Debra Lynn Dadd

sewing machine oil


Dear Debra,

Thank you so much for providing this great website & blog!

I would like to know the toxicity of sewing machine oil. I've heard that jojoba oil can be used as a substitute and would like to try that on my sewing and knitting machines. However, I am a bit nervous about doing this as I don't want to ruin my equipment.

Any advice would be appreciated.


POSTED BY DANA :: ONTARIO CANADA :: 06/04/2007 5:18 PM


Regular sewing machine oil is just standard petrochemical oil. I think jojoba would be fine and won't ruin your machine.

Readers, what do you use?

Debra :-)


I've (temporarily I hope) stopped using my sewing machine because of the oil odor. Does anyone know if sesame, sunflower or walnut oil would work for a sewing machine? (Am sensitive to jojoba.)

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 06/06/2007 4:11 PM

See if you can find a soy oil lubricant. I heard about them recently on the Ideal Bite blog, but can't find the post now. The only problem with soy is that it will likely be GE (genetically engineered). But it's my understanding that soy-based lubricants are now being manufactured and sold, so check it out.


I recently aquired an old 1950's? singer. It had not been used for a while so It needed oil evrywhere. I used jojoba oil and have brought it back from the dead. It works great. I don't know if repeated oiling will cause problems because I haven't has it very long but the consistency of jojoba abd sewing oilo is very similar. I wouldn't use vegitable oils because they could go rancid and eventually gum up the works. The great thing about jojoba oi is that it's actually a liquid wax and it never goes bad.

POSTED BY THEO :: INDIANA USA :: 09/12/2007 9:16 AM

I used olive oil once on a paper shredding machine. It gummed it up and we had to purchase a new one.

I have been using, jojoba oil on my singer 500 (probably made inthe 50''s) for 5 years. I don't think it is harming it. The machine is running slow lately, but I think it has not been in for a tune up in 2-3 years. Could this be the cause of its slowness? I know it is not from lack of oil. I oil every month and/or at the start of each project. The machine seems to need a lot of oil. Hubby said it is since it is all mechanical.

I never let them oil my machine down there. I am afraid of what they would use. I would wonder what else there is to do to it though.

Some of the gears would benefit more from a grease than an oil I think. Does anyone have suggestions?



I just brought my machine to be fixed. He said it was all gummed up from the jojoba oil. He tried to find another nontoxic oil to no avail. I reluctantly let him use a light sewing machine oil.

The machine does not run supper slow anymore. I oiled the machine regularly with jojoba oil so the machine was not running painfully slow due to lack of oil.

So the moral is: jojoba is not a great oil to use. It took about 5 years for the machine to finally get sick of the jojoba, but it did get sick of it.

If anyone has a better option please let us know.

Mary (same mary from previous post)

POSTED BY MARY :: TEXAS USA :: 05/19/2008 9:08 PM

What about Enviro Oil green lubricants made for motors?
Their website: (listed on Debra's list)

POSTED BY FRAN :: ONTARIO CANADA :: 05/26/2008 3:29 PM

A very stable oil is coconut oil. I use Tropical Traditions oil in cooking and on skin. A house contractor told me one time that it would work well for lubricating door hinges. Just a suggestion for the sewing machine - I haven't tried it this way, but I'm thinking about it. But how do I clean the machine of petrochemical oil first? Sending it to a repair shop might bring more unwanted odors home.

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 06/02/2008 2:27 PM

I don't have a sewing machine, but I have fans in my desktop computer. Some websites suggest that I use sewing machine oil to lubricant the fans to decrease the noise the entire computer makes (90% of the noise comes from the 3 or more fans). Like sewing machine, fans have to turn very fast, so sewing machine oil is different from other kinds of oil.

I use 3-in-1 motor oil for the fans. I don't know of any safer alternatives. I hope someone knows.

POSTED BY YH :: MICHIGAN USA :: 01/06/2009 9:15 AM

I'd still use a light sewing machine oil. They really do not require that much oil. I have a Bernina form the 80s and only oil occasionally.

I use coconut oil for cooking, body and hair care, but frankly, sewing machines are so very picky that I'd not risk it. And if it is a newer model, go through the mfr and insist that they help. If you are paying hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars for a sewing machine, then make their customer service help.

