What Can You Use Instead of Sewing Machine Oil – Substitute

You will find that some people are very strict in their sewing machine use and only use sewing machine oil. While others will say alternatives are okay to use. Some people will have success with alternatives but they just might be lucky.

What can you use instead of sewing machine oil? Some people have found that synthetic oil does a good job lubricating their sewing machine. You can either listen to your sewing machine maker or you can go off on your own and use a different type of oil for your sewing machine.

To learn if there are substitutes for sewing machine oil, just continue to read our article. It explores the topic even though we are not on the side of those who use alternatives to good sewing machine oil.

What Type of Oil is Used for Sewing Machines?


When you buy your first or a new sewing machine, you should set up a book that records your maintenance times. Regular lubricating of your sewing machine is essential for its longevity and top performance.

By keep your sewing machine properly lubricated, like a car, you avoid unnecessary repairs and save a lot of money. The type of oil you use is very important and almost all sewing machine makers say to use sewing machine oil.

This is a special oil that is designed to be used to keep your sewing machine working like it was advertised. Whether you have an antique, a vintage, or a computerized sewing machine only a few drops, not more than 2 or 3, will keep your sewing machine running at optimum levels.

Do you remember that old saying, ‘a squeaky wheel gets the grease’? With sewing machines, you do not want to wait till you hear those interior parts squeak before you add the oil. Sewing machines are precision machines and you shouldn’t delay adding the oil. Just keep your machine on a good lubricating schedule to avoid those squeaks.

What is Sewing Machine Oil?

In a few words, sewing machine oil is a type of mineral oil. It has no color and it should come with no odor. It is not the same type of mineral oil you put on furniture as that does have an odor to it but it will be close.

Inside the can is a very light viscosity mineral oil that does not gunk up your gears nor stick to them. This oil will work like any other version but it is not interchangeable. Cooking oil, motor oil, and similar products are not made for sewing machine precision so it is best not to save a few dollars and use them as a substitute.

That is the key point. While there are lots of oil products on the market, sewing machine oil is produced specifically to be used in sewing machines. Whether you can use that oil elsewhere remains to be seen but generally it is better if you just let it service sewing machines.

What is Sewing Machine Oil Made Of?


Manufactured sewing machine oil, made by the big companies, have various petrochemical ingredients in them. The makers of sewing machine oil do not always list 100% of the materials they use when making their product but suffice it to say, sewing machine oil is made from oil.

Some people have said that they have made a natural sewing machine oil because the real stuff comes with some potential health hazards. They have replaced mineral and other petrochemical ingredients with jojoba, silicone, and ester oils.

These products have similar characteristics to the petrochemicals used in creating sewing machine oil but without the harmful side effects. This substitute is not accepted by all sewing machines so use with caution.

The idea of not having dangerous side effects makes it tempting to use but again, sewing machines are finicky machines and tend to like only the oil they were originally made to use.

Is Sewing Machine Oil Mineral Oil?

Yes and no, as mineral oil is one of those petrochemicals used by sewing machine oil manufacturers to create their sewing machine oil. It is said that white mineral oil can replace sewing machine oil because of its similarities.

Some people say that sewing machine oil is mineral oil or a high purity version of mineral oil. But that difference is all it takes to keep you from substituting one for the other.

A closer relative than mineral oil would be paraffin oil. It could be said that sewing machine oil is liquid paraffin and it should not be confused with real paraffin oil as that is just kerosene.

Then Mobil oil company makes a lot of oil designed to work with industrial sewing machines. Those oils come in very large cans that would be too large for home use. But it is still sewing machine oil and may be effective for your model.

Whether it is mineral oil or paraffin oil doesn’t really matter. What does matter is if the label says sewing machine oil or not. If it doesn’t then avoid using it.

What Weight is Sewing Machine Oil? (Viscosity)


It may be next to impossible to find an exact number on the container’s label stating the viscosity. Sewing machine oil labels are not like car oil containers where you see the numbers 10W-30 or 5W- 40 and so on.

What they will say is ‘low viscosity’ if they say anything at all. That is the word we found while looking for an exact figure to answer this question. Sewing machine oil is low viscosity and the lower the number the better it is.

