Saturday, March 29, 2014

Using canned air to clean a serger or sewing machine

Today, I am going to talk about whether you should be using canned air to clean any of your sewing machines.  This is controversial so I thought I would do some research for you so you know if it is right or wrong. I spent several hours, today, reading all manner of blogs, serger manuals, and sewing forums.

Canned air is the nickname for compressed gas duster products you can find at most office supply stores. I buy mine at Office Max, as you can see, but this is not intended as an endorsement for that store. It is located in the same parking lot as Joann Fabrics and, well, you can now understand why I shop there.

Canned air, or compressed gas duster, is not air at all.  It is a compressed fluorocarbon gas that is recommended to clean hard to reach places that cannot get wet, such as some vents on computers.  The can contains a fluorocarbon gas compressed into a liquid for storage. When you spray it, it comes out as gas and blows particulates, like dust, off of or out of what you are cleaning.

 [Warnings: Do not ever breathe it in, because it is not air and it is toxic. Do not put the can around children or pets. Do not shake the can. Do not use it past when it gets cold. A few seconds, at most, is all it is meant to be used. ]

Now some people say these cans are okay to use to clean sergers or sewing machines. My own Janome dealer said I could use it to clean my serger only but not my sewing machine.  And here is why: compressed gas dusters, or canned air, blow too hard for delicate machinery. Your sewing machine is too delicate for canned air.  Your serger might be too delicate or it might be a hardy soul, like my Janome.  If your serger does not open up on both sides, you could blow the dust and lint further up into your machine. If you use it on your sewing machine, you risk the same thing, that the lint and dust will blow up inside the machine and cause problems.

But my Janome 1110DX serger opens up on both side. As you can see in this picture below, I open up the side AND the front to clean it. And I angle the can so the air is blowing out the side. I do the same with the side, angle it so the can is blowing out the front. I am not blowing the compressed gas up into the machine. And I am keeping the compressed gas duster far enough away from the machine that it is not doing damage.

That is how you can successfully clean your serger using compressed gas duster or canned air. GENTLY.  If you read around the internet, which I did today, this is the concern with the canned air, that you will not be gentle enough and do damage to your machine. So, there, now you know how you can use canned air successfully!

So, in case you are interested, here is how I clean my machine between projects.

First I open it up and blow.

Then, I take my vacuum hose and vacuum in and around. You should see the mess I've blown out! Some people buy a small vacuum just for this purpose that is more gentle than your household vacuum. In that case, you might be able to get closer to your machinery than I do.


 Now, even after all that, there is still lint. Look!  Oops! I forgot to remove the thread! You should do that first! And remove your needles and needle plate, if you want to do a really thorough cleaning. I am just doing a quickie so I left those in this time.

Third step is taking the little brush and very carefully removing all the lint I can find.

Be sure to put the knife down so you can clean the wads of lint behind it!  Wow, there was a lot in there.

Now, I follow my owner's manual's instructions to oil my machine. I use Singer brand oil made especially for sewing machines. That is not an endorsement but please use sewing machine oil, not cooking oil.   

You should be oiling your machine once a week if you use it often! That is what my manual says!

My final step is to take the anti-static wipes meant for computer monitors and give the flat parts a good wiping down. I use anti-static wipes because I do not want to add static electricity while wiping, which you might do if you use regular wipes. Also, computer wipes are much drier than other wipes so I know I will not be adding unnecessary moisture to my machines.

There! Now my serger is all clean and ready for Project Run and Play part 2!


  1. Nice and clean, oiled and ready for the next creative project! Canned air on sewing machines can blow pin heads, broken needle tips and other hard bits down in the timing gear area where a bind can cause damage.

    1. Julia, you are so right. Sewing machines are much more delicate so I was told, in my new owner class at dealer, not to blow or use vacuum on sewing machine.

  2. I love that you researched this and clarified for servers that open on both sides. Great post!

  3. Thanks for the reminder about oiling! I have a Babylock Diana and it says not to use the canned air, so I don't...but maybe I could use it around some less sensitive areas. -Deanna {sewmccool}

  4. Get post! I have to find my manual but since my Babylock Evolution opens on both sides like yours I think I might be safe. I mainly just take a brush and clean out debris now. I purchased one of those attachment kits for your vacuum but sadly it doesn't fit.

  5. Nice Post but We must have to take care when we are using these kind of air compressed can for dusting and cleaning electronic products. I have a very good experience with compressed air cleaning products Foooit.

  6. If you have more specific service-related questions, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.
    Heating and Cooling Oakville