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Cleaning the Serger

If you own a serger or overlocker, you should know that lint can accumulate to the point of damaging the performance of your machine. Here's how to clean it.
By Amy Ashworth
On February 26, 2021
  1. Tools you need
  2. How often it should be done
  3. What to avoid
Cleaning the serger.

Cleaning the Serger is a necessary part of regular machine maintenance.

If you own a serger or overlocker, I'm sure you have noticed the excess buildup of lint and dust on your machine.  You should know that this lint can accumulate to the point of damaging the performance of your machine.  Here's how to clean it. As you can see, when I open the machine, there are a lot of clumps of lint.  With all the mechanisms in the serger, I want to make sure I don't do anything to damage it.  It's important that you don't clean it with something that will remove the oil, because this serger, the Babylock Ovation, has oiled components that should only be serviced by a qualified technician. For this reason, we will use brushes to clean the blades, needle bar, and loopers, and the feed dog mechanism, and other interior areas.  The cutting blade of the serger creates much more lint than a conventional sewing machine.  

Cleaning the serger.
Feather dusters help keep the exterior of the machine clean, without disturbing the threading.

The first thing I do, is dust the exterior of the machine with a feather duster.  I don't use this near the inside, because feathers can (and do) pop off, and you don't need the bother of picking them out from inside your machine. It does a great job around the thread cones and stands, and allows me to clean it without unthreading the machine.

Cleaning the serger.
6" long flexible nylon brush, and small brush that comes with the machine

You might have a little brush that came with the machine- but I also recommend getting a long flexible brush, with stiff, circular bristles on one end, and long straight bristles on the other.  You'll see why in a minute. You can get these brushes at a sewing supply store, or online at Wawak.

Cleaning the serger.
Insert brush in to crevices in the machine

Next, unplug the machine, and open the front and side covers.

Use the flexible brush to pick up lint in the tight places in the bottom area of the machine. The wire allows you to get deep into the machine, cleaning as you go.  

Use the long bristled end in the areas where you can see clumps of lint, and pick them up with the brush.  

Cleaning the serger.
Lint collected on the end of the brush

There will still be traces of lint that you are unable to capture.  To remove the remaining lint, use a vacuum with a crevice tool attachment.

Cleaning the serger.
Vacuum lint from the machine with a crevice tool.

WARNING!  Do not use compressed air to clean your machines.  This will drive the lint further into the machine, where it will continue to build up. 

Cleaning the serger.

If your machine has a magnetic plate in the bottom area, don't forget to pull that out, and clean any debris that may have collected. 

Cleaning the serger.
Remove fabric shreds with hemostats.

Finally, wipe the exterior of your machine with a soft cloth, and close it up.  You should schedule a thorough cleaning of your serger every 3 projects, or sooner, if you notice a lint buildup.  And remember to change your needles with every project! You will love the difference it makes to have a nice, sharp needle with your new project, and you will be sure you have the right size needle for the job.

Cleaning the serger.

Happy Sewing!


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