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Sewing Machine Oil Substitutes (Best Alternatives)

To maintain your sewing machine, keeping it lubricated with sewing machine oil is necessary, especially the moving parts. If you want your sewing machine to last long and work properly, then you need to oil it regularly.

However, you might run out of sewing machine oil or can’t find it. So let’s look at other things you can use instead of your sewing machine oil. 

What can I use in place of sewing machine oil? 

There are several substitutes for sewing machine oil. Usually, three types of oils are suitable for sewing machines. They are synthetic oil, natural oil, and petrochemicals. Some popular alternatives are Tri-Flow Oil, Clock Oil, Clipper Oil, White Mineral Oil, Marvel Mystery Oil, and many more. 

Oiling your sewing machine regularly will make sure its components do not rust or wear off and also make it more durable. Not only that, it reduces friction between the components of the machine making them not grind against each other. 

Sewing machines are very sensitive machines. Sewing machine oil is made specifically to function well with sewing machines.

Sewing machine oil contains several ingredients which are not listed in their can. If you’re going to use anything in place of sewing machine oil, you have to make sure they are similar. 

Do not use car oil. They do not have the same consistency. Sewing machine oil is lighter and clearer when compared to car oil. 

Only add a few drops at a time as it can take time to clean and might slow down the parts inside your sewing machine. If you have accidentally used too much lubricant then use a dry cloth to clean the excess part gently. 

If you notice either of these changes in your sewing machine then it will need oiling.

  • Squeaking sound while the machine is operating. 
  • The speed of your sewing machine has decreased. 
  • A bad odor that is similar to burning. 
  • Too much heat in any of the components. 
  • Check and see if your seams are misaligned. 
  • Odd sounds from any of the parts touching together repeatedly when it’s not supposed to. 

Five best sewing machine oil alternatives:

Tri-Flow Oil:

This oil has many uses and is not just limited to being used as sewing machine oil. It is made out of petroleum which makes it slippery and long-lasting. It is probably the best option in replacement of sewing machine oil.

Tri-Flow oil functions well even at high temperatures. They cost more than sewing machine oil so unless you have Tri-Flow Oil at home, it’s better to stick to sewing machine oil. 

Clipper Oil:

This low viscous oil is made for hair clippers and is comparatively cheaper than sewing machine oil. Since they make blades more durable, clock oil can be used as sewing machine oil as well. 

Clock Oil:

It is a synthetic oil that is used on clocks but more expensive than normal mineral oil. They are thick but not as thick as grease. 

Marvel Mystery Oil:

The ingredients of this oil are still a mystery which is why it has ‘Mystery’ in its name.

It fixes various engine issues and resists carburetor decay. This thin oil is mostly used in automotive machinery. Marvel Mystery Oil can be used in small machines which includes a sewing machine. 

White Mineral Oil:

Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s not actually ‘white’. This is a thin and clear fluid made from the petroleum distillation process. This is not a costly alternative and available in most stores so you won’t have a tough time looking for it. 

You can make your homemade sewing machine oil too! You will need three ingredients that are jojoba oil, silicon oil, and ester oil. Add ⅓ cup of jojoba oil in a jar, one tablespoon of silicon oil, and one tablespoon of ester oil.

Mix up the ingredients and put a few drops on your sewing machine to test it out. Consistency is key so having the same consistency level as normal sewing machine oil is important. 

However, jojoba oil is not made from petroleum and has a scent that might cause problems in the future. This is why it can only be used as a temporary solution. Mineral oil is the best option when it comes to alternatives. 

Before picking one of the substitutes, you should consider a few things. You should always read the sewing machine manual.

Often it will tell you what kind of lubricant to use. Moreover, some sewing machines are self-lubricating and do not require extra lubrication. If your sewing machine is made with plastic then it does not need oiling. 

If you don’t want to use any of these substitutes, there are other ones as well. But making sure it is as similar to a sewing machine oil is the best choice. It should be transparent, thin and no smell, just like sewing machine oil. 

If you are not sure what kind of lubricant will suit your sewing machine, try putting light amounts of the substitute to see if it works well or not and it could adjust to it. Move every part gently after you are done applying to make sure the oil reaches every part. 

Moreover, the latest sewing machine models don’t work well with lubricants other than good quality sewing machine oil. So alternatives might not always work. A lot of things were used as substitutes ages ago but it is not the same anymore. 

Can I use these on my sewing machine instead of sewing machine oil?

Using a substitute that’s not appropriate for your sewing machine will only cause you trouble and eventually damage your sewing machine. So unless you want to go to a repair shop, it is best to make sure which alternative is okay to use. 

Coconut oil:

Plenty of people would mix coconut oil with other ingredients such as Kerosene to use as a replacement for sewing machine oil. However, it is scented and thick which makes it not suitable for sewing machines.

