It's old and rusted, thus it must be an antique. That seems to be the mindset of many people when they have an old sewing machine they want to get rid of. But rust is not a sign of being an antique. It is a good sign that someone did not take care of their sewing machine.
If the machine has been properly oiled and lubricated throughout its lifetime, then chances are the rust is only on the exterior parts and not the internal ones. For surface rust, you should use a wire brush and one that can attach to your power drill.
To learn how to remove rust from a sewing machine just continue to read our article. It gives you the tips and guidance you need to keep your antique (or older metal) sewing machine in top shape. Doing the maintenance makes it easier to sell the machine later on.
One of the go-to methods in removing rust from any metal part is to have a good wire brush on hand. You can use a manual or handheld wire brush if the rust is not too deep and just getting started. This method is a lot of work and takes a lot of time to get the job done right.
That time and effort are not always available so many people turn to their power drill and the assorted wire brush attachments they have. Not only does your power drill have the power to remove the rust quickly, but it is also able to use different sizes of wire brushes to get those little hard to reach places.
The trick in using a wire brush is to have the right type of confidence and expertise. Going fast will not leave you with good results nor will using the wrong size of brush. Also, you need to use the right amount of pressure or you are just wasting time. The rust will not be gone and you have to keep doing the task until it is.
That is the danger of leaving rust behind. It will spread again and you will have to do the work all over shortly. One thing you should not do is to try and clean the rust off with vinegar.
This seems to be the cleaning fad of the 21st century and while it is good for stains on clothing and other fabrics, it is not a good rust remover. This has been tried over and over with no effective result.
The first step in this process is to admit that there will be a point where you cannot get all the rust off or salvage your sewing machine. Rust is a destructive force and while it can be kept at bay, a lack of maintenance will allow it to ruin your machine. When that happens there is nothing you can do.
Next, some smaller parts like faceplates and so on can be removed and soaked in either kerosene or a commercial degreaser. These fluids help loosen the grip rust has on your machine making it easier to rub off with a sanding sponge or a wire brush.
Or you can use what is called a dremel tool which has wire brushes that will polish up the metal and have it looking better than it was. A power drill will replace the dremel tool and do the same task.
One thing you should do, and you should be used to it by now, is to make sure the chemicals you use do not damage the metal. Do a test in a hidden spot first to make sure the chemical is safe for the type of metal the face plate and other parts are made of.
Now comes the hard part. If you see rust on your internal parts, you need to separate those parts from all electrical wiring and connections. Then soak them in a degreaser, kerosene, or another chemical to help get rid of any loose or surface rust.
Dry them off and if the rust is not gone, use a wire brush, a dremel tool, or a power drill with wire brush attachments and clean the rest of the rust off those parts. Then reattach those parts to the electrical systems and your sewing machine.
The process here is not unlike the process in the previous sections. Most modern sewing machines are made with plastic parts, bodies, and other non-metal materials. You will not see a lot of rust unless you remove the plastic body and inspect the frame and any internal metal parts.
Antique machines were not built like modern sewing machines. That means just about every part used to create the machine was made from metal that rusts. If you do not use your machine that often or leave it in storage, you will see the rust right away.
This is where you need to make a decision and answer the question, can I remove the rust, or is the sewing machine too far gone? Once you get the answer to that question, you need to ask if you have the time to clean the rust off.
If not, you can always enlist the aid of a good handyman or ask your local sewing machine repairman to do it for you. Both will cost you money, but if there is historical and sentimental value attached to the machine that money may be well spent.
If you decide to do it yourself, make sure you have the skill to handle the task as you can ruin internal parts by applying the wrong wire brush or pressure. Also, make sure you have the right chemicals, tools, and buckets to handle the task.
Buying new equipment may be expensive and it would be better off and possibly cheaper to let a professional handle the job. it is your call as there is a lot of work involved as well as time. You have to have a lot of free time to get the job done right.
You also do not want to go fast for when you leave rust behind, you are just asking for more trouble and more problems with rust.
The first thing to do is remove as many external parts as possible. That means taking the needle plate, the slide cover, the inspection plates, and the nose cone if possible. Also, you may want to remove other parts not listed there.
The amount of work and the tools you use will depend on how badly rusted those parts are. Steel wool can be effective, cheap, and easy to use if the rust is not that deep. Or if it is deeper than steel wool can handle, you can try a handheld wire brush.
If you are not into heavy manual labor, turn to your dremel tool or your power drill and slip in the right size of a wire brush. Work carefully and you should wear some protective eyewear and gloves when doing this as those powered wired brushes can shed their bristles at a very high speed.
Also, those bristles tend to fall to the floor and get stuck in someone’s foot or paw if you are not keen on cleaning up right away. If the parts are frozen together, some penetrating oil, WD-40, or similar chemicals will help free those parts and get them working again. Once you do that, you can soak them and brush the rust off in no time.
One key piece of information is that do not expect miracles and have the rust come off in 15 minutes or even in 60 minutes. let the chemicals work and this may take soaking overnight.
Then sometimes you may have to use a steel punch and tap gears, shafts, or other moving parts to loosen the rust before they will move again or be cleaned. The punch needs to have a flat end surface and not a point.
Do not hit the punch too hard or you will move those gears and shafts into the wrong position and you will need to replace more parts.
Removing rust from an old sewing machine is not complicated nor is it rocket science. You just need to know what you are doing, be good with your hands, and have the right touch. For most rust removal, you are looking at days of work not minutes.
That means you need a boatload of patience to get this job done correctly. Also, you have to remove all the rust or you will be inviting yourself to do this again someday. After removing the rust, practice good maintenance and lubrication acts to avoid this problem in the future.