Products We Use and Recommend

Gojo Without Pumice

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This is the best one product that I have found to clean both petroleum-based gunk and organic-based goo from sewing machines and not damage the original finish or decals. I am not afraid to use it on just about everything.  

Mothers' Mag & Aluminum Polish

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Definitely not the only metal polish available but the best all-around polish that I have found for quickly shining up not only bright metal parts on the sewing machines but it cleans and shines painted parts too. We use this with a cotton cloth to rub parts, with the buffing wheels on the Dremel to polish, and on a cloth to spin parts in the drill. 

Denatured Alcohol

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Used to clean inside motors (brushes, commutator, etc.), feed dog and linkages, inside the machine's cavities, etc. It is flammable and smells much like a strong adult beverage (not such a bad thing), but it is a very good cleaner for certain areas and in moderation. We seldom use it on painted parts and NEVER on decals! It is a pretty "hot" solvent.

Goo Gone

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Why people put tape on machines I'll never know, especially those who put adhesive price tags on antiques! This stuff will usually gently soften that irritating adhesive residue, but it can soften the clear coat and decals too so be careful. We don't use it a lot, but there are occasions when it comes out in a workshop.

Howard Feed-N-Wax

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One of the most-used products we bring to the workshops. Not only used on wood to bring it back to life, but used on the majority of older machine heads and all iron parts. Paint has a natural oil (especially the japanned heads), and through oxidation and the loss of that oil we get "dead,"  dry, and cracked paint. The oils in F&W saturate the paint and liven it up while the beeswax offers a buffable shine and protection!

Mothers' Brazilian Carnauba Cleaner Wax

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Used on all machine heads that do not have a severely compromised finish. Lots of waxes available, I just prefer this one to shine and protect a newly-cleaned machine. Like other waxes, it will appear white or hazy when applied over a cracking or dead finish. When that happens, we use a light rubbing of Howard Feed-N-Wax over it to "wet" those  hazy areas.

Howard Restor-A-Finish

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Mostly used in our advanced workshop on cabinets, we might pull it out on occasion to pretty up a portable case for someone. Great stuff when used in conjunction with Howard Feed-N-Wax to make a cabinet look beautiful again

Turtle Wax Rubbing Compound

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Used to clean, polish, and shine painted parts. Most commercially-available compounds contain not only an abrasive, but solvents, and will damage decals on a lot of machines! IF the clear coat has not been compromised AND the machine has a finish suitable for polishing, a compound might be in order. If you notice ANY silvering, STOP! If you read this, assume it is good for your machine without doing a little research or simply asking, I can't be responsible for any damage done. There is a lot more to this than just a list of things to use! The age, condition, paint/clearcoat originally applied, etc; ALL these things must be considered before applying anything to your machine!

SMO (Sewing Machine Oil)

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Ahh. SMO. All sewing machines are designed to be lubricated with it, and it is formulated to lubricate a sewing machine. The perfect match! It is also a superior cleaner to remove the majority of stains and accumulated dried oil and dirt. SMO will dissolve hardened SMO, but not so good on very old machines that have dried whale oil.

Evaporust Rust Remover

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Not enough good can be said for this stuff! Removes rust quickly and safely. It is non-toxic and has a sort of sweet odor. There are other ways to remove rust and I guess I have tried most of them, some I have used extensively, but for working in the house with sewing machines, I have found nothing that outperforms or is easier to use.

Lacquer Thinner

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Very seldom used, but on occasion I will soak some unpainted parts that are  coated with crud. Very flammable, "stinks" is an understatement, but it does get the job done. It will also remove paint quickly.  Flammable like kerosene, but it at least serves a useful purpose.

Johnson Paste Wax

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We don't use this on sewing machine heads, but in our advanced workshop it is used for any wood parts that need to slide against each other. The wax reduces friction to help drawers slide smooth and prevent wear to the wood and the finish.

Titebond II Wood Glue

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Although not used on the sewing machine head, we use this good quality glue in our advanced workshops to repair cracks and broken parts on cabinets. There are many good wood glues out there and I'm not in any way saying anything else is not good. This is just what we use.

Instant Adhesive

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We use this and the gels to lock the fabric covering on wire in place when re-wiring, and in our advanced workshops they are used to re-attach loose veneer and other wood repairs

Brasso

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While most associate it solely with brass, this stuff has proven its worth time and again in our workshops. It contains ammonia and will burn your nose a bit when it is dissolving oxidation on certain metals. but the superior cleaning it does is well worth a little discomfort. It also dissolves spilled-on paint (as we learned in one workshop) from the original paint

Apple Cider Vinegar

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On rare occasion I will use either acetic acid (vinegar) or a product containing phosphoric acid to remove rust. The reason I usually don't is that corrosive acids attack everything in the solution (removing the rust but etching every other area of the metal) while EvapoRust's "selective chelation" attacks the rust ONLY, leaving the good metal alone.

Silicon Carbide Sandpaper

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Used almost as much as metal polish, we use grits ranging from 240 to 2000 and nearly always with oil or water as a lubricant. Used to flatten the surface or metals as we near the polishing stage. we begin with the coarsest necessary and work progressively to the finer (higher number). Please see our "Videos" page to see a more detailed description

Diatomaceous Earth (or "DE")

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No!! Not to kill the bugs! We use it and show you how beneficial it is and why.  Saves you a lot of money and does what we want done to a machine without doing things we don't want done! Attend a workshop to find out more!                    

What We Don't Use And Why

WD-40

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There is normally no water to displace in a sewing machine so we have little use for WD-40. Some folks do and that is fine, I'm not condemning its use but just saying we don't use it and have found no particular need for it that can't be fulfilled better with something else we have in our arsenal. 

PB Blaster

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The main reason we don't use this stuff is it contains solvents that damage paint, but IT STINKS too! You should be able to work on your VSM in the house and this belongs in the garage at best. Might serve a purpose in the salvage yard. Does NOT remove rust, regardless what their marketing teams claims. It is merely a penetrating oil (barely). Unnecessary, unless your VSM came out of a ditch. nah, not even then.

Kerosene

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Jet fuel? Really? Why? Kerosene has a lower flash point than that of gasoline. It will dissolve accumulated petroleum-based crud (so does Gojo and SMO), but it does not remove rust as many claim. It will turn a rag rust-colored if you wipe rust with it, but so will water. It stinks, is explosive, but it does loosen joints that have tightened due to hardened oil (and does it very well). A much better loosen-upper than commercially-marketed penetrating oils since it will dissolve sludge without dissolving paint, decals, or shellac

Fast Orange and Other Citrus Cleaners

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I have tried so many of the alternatives to Gojo that I have seen suggested, and this one absolutely flopped! I mean fell out in the floor and flailed around like it was ran over by a car! Seriously, it doesn't even perform well as a hand cleaner! Try it if you like, but I think you'll agree it is pretty much worthless in the arsenal of sewing machine cleaning.

Goop Hand Cleaner

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We don't use Goop because we use Gojo. That pretty much sums up why it is in this list. I tried it and (just in my personal experience and opinion) it didn't stand up to Gojo. It cleans fairly well and I did not notice any damage it did, but I wasn't impressed enough to replace the Gojo with Goop in my arsenal. Not a bad product, just not the best I found.

Dawn And Other Detergents

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We're cleaning antique and vintage sewing machines, not ducks. Detergents will destroy clear coats and decals quicker than you can turn around. A big no-no, keep them away from your sewing machines!