How To Clean 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 like the photo below.  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.

how to clean feed dogs


This post may contain affiliate links.  Purchasing items from the links cost you nothing more and adds a few pennies to the fabric budget.

This post is only for cleaning the feed dogs.  Paul has written a blog post explaining how feed dogs work that might be beneficial if you aren't sure how they work. We are working under the assumption that your machine is in working order except for the feed dogs.  If you have other issues you might want to check out our other sewing machine posts.



Supplies For Cleaning Feed Dogs

Sewing Machine Oil
Wire Detailing Brush
Tweezers
Paint 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 paint brush 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.

dirty sewing machine dogs


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.

clean sewing machine feed dogs

I told you that you could get them looking new again.  Even if you are taking your machines into 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.

how to clean dirty feed dogs


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About Melissa Shields

Mel is a 30 something year old quilter, attempting to balance her old school roots with today's trends. When not sewing or shopping for a new sewing machine Mel enjoys reading, reality TV, and Nascar.

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