough to get to.
Another clear benefit of this sewing machine oil from AlbaChem is the price…it’s pretty cheap for those of you who only require a small amount of oil. Bear in mind, though, that buying in bulk will save you an extraordinary amount, even on this product, so if you need to do a lot of oiling, I’d go down the gallon route, the best of which is up next…
- Useful for more than just your sewing machine
- Very handy spout applicator
- Affordable if you only need a small amount
- Reputable brand name
Zipperstop Lily White Sewing Machine Oil
Talking of gallons, the next sewing machine oil review is just that, a water white lubricant from Zipperstop.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to keep your sewing machine running sweetly, then this is probably the best way to go. Zipperstop’s low viscosity lubricating oil is extremely affordable and pretty much unbeatable in terms of price per ounce. Made in the USA, it’ll also tick a few boxes for those who prefer to keep their footprint to a minimum.
Zipperstop’s water white sewing machine oil is perfect for a range of appliances, from industrial to domestic, and is ideal for protecting parts even at high temperatures. As one would expect from a designated sewing machine lubricant, this product adheres to the colorless, odorless, stain-free rules as well.
If there’s one thing that lets this oil down it’s the packaging. Judging by what others have said, it would seem that you’re rolling the dice on whether or not you’ll receive a leaking mess on your doorstep. Colorless, odorless, and stain-free it might be, but no one wants to deal with a box full of escaped oil.
- Very good value for money
- Ideal viscosity
- Made in the USA
- Good temperature range
- Packaging could be improved
SINGER 2131E All Purpose Machine Oil
Another branded oil from an industry giant now. This time it’s the turn of SINGER and their 2131E All Purpose Machine Oil.
This is a very thin oil from SINGER that works wonderfully well on all machines, not just those made by the best known name in sewing. SINGER claim to have specially formulated this oil to suit a range of appliances – including vacuum cleaners, typewriters, bike gears, computers as well as sewing and knitting machines – and I’ve no reason to question their claims; it’s a good all-round oil. What the exact formula is, however, is unclear.
The 4oz bottle is fairly standard for this type of product and the applicator does a decent enough job of letting just a drop out at a time. The only downside is that the nozzle itself could be a little longer, as you’ll be relying on your aim if you need to drop a little bit of oil into the depths of your machine. It’s just not long enough to reach.
Somewhat surprisingly for a branded product from a manufacturer, the 2131E All Purpose Machine Oil is not much more expensive than the AlbaChem reviewed above. Again, SINGER will always recommend that you use their products, which is unnecessary, but you wouldn’t be saving much by going down the generic path.
All in all, if you want an oil from a big name brand you feel you can trust, you could do a lot worse than opt for the 2131E All Purpose Machine Oil from SINGER.
- Low viscosity
- Branded product will please many
- Nozzle could be longer
- No mention of the formula used
Imperial IT20 Sewing Machine Oil
The final review of this best sewing machine oil roundup is the Imperial IT20 Sewing Machine Oil.
Slightly more expensive than the other brands manufacturing small bottles of sewing machine oil on our list, this effort from Imperial has a bit of persuading to do.
First off, it ticks all the necessary boxes: no smell, no color, and it won’t stain your fabric or thread. It’s nice and lightweight, too, and it doesn’t take much to get around the parts you’re looking to lubricate. A little of this stuff certainly does go a long way.
The Imperial IT20 Sewing Machine Oil will be a great addition to your store cupboard for other jobs as well, such is the blend used. This particular oil will work perfectly well on any metal moving parts and will even stop the squeak in your door hinges. IT20 can also be used as a base oil or carrier.
While this is a perfectly decent product, I find the extra cost makes it hard to recommend. Unlike the Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant reviewed above, there’s no real additional benefits to buying this oil over any of the others.
So, if you’re looking to go down the straightforward route and only want a small bottle of sewing machine oil, I’d check out AlbaChem’s product instead.
- Decent all-rounder
- Nice, lightweight oil
- Bit of a one-trick pony
So, which brand makes the best sewing machine oil?
As I’ve mentioned above, there are really two camps being catered for here: domestic and commercial.
For those looking to service a lot of sewing machines on a regular basis, you’ll naturally want to buy in bulk as those little bottles will cost you a fortune over time. For me, a gallon of Zipperstop is the way to go.
Anyone looking to maintain their sewing machine at home will still need a high-quality lubricant for their device…just not as much of it. For you guys, I’d go with either Tri-Flow or AlbaChem, depending on your needs.
If you’re looking to give an old machine a new lease of life or be especially proactive in your care, get yourself a bottle of Tri-Flow. For those with a brand new machine that simply requires a water white sewing machine oil to keep things running like new, go with AlbaChem.
Hopefully you didn’t fall asleep whilst reading this exhilarating post. Finding the best sewing machine oil for your needs is important…but it’s not all that exciting, is it?
Time to get back to creating.
Happy sewing, everyone!
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read our top rated sewing machine reviews
Now that you know all there is about sewing machine oil, why not check out our reviews of the top sewing machines available today? We cover a broad range of categories, but we have one purpose – helping you find the correct appliance for your needs and budget. Check them out!
- Longman | A well-oiled machine | https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/a-well-oiled-machine
- Ioan D.Marinescu, W. Brian Rowe, Boris Dimitrov, Ichiro Inasaki | Process Fluids for Abrasive Machining | https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780815514909500153
- Total | More about synthetic oil | https://www.lubricants.total.com/more-about-synthetic-oil
- Phil Ramsey | Synthetic vs. Mineral Oils – Changing Oil Preference | https://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/660/changing-oil-synthetic
- AMETEK Spectro Scientific | A Guide to Measuring Oil Viscosity | https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=12878