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The Hidden Dangers of Using Canned Air on Your Sewing Machine

Many sewists (thankfully!) take great pride in keeping their machines clean and well-maintained. After all, a clean sewing machine not only performs better but also lasts longer. In the quest for a clean machine, some home sewists have turned to canned air as a quick solution. However, using canned air to clean sewing machines can cause more harm than good. In this post, we will explore the problems associated with using canned air on your sewing machine and provide alternative solutions for proper machine care.

  1. Moisture Buildup

One of the primary issues with canned air is that it introduces moisture into your sewing machine. The propellant used in canned air products can cause condensation to form within the machine, especially when used in large amounts or in humid environments. This moisture can lead to rusting and corrosion of the machine's delicate components over time, ultimately impacting its performance and lifespan.

  1. Blowing Lint and Dust Deeper into the Machine

As a professional technician, I can honestly say this is the biggest issue with using canned air in a machine. While it may seem like a quick and easy way to remove lint and dust from your sewing machine's nooks and crannies, the powerful blast of air can actually force these particles deeper into the machine, rather than removing them. This can lead to a buildup of debris in areas that are difficult to reach, potentially causing clogs or damaging sensitive components such as the tension assembly, motor, or electronics. Here are a few examples:

This is an actual customer machine - yes, she "serviced it herself" by removing the bobbin case and using canned air to keep the area clean. As you can see, the hook where the bobbin case is VERY clean. But look closer... see that wall of compacted lint INSIDE the machine? The lint was blown into the machine and compacted the hook gears and feed mechanism to the point that the machine wouldn't function anymore.

Here's another good example - another customer that tends to 'service her machine herself' by way of canned air. You can see that once the plastic cover comes off the front to expose the mechanical parts, there is a lot of lint that is missed when just cleaning with brushes, Qtips, pipe cleaners, and canned air.

Please continue to remove the needle plate and bobbin case and clean in the hook and feed dog area, but I am begging you NOT to use canned air!

  1. Potential Damage to Electronic Components

Modern sewing machines often feature electronic components that can be sensitive to sudden changes in pressure or temperature. The forceful blast of canned air can damage these delicate components, leading to malfunctions or even permanent damage (canned air is usually driven by cold air and moisture). Furthermore, static electricity generated by the rapid movement of air can also harm sensitive electronic parts. Protect your investment!

What should you do instead?

To keep your sewing machine clean and functioning optimally, consider the following alternatives to canned air:

  1. Use a soft brush, or, even better, pipe cleaners: A small, soft-bristled brush (such as a paintbrush or makeup brush) can effectively remove lint and dust from your sewing machine's crevices without causing damage.

  2. Cotton swabs: If you've been sewing with adhesive (applique, stabilizer, velcro, etc.) and you see a gummy residue on the hook and/or bobbin case, you can use cotton swabs with a little alcohol to remove any residue.

  3. Vacuum attachments: Many vacuum cleaners come with small attachments designed for cleaning delicate items. These attachments can be used to gently remove lint and dust from your sewing machine without the risk of moisture buildup or damage to electronic components.

If you've been wanting to learn how to perform the same maintenance routine as a professional service technician, we have programs that fit your needs for vintage and modern sewing machines. Check out our live events page, and consider joining one of our upcoming programs!


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