Last Updated on September 28, 2021

Have you ever come across an antique sewing machine at a flea market or thrift store that made you want to pick it up and take it home? You can see the beauty beneath the grime, but you’re not sure what it will take to restore it to its former grandeur.

Good thing that there are only four easy steps to polish a vintage Singer sewing machine. 1 & 2) Identify and check the finish condition, 3) clean the sewing machine, and 4) polish and wax the vintage Singer sewing machine.

Singer sewing machines are very similar to modern sewing machines. Moving parts, an electrical cord, and a bobbin are all included. In this post, we’ll show you how to identify and test the finish of your model, as well as waxing and polishing techniques.



How To Polish A Vintage Singer Sewing Machine 


1. Identify The Finish On The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine


The model’s finish will determine the cleaning materials you use on your vintage Singer sewing machine. A clear varnish protects the delicate decals on all sewing machines of the brand. 

The issue is that clear coats can be produced of various materials, making it difficult to determine which type you have without testing it. If you use the wrong product, the clear coat will dissolve and will damage the machine.

The clear covering of shellac on very early Singers, such as fiddle base machines, is susceptible to harm. Here’s how to put your machine to the test:

  • Locate a hidden location on the machine’s bottom.
  • Dip a cotton swab in small amounts of rubbing alcohol.
  • Gently dab the rubbing alcohol on the chosen inconspicuous area. Shellac is the finish that degrades quickly. It’s probably varnish or lacquer if it gets a little tacky over time.


2. Check The Condition Of The Finish


Take a close look at the quality of the finish of your vintage sewing machine. This step helps you with decals. Is there any damage to the finish? If this is the case, avoid cleaning and polishing these areas since you risk ruining your Singer’s delicate decals. 

Consider having the clear coat professionally restored instead. Proceed with cleaning and polishing if the finish is in good condition.


3. Clean The Sewing Machine


Dust your sewing machine and clean it with very mild soap and water before polishing. Avoid alcohol-based soaps, especially if your machine has a shellac finish or if you’re not sure what finish it has. 

Many ordinary gentle soaps have minor levels of alcohol in them that might damage the finish. Make sure the soap you choose doesn’t contain any alcohol by reading the label. Cleaning your vintage Singer sewing machine is as follows:

  • Using a small amount of soap and warm water, make a paste.
  • Wring a clean cotton cloth out thoroughly after dipping it in soapy water. Begin washing the machine in a hidden location with extremely gentle movements. Stop immediately if the soap appears to be interfering with the finish.
  • Wring out another cloth after dipping it in clean water. Using this towel, gently wipe away the soap.
  • Using another clean cloth, dry the area you just washed.
  • Transfer to a new location and wash the machine one portion at a time. Always use caution and keep an eye out for symptoms of harm.


4. Polish And Wax Your Sewing Machine


Once your machine is clean, use a clean, dry cloth to apply a tiny amount of standard sewing machine oil

  • Polish the machine with gentle circular motions. A paintbrush can help you get the oil into those hard-to-reach places. You can leave the sewing machine oil on sticky patches from tape or stickers for several hours to help dissolve the residue.
  • Check it regularly to ensure the finish isn’t being harmed. You can also use sewing machine oil to polish the machine’s naked metal parts.


Keeping Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Shiny


  1. With a dry brush, begin cleaning the ancient Singer sewing machine.
  2. Massage the sewing machine with a dab of sewing machine oil on your fingertips, then wipe away the residue with another cloth.
  3. When the decals on vintage Singer sewing machines with a shellac finish turn silver instead of gold, all you have to do is clean the machine using sewing machine oil.
  4. If the decals on the sewing machine appear to be greenish, it is okay to clean them further.
  5. Apply any lanolin-based product on a cotton ball and test it on the sewing machine’s finish.
  6. Work on one part of the sewing machine at a time until your cotton is residue-free.
  7. Always treat your vintage Singer sewing machine’s decals with care.
  8. Rub the machine again with a clean towel to reveal a gleaming Singer sewing machine to remove the cleaner.


how to thread a singer sewing machine


Safety Tools When Cleaning Vintage Sewing Machine


You can clean a vintage sewing machine using a variety of solutions and soft cloths. If you need to scrub more vigorously, you can use a microfiber cloth. Cotton swabs, paintbrushes, and toothbrushes are also helpful for reaching the sewing machine’s complex regions.

Here are some items you can try on your vintage sewing machine to see if they work with the finish:

  • For sticky residues, use regular sewing machine oil.
  • Lubricate the metal parts with synthetic sewing machine oil.
  • Hand cleaner with lanolin to remove dirt and grime
  • For spot cleaning, use kerosene.
  • For paint spots, use automotive polish.
  • To finish, use a resin polish.
  • After washing, shine with carnauba wax.
  • Lubricant to inhibit corrosion


Eliminating Rust Off Singer Sewing Machine


Before using any lubricant or stain remover on your sewing machine, test it on an inconspicuous area. Avoid using too many products or soaking the sewing machine for too long since this might cause the machine to discolor. Some products are only for rusted and mechanical parts and should never be used on painted surfaces.

Some people swear by cleaning with Oxyclean and boiling water or scrubbing with vinegar and aluminum foil. Alcohol and methyl hydrate, on the other hand, can damage the paint on your sewing machine. Abrading rust from metal with sandpaper and emery cloth should also help.


Tips For Restoring A Vintage Sewing Machine


1. Be Careful!


When performing maintenance or repairs on your vintage sewing machine, the first rule is to “be careful.” When conducting any maintenance, you should always unplug your machine. 

There are stories about machines starting up, although the knee controller’s foot pedal has not been touched. You do not want to make a mistake and sew yourself — ouch! So, for your safety, disconnect your antique sewing machine.


2. Make Sure You Know What You’re Doing


While you can perform many basic repairs on old sewing machines, others may be beyond your capabilities. If you know how to do wiring, go ahead and fix any faults with your machine’s wiring. If you can’t fix your machine yourself, take it to a professional. You want to ensure that some things are done correctly, especially if they entail carrying an electrical current.


3. Unplug The Sewing Machine When Not In Use


When you’re not using your vintage sewing machine, make sure it’s unplugged. Because most of these devices lack on/off switches, they are always “on” when plugged in. 

Your machine could be off and going without you guiding it if you accidentally touch the foot pedal. When you’re done stitching, disconnect your machine to avoid any mishaps.


A vintage singer sewing machine set on a table


Some Final Words


Like other sewing machine manufacturers, Singer has produced a wide range of models and types of machines over the years. Since the materials used in manufacturing differ, you must use caution when cleaning.

Keep your touch soft and your products mild, and you’ll be able to keep your Singer sewing machine’s beauty.

Happy sewing!

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