Sewing Machine Oil Substitute? – Don’t Use Them as Alternative

Last Updated on July 30, 2023

Welcome back to TheSewingStuffs! I’m Malinda Bailey, and today we will talk about something crucial for maintaining your sewing machine – the right oil! When it comes to lubricating sewing machines, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there.

From using baby oil, cooking oil, or even WD40, anything goes. But just like you wouldn’t use WD40 in your car engine, not all oils are suitable for sewing machines.

Sewing machine oil substitute

Here, we’ll explore the oils you should avoid, the potential risks they pose, and the only safe and recommended oil for your sewing machine.

Can I use 3 in 1 oil on sewing machine?

No, you should not use 3-in-1 oil on a sewing machine. It is too thick and can cause clogs, leading to machine issues. Stick to sewing machine oil for proper lubrication and smooth operation.

Back in 1894, George W. Cole developed 3-in-1 oil, a versatile product known for its ability to clean, lubricate, and protect. Initially designed for bikes, it quickly became popular for various household maintenance tasks like lubricating squeaky hinges and rusty padlocks. In the 70s, some sewing machine users even used it on their machines, but over time, it became apparent that 3-in-1 oil was not suitable for sewing machines.

3-IN-ONE Multi-Purpose Oil
3-IN-ONE Multi-Purpose Oil

The primary reason lies in its original purpose – being designed for bikes, it possesses a viscosity that is too thick for sewing machine use. Viscosity refers to a fluid’s resistance to flow, meaning the thicker the oil, the slower it flows.

Consequently, 3-in-1 oil does not flow fast enough for advanced sewing machines, leading to clogs and bottlenecks. As a result, rather than lubricating the machine, using 3-in-1 oil may cause damage and result in the machine slowing down or even stopping.

Can I use wd-40 instead of sewing machine oil?

No, you should not use WD-40 instead of sewing machine oil. WD-40 is a degreaser and not a suitable lubricant for sewing machines. It can strip away existing oil, leaving the machine’s moving parts dry and potentially causing damage. Stick to sewing machine oil for optimal performance and protection.

An interesting fact uncovered during research is that 3-in-1 oil is now owned by the WD40 Company, acquired in 1995. Before that, it was under the ownership of Reckitt and Coleman. Quite a curious detail, indeed.

Moving on to another widely-used product – WD40 – it was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego. Its name, “WD40,” comes from “Water Dispersing Agent 40,” as it was the 40th attempt to find a solution for degreasing and rust prevention in the aerospace industry. However, WD40 is not an oil; it is a degreaser.

Its purpose is to strip grease, water, and even rust from moving parts. Unfortunately, this means it can also strip any existing oil from the machine’s moving metal parts and then evaporate, leaving the sewing machine’s parts completely dry.

Considering sewing machines tend to generate heat during operation, leaving the parts without lubrication is detrimental as they require oil to cool down. These parts will get excessively hot without proper lubrication, potentially leading to severe issues.

While both 3-in-1 oil and WD40 may seem convenient due to their multi-purpose nature, they are unsuitable for sewing machines. Their usage can cause harm, especially to older machines like Grandma, which have delicate decals that were not designed to withstand these harsh chemicals.

Can I use baby oil on my sewing machine?

No, you should not use baby oil on your portable sewing machine. Baby oil is designed for moisturizing human skin and contains fragrances and moisturizing agents unsuitable for lubricating sewing machines.

Using baby oil on your sewing machine can lead to issues such as stripped paint, adhesive removal, and potential damage to delicate machine parts. Instead, use sewing machine oil, which is specifically formulated for lubricating sewing machines and will ensure smooth and optimal performance without any harmful effects.

Furthermore, keeping moisture, particularly water, away from your sewing machine is essential to prevent rust, as rust thrives on the combination of water and metal. Rusty parts won’t contribute to your machine’s smooth operation.

Can i use cooking oil on my sewing machine?

