Sewing Machine Smelling Bad – How to Fix

  • By: Tiffany Peris
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Maybe you have bought a second-hand sewing machine, or you just realized that a sewing machine that you have been using for a long time is smelling. Don’t worry; whether your sewing machine has cigarette smoke, smells like oil, smells like a burn, or is smelling smoke, I have detailed what you can do to fix the smell in this article.

How to fix a smelly sewing machine

Cigarette Smell On Sewing Machine

If your sewing machine has been used in a room where people used to smoke frequently, or maybe your second-hand sewing machine was used by a regular smoker who smoked when sewing, then the sewing machine will smell like a cigarette.

The smell can be irritating to the extent that you might consider disposing of the machine and getting a new one. Luckily, there are things you can do to remove the cigarette smoke smell from the sewing machine.

To begin with, mix vinegar and lemon juice in a container. Then, with the mixture of vinegar and lemon, carefully wipe the sewing machine making sure that all the exterior parts of the machine are sufficiently wiped with the mixture.

Vinegar has for many years been used as an acidic cleaner, and as such, it will dissolve nicotine and tar deposits that are on the machine. Instead of vinegar and lemon juice, you can also use alcohol mixed with water in a ratio of 50/50 to clean the exterior of the sewing machine.

After you have wiped the exterior with the mixture of vinegar and lemon juice, you now need to use baking soda and activated charcoal to remove the cigarette smell inside the sewing machine. In this case, you will need to place the sewing machine in a closed container (big box) that has baking soda and activated charcoal in it.

Close the box and leave the sewing machine in the box for a couple of days.  Activated charcoal has an incredible surface area that is proven to be capable of absorbing unpleasant smells.

Sewing Machine Smells Like Oil

When your sewing machine smells like oil, the odor is mostly caused by oil that drips from the machine, mainly after it has been oiled. Indeed, if you have a Singer Featherweight sewing machine, you could encounter an oil smell, which is common with the model.

Beneath the sewing machine, Singer Featherweight has wool, and this has most of the time been the reason behind the oil smell. Specifically, this wool has been intentionally put there by the manufacturer to hold any oil leaks and drips from the machine. As the leaks and drips accumulate, the machine smells like oil. It would help if you replaced this wool to get rid of the smell.

Even if you could use known smell absorbers like activated charcoal, lemon, and vinegar, or even a mixture of alcohol and water to clean the oil, the best solution for this issue is to replace the felt pad on the oil pan sewing machine. You will immediately realize that the oil smell is gone if you do that.

Sewing Machine Smelling Smoke – Is It Burning?

There are several reasons why your sewing machine could be smelling like smoke.

The smoke smell coming out of your sewing machine can get you worried. However, the smell hints that your machine might be having an issue and that it needs to be addressed. Maybe you assumed that things got hot inside the machine and switched it off to realize that the smell is still there even after giving the machine time to rest.

The smell could be caused by oil that happens to be heating up after you oil your machine. If that is the case, the smell should go away after sewing for a while.

If the smell does not disappear, you might have to look at the fabric you are sewing. Specifically, if you are sewing a synthetic fabric, there is a high chance that the smell is caused by the friction between the needle and the fabric. If that is the case, you can decide whether to change the fabric or continue sewing on the synthetic fabric.

The sewing machine could also smell like smoke due to one of the belts inside the machine being out of position. Inside your sewing machine, some belts are critical to the movement of different sewing machine parts. If these belts get out of position, they come into contact with other parts of the machine, and the ensuing friction will result in the machine smelling like smoke.

Finally, the smell could indicate that the motor of your sewing machine could be about to stop. Thus, if the motor stops working, you will need to have the motor repaired later on.

Sewing Machine Smell Funny After Using For A Short Time

There could be different reasons why your sewing machine smells funny.

If the funny smell is similar to the smell of burning rubber, then that will most likely be the belt of your sewing machine. The belt is probably worn out and needs replacing. You can visually inspect the belt of your machine, and if you find that it is worn out, you will need to ensure that the belt is replaced.

If you notice that the smell is coming from the motor, you should check and confirm whether the motor is getting hot. If the sewing machine’s motor is hot, that is an indicator that your motor could have problems and need to be checked by a sewing machine technician. The various reasons why a motor could have a problem are explained below.

High temperatures in the room that you are sewing in

If the room that you are sewing in has high temperatures, the motor might not be able to cool down well. As a result of the poor cooling of the sewing machine motor, the motor gets hot, and it starts to smell as if it is burning.

The motor has been overworked.

Every sewing machine has a sewing capacity that it is supposed to serve. However, if the sewing machine is used to sew more than it is supposed to sew, the sewing machine’s motor will end up heating up, and this heat will eventually result in the sewing machine smelling funny. In this case, all you have to do is switch off the sewing machine and let the motor cool.

The motor is faulty and not running smoothly.

If your motor has some faults and you still use the sewing machine, you will be forcing the motor to work, and as a result, the motor ends up heating up as it is forced to operate. Due to that, you will have a funny smell coming out of the sewing machine.

Poor ventilation in the motor compartment

As you might know, the motor needs good ventilation so that when it is working, air freely flows in and out of the motor. Thus, when there is poor ventilation in your motor, you will notice that the motor smells as if it is burning since it does not cool effectively. In such cases, all you need to do is make sure that the motor is well ventilated.

Incorrect power supply

At times, the power supply varies since you can find that you have been supplied with a low or high current. If the power source is low, the motor of your sewing machine will end up being overworked as the power supplied is not up to the required voltage. As the motor is overworked, it will eventually heat up and smell as if it is getting burnt. To fix this issue, you will need to ensure that you have the correct voltage used for your sewing machine.

Concluding Thoughts

When you notice that your sewing machine has some funny smell, you need to stop sewing and find out where the smell is coming from and what is likely to cause the smell.

Most of the time, smells coming from sewing machines can be easily fixed without expert knowledge. But, for example, when a machine smells like oil, you might have to check whether there are some spills caused by overoiling the machine.

However, if you notice that the machine smells like smoke and then actually see smoke coming off the machine, you need to immediately switch off the machine and look for a maintenance specialist who can inspect your machine and fix the issue.

When a sewing machine gets hot, switch it off and allow it some time to cool off. When the machine has cooled off, you could switch it on again and continue with your sewing. If you notice that the issue has not been fixed, your motor needs to be checked by a repairman.