The low range means that the oil is thinner than other oils and if that number gets too high, it will be too thick to use in your sewing machine. Singer sewing machine oil does not list the number of its oil’s viscosity and there may be a good reason for this.

The different companies guard their secrets well and do not want other companies or individuals copying their ingredients and undermining their sales. Just be satisfied that the viscosity is low and the oil is thin enough to work in your sewing machine.

What is Special About Sewing Machine Oil?

When you use other types of oil in your sewing machine, they tend to not evaporate and simply stick to the gears and other moving metal parts. In other words, the alternative oil types do not go away and stick around to create a mess because they can’t handle the heat produced by a sewing machine.

That is what makes sewing machine oil special. it is designed to evaporate or disappear over time as well as not stick to any metal moving parts. It also doesn't build up over time like other oil types so your metal parts continue to move as they should without any interference.

The build-up caused by other oils leads to sewing machine problems that may require a qualified repairman to fix. That is an expense you should avoid and you do that by making sure you are well stocked with tins or cans of sewing machine oil.

Then you should keep a schedule of your lubricating times so that you can maintain the quality of those parts and avoid any future issues.

Can I Use Any Oil for a Sewing Machine?


No. That is about the only answer you should hear from anyone who gives you advice on what type of oil you can use. If it is not made for sewing machines, then it should not be used on those devices.

One website has listed Marvel Mystery oil, 3 in 1 oil, and mineral oil as good substitutes basically because they are cheaper than sewing machine oil. Don’t listen to them. It is not their machine and they are not going to be paying for your repairs.

If you are in doubt check your owner’s manual first before you buy just so you know that your brand of sewing machine needs as far as lubrication is concerned. Even if those alternatives are similar to sewing machine oil they were not made for sewing machines.

Even natural sewing machine oil is not universally accepted by all sewing machines. You really have to bite the bullet on this one and stick to the oil made for your sewing machine.

Common Sewing Machine Oil Alternatives

This is a loaded subject as we do not want to give you any ideas that may have you trying the wrong kind of oil on your sewing machine. The term common is the key here and that word is being used to describe the different types of oils other sewers have used on their machines even though they are not made for sewing machines.

Some people have used motor oil, vegetable oil, cooking oil, and even 3 in 1 oil. These are not good for your sewing machine as they do not come made with a low viscosity. That is one of your keys to understanding why you can’t use these types of oils.

Other people have used mineral oil, Marvel mystery oil, and even WD-40. The latter is not a lubricant but a penetrating substance that loosens up stuck nuts and bolts or screws.

The other two oils were made for different purposes and should not be tried unless you enjoy visiting your sewing machine repairman and giving him a lot of money. The key is to stick to sewing machine oil even if it costs more than these common alternatives.

Best Sewing Machine Oil Substitute

There are 3 types of sewing machine oils. They are not really alternatives but oils that are made for your sewing machine. Here is a brief description of those oils:

  • 1. Petrochemicals - this is your standard sewing machine oil that most people should be using. You won’t smell it and it doesn't contain any real color but it is the most effective oil you can use.
  • 2. Synthetics - like fabrics, different companies are seeking to lower the cost of materials by inventing synthetic oils. It s made to work with plastic parts and it is a good alternative to petrochemicals.
  • 3. Natural - these do not contain any harmful elements that may damage your health if you breathe the oil in or get some on your skin. While effective some natural combinations may gum up your machine but that only happens if the ingredients are not mixed properly.

Again, some people will recommend mineral oil or some other type of light oil but if it is not made for sewing machines, you are taking a big risk. Experts are not always right and they may be the exception to the rule.

Your sewing machine may not accept the different oil because while they may be the same brand or model, all sewing machines are different.

Is Hair Clipper Oil the Same as Sewing Machine Oil?


Technically you could yes they are but the viscosity of hair clipper oil is a little different from sewing machine oil. The reason some people recommend this oil is that hair clippers run at higher speeds than sewing machines so the oil can handle the friction and heat of the latter device.

It will be up to you if you use this oil or not as it is not recommended by manufacturers and if your machine is still under warranty, it is best to stick to the sewing machine oil recommended by the maker of your sewing machine.

The same goes for clock oil, Tri-flow oil, and other recommended alternatives. If your warranty is still in effect avoid using alternatives unless your manufacturing brand gives the okay.