POSTED BY SUSAN :: COLORADO USA :: 01/07/2009 3:20 PM

Please dont put anything other then sewing machine oil in your machine. The only thing else you can use is a silicon based bicycle lubricant that you buy at a bike shop. I have over 20 vintage machines and using anything else is terrible and abusive to a machine that serves you well. ;0)
Nemaste and happy sewing!


Debra, after a search on the Internet, I found a specific sewing machine oil I'm wondering if we MCS persons would be able to tolerate in our machines. Could you check this possibility? Is it or is it not safe?

Also, I called and they told me that none of their oils can be used as sewing machine oil.

Silicon oil doesn't seem to be good for sewing machines in the long run -

I've also checked into the new electronic, plastic sewing machines and they require oil, too, on a regular basis, probably their required kind of oil - so no new machine is in my future.

Hope Lily White Oil is not too toxic for me to use in my old 1960s metal Singer. Otherwise, I'm back to square one...

Thanks so much for checking, Debra!

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: This oil is basically mineral oil made from petrochemicals. The MSDS says that "composition varies greatly," so the actual contents of the oil would probably be very different from batch to batch, and "This product is intended for use in engineered processes which are designed to minimize exposure," so they are warning you right there that you should be careful about your exposure.

The MSDS also says, "Not sufficiently volatile to present a hazard from vapour inhalation under normal use." But also, "Oil mist generated by high speed machinery and high temperatures may cause symptoms of respiratory tract irritation, and these operations should be subject to engineering controls to reduce exposures." Again, minimize exposure.

I'd say this probably isn't for you.

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 07/31/2009 6:50 AM

My comment above about plastic machines was incorrect. I called the Brother company about their models XR7700 and CS6000I sewing machines and asked about the oil used in them. I was told that these machines are pre-oiled at the factory and that the user would not ever need to replenish the oil. After 300 hours of heavy use or 500 hours of light use, the machine would need to be taken for repair service and re-oiled. The machines use two dispersion oils and three Molykote greases.

I decided the only way I would know if I could use a plastic sewing machine was to try one out. I sat down with my daughter's XR7700, read the instruction book, learned to run the machine, and managed over three hours in two days to sew cotton squares into a simple, small patchwork quilt - 30 X 36 inches. Still need to finish it. During that time I had no reactions to any substances from that machine.

I can't say why and I wouldn't want to predict whether other chemically sensitive persons would be able to tolerate the same or a similar sewing machine. The idea of buying a big piece of plastic isn't easy for me and I have no idea if I'm unknowingly breathing those oils and greases and being exposed to possibly toxic fumes even though I had absolutely no symptoms. Since I will probably never reach the 500 hours of light sewing and, thus, not ever need to take it in for repair service, I've decided to buy the XR7700 Brother sewing machine. My daughter believes Costco will have this machine on sale soon with a coupon and she has offered to purchase one for me when it is. I sincerely hope this information helps others concerned with oils in sewing machines.

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 08/06/2009 10:04 AM

Just in case anyone is interested in the Brother XR7700 sewing machine that I mentioned above, I need to make a correction. This machine is not shown in the Costco coupons this month after all. The last two years there were coupons for it, but my daughter says that since there were no coupons this year, this machine may be dropped from the Costco website eventually. So if anyone wants one of these machines, it would probably be a good idea to order it sooner rather than later (at the full price). I did have my daughter buy one for me.

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 08/17/2009 5:39 PM

Well, it's been over 2 years since I originally posted this question and I think I may have finally found my solution.

It's called Moovit and I found it at Lee Valley, so if it can be used on woodworking machinery I think it would be fine for a sewing machine. It's also been approved as safe for accidental contact with food.

Here's the MSDS:

What do you all think?

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Well, it says that all the ingredients are "non-hazardous" so I don't see anything of concern.

POSTED BY DANA :: OHIO CANADA :: 11/30/2009 5:32 AM

Regarding the Moovit lubricant, you may want to take a sample to a sewing machine repair place an ask them if it would work for the sewing machine or if it might end up gumming it up.

POSTED BY ANNIQUE :: COLORADO USA :: 12/03/2009 10:44 AM


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