No, using cooking oil on a sewing machine is strongly discouraged for several reasons. Oils like olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, butter, peanut oil, or any other cooking oil are intended for culinary purposes. Applying cooking oil on a sewing machine is not recommended for the following reasons:

  • Ineffective Lubrication: Cooking oils like olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, butter, peanut oil, and others are meant for cooking, not for lubricating sewing machines. Applying these oils will not effectively lubricate the machine’s moving parts.
  • Sticky Residue: When cooking oil, especially old cooking oil, is used on a sewing machine, it turns into a sticky, gloopy mess. This can clog up the machine’s delicate components, causing more harm than good.
  • Unpleasant Odor and Dust Attraction: Cooking oil can emit an unpleasant odor as it goes rancid and tends to attract dust, leading to a grimy buildup on the sewing machine.
  • Incompatibility with Fabric: Sewing machines often come into contact with fabrics, leading to a build-up of lint and fabric dust. Using cooking oil may worsen this problem.
  • Inadequate Cooling: Sewing machines generate heat during operation, and the oil used should be able to cool them down. Cooking oil, however, tends to get hotter as it works, which is unsuitable for cooling the machine.

To maintain your sewing machine’s smooth operation and longevity, it is best to avoid using cooking oil or any other household oils.

So, What oil can you use on a sewing machine?

The best oil to use for your sewing machine is Sewing Machine Oil. It is watery, thin, lightweight mineral oil, flowing smoothly through the machine’s parts. Unlike baby oil or 3-in-1 oil, Sewing Machine Oil does not contain moisturizers or fragrances, making it safe for fabrics.

It has been specially designed for sewing machines and won’t harm the paint or plastic components. Stick to Sewing Machine Oil for optimal performance and longevity of your sewing machine.

Manufacturers understood that this oil would come into contact with the machine’s paintwork, so they designed the decals to withstand its effects. As a result, Sewing Machine Oil is probably the only product that is entirely safe to use on your sewing machine, as it won’t harm the paint finish or attack the shellac.

While you might come across another product called Triflow, often discussed on sewing machine forums and Facebook groups, it’s essential to stick with Sewing Machine Oil, as it has been tested and recommended by major sewing machine manufacturers like Janome, Brother, and Singer. Using the right oil will ensure your sewing machine runs smoothly and lasts for many years of enjoyable sewing.

Can Triflow be used on a sewing machine?

No, Triflow is not recommended for use on a sewing machine. Triflow is a Teflon-based lubricant that offers three functions – cleaning, lubricating, and protecting. Although marketed towards bikes, some might consider using it on sewing machines due to its versatility. However, it’s essential to understand the potential risks involved.

  • Unsuitability: Triflow’s design is primarily for bikes with different movement speeds and heat levels than sewing machines. As a result, Triflow may not provide the required flow and cooling effect needed for optimal sewing machine performance.
  • Lack of Testing: Triflow’s manufacturers have yet to test or recommend its use on sewing machines specifically. This lack of validation raises concerns about its compatibility and potential long-term effects on sewing machines.

Expert Recommendations

We reached out to renowned sewing machine manufacturers – Janome, Brother, and Singer – for their insights:

  • Janome: Recommends using quality sewing machine oil on their machines.
  • Brother: Advises using sewing machine oil for lubrication.
  • Singer: Only recommends using Sewing Machine Oil, specifically developed for sewing machine needs.

Can I use Vaseline to oil my sewing machine?

No, using Vaseline to oil your sewing machine is not recommended. Vaseline is not designed for lubricating sewing machines and may cause issues with its performance. It can attract dust and lint, leading to clogs and potential damage to the machine.

Stick to using sewing machine oil, which is specifically designed for lubricating sewing machines and ensures smooth operation without any harmful effects.

Video: What type of oil should I use in my sewing machine?


It’s best to steer clear and opt for sewing machine oil instead. With a clear lack of specificity and testing for sewing machines, Triflow poses potential risks and uncertainties. Stick to the advice of reputable sewing machine manufacturers and use the recommended sewing machine oil to keep your machine in top-notch condition.

Remember, when shopping for oil, check the sewing machine authorized dealers; you won’t find Triflow, 3-in-1 oil, or other unsuitable products there. Stick to sewing machine oil and maintain the smooth performance of your sewing buddy for years to come!

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