Manufacturers have teams of lawyers who look for these little things to protect the company from unauthorized repair costs. We must emphasize that you be careful who you listen to. They are not going to pay for your repairs if something goes wrong and they do not usually know your machine.

Can I Use Hair Clipper Oil On My Sewing Machine?

Yes, you can as some people do recommend it as an alternative to sewing machine oil. Hair clipper oil may be cheaper which would be one logical reason why they would suggest using it.

Another logical reason was stated earlier but we will repeat what we said. Hair clipper oil is used to working with motors that run fast and hot. And since sewing machine motors do not run as fast as hair clipper motors do they have concluded that oil is safe for your sewing machine.

Use at your own risk for the same reasons we already gave earlier. Sewing machines can be quite finicky and while hair clipper oil may be safe to use it may not be safe to use in all sewing machines. Just like natural sewing machine oils are not safe to use in all sewing machines.

Hair Clipper Oil vs Sewing Machine Oil


There is no real competition here. Hair clipper oil is probably a lower viscosity oil because it works with faster motors that need thin oil to lubricate them. Plus, it is made to be used in hair clippers, not sewing machines.

The issue that you have to consider is that sewing machines cost a lot more than hair clippers. Do you want to run the risk of losing your sewing machine because someone said it is okay to use hair clipper oil in your machine?

It is possible to do but it is a big leap of faith to make the switch.

Can I Use WD40 Instead of Sewing Machine Oil?

No. While we have read that some people say they use this product as sewing machine oil replacement but there is nothing in their statement that proves they are not lying.

WD-40 is not a lubricant in the traditional sense of the word. It is a product designed to cut through rust and other screws, nuts, and bolts issues that have those parts frozen in place.

Using it as a lubricant is only asking for trouble and may lead you to make another trip to the repairman who will be delighted at receiving your business. The same goes for 3 in 1 oil as well.

Can I Use Baby Oil On My Sewing Machine?


There may be the odd person answering this question on the internet and they answer that this oil is good for temporary use. But don’t listen to them. While baby oil is a version of mineral oil, and it is gentle on a baby’s skin, it is not made for sewing machines.

The viscosity will be too high and the oil too thick to work well with sewing machines. Then the added ingredients like fragrance and so on may gum up your sewing machine. If at all possible keep a good stock of sewing machine oil so you do not have to make this decision.

Also, check the age of your machine. The more recent models are made to work with highly refined sewing machine oil and using alternatives will not work in those machines at all. There may have been a time when alternatives were acceptable but those times have sadly passed.

Light Machine Oil Bunnings

When you click this link you will be taken to Bunnings web page that lists about 70 different or similar lubricants. Not one is made for sewing machines. There is one called household lubricant but if you read the details you will find that it is mineral oil.

There is no word on its viscosity level but in the description, it states that this is a thicker lubricant made for better adhesion to materials. Those words tell you right off that you should not use this oil for your sewing machine.

You do not want adhesion or build up inside your sewing machine.

Air Tool Oil Sewing Machine


Like all other oils, the oil used to lubricate air tools is not made in the same way as sewing machine oil is made. One reason for that is that the moving interior parts of any given device dictate the type of oil that is needed to lubricate that device.

To lubricate air tools you should use the oil designed to work with those high powered items. For sewing machines, you should use the oil made for sewing machines.

The labels should make it clear which device it is best for. Like doing your laundry or finding the right fabric dye, read the labels first before buying.

DIY Sewing Machine Oil

If you want to make your own sewing machine oil out of natural ingredients, you will need 1/3 cup of jojoba oil and only a tablespoon of ester oil, and a tablespoon of silicon oil. Mix well as if you don’t you may have trouble with your machine.

If you do use it, do a test first to see if it will work for you or not. Only a drop in your machine will be enough to test the oil mixture. Be careful though when you try to use other oils to make sewing machine oil. The viscosity level is the key.

Some Final Words

When in doubt err on the side of caution and forget about using alternatives unless you are at the end of the road, snowed in with no sewing machine oil around the cabin or home.

All oil is not oil as each version is made for specific machines and their specific moving parts. heavy oils will only gum up your sewing machine and cost you a lot of money. Ignore well-meaning people’s advice and stick with what the manufacturer recommends when it comes to sewing machine oil.

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