It can also become sticky in low temperatures. It was acceptable when it was used on antique sewing machines but it can damage recent sewing machine models.

Olive oil:

Olive oil is often blended with other elements to create a proper lubricant for sewing machines.

This is also not a good substitute, it will create gunk on your machine and it attracts rodents! It dries up quickly and will leave a smell on your entire machine. 

Vegetable oil:

Steer clear from vegetable oil and any type of cooking oil. This can clog the gears of your sewing machine and spoil any fabric on the machine. Vegetable oil attracts dust and dirt too. 


This is a water displacement solvent started in the mid 1900s which is used to clean many household items as well as residue from the gears of sewing machines.

However, it should not be used as a lubricant for your sewing machine at all. It will make your gears lose their lubricating abilities and will dry your machine instead of lubricating it. 

Baby oil:

It is a common misconception to assume that Baby oil is a good alternative because of its low viscosity and because it contains mineral oil.

But it has added fragrance and other ingredients which can create gunk on your machine. Hence, not the ideal option. 

Mineral oil:

Mineral oil can be found in every household. Sewing machine oil itself is made out of mineral oil so mineral oil can be a good alternative as long as it is odorless and thin.

White Mineral oil is an example and can be used as sewing machine oil. If you want to use Mineral oil like sewing machine oil, check the can to see if it can be used on sewing machines or not. Usually, if it is applicable, it should be written. 

Clock oil:

Synthetic clock oil is one of the best alternatives for sewing machine oil in case you run out.

But they are different in terms of fluidity. Sewing machine oil spreads and flows whereas clock oil remains in one place. It is better to be cautious about that. 

Clipper oil:

Many people use hair clipper oil because it is cheaper and is used on motors that are fast and hot. The surface of sewing machines can be sensitive. Hair clipper oil might be okay for some sewing machines but not all. 

Paper shredder oil:

It is a comparatively lightweight oil and around the same consistency as vegetable oil.

Often sewing machine oil is used on printers as paper shredder oil. They are made with different materials but can be interchangeable. 

3 in 1 oil:

We highly discourage using this because it leaves a sticky and tacky residue. You won’t notice it right away because its solvents will take time to evaporate and leave your sewing machine in an unpleasant condition.

Instead of smoothening the gears, it will slow them down. This oil can be used for bicycle chains and other metallic household items but not suitable for sewing machines. 

Air tool oil:

They are not the same because one is used to lubricate a contractor’s air tool and the other is a lightweight oil for oiling a sewing machine.

They are formulated very differently. Air tool oil helps create a seal with the o-rings in valves, pistons, and cylinders whereas in sewing machines you have to make sure that the moving parts do not touch. 

There is nothing that will function better than sewing machine oil itself. It’s inexpensive and widely available so try not to go for substitutes unless you really have to. 

Is sewing machine oil the same as these other oils?

Mineral Oil:

They are the closest to being similar because sewing machine oil is made up of some type of mineral oil. Both are clear, have no scent, and are watery.

But sewing machine oil is more similar to Paraffin oil than Mineral Oil and it is purer than mineral oil. 

Clock Oil:

Sewing machine oil is supposed to spread whereas clock oil is supposed to stay put. This is a big difference between them. But both are interchangeable. Sewing machine oil is used on clocks and vice versa.

Clipper Oil:

They are similar in many ways but their thickness is different. Hair clipper oil can handle the friction and heat of sewing machines since they are used to running at high speeds and hot motors.

Many people recommend it but their purposes are different. 

3 in 1 oil:

3 in 1 oil is made up of corrosion inhibitor, citronella oil, and pale spindle oil. It is used in bicycle chains and used to clean and lubricate various metal surfaces. Sewing machine oil does not clean metal surfaces like 3 in 1 oil and they are not interchangeable.

It is highly suggested that you do not use 3 in 1 oil as a replacement for sewing machine oil. 

Paper Shredder Oil:

Most sewing machine oils are made out of petroleum which can damage paper shredder devices. Both oils are light but do not use petroleum-based sewing machine oil as a paper shredder oil. 

It’s up to you if you use these alternatives because this is strictly not recommended by manufacturers. You might not be able to use your product warranty(if you have one) if you use these substitutes and will have to end up paying for all your repairs. 

Some repair shops might not be familiar with your machine so it can end up costing you even more than you think. Stick to sewing machine oil for the betterment of your machine and saving expenses. 

Always make sure your sewing machine is disconnected from the power source before you start lubricating it to prevent electric shock. Don’t overoil it. A little amount of oil once a week should be just fine if you use your sewing machine daily.

And most importantly, check the expiry date of the oil you are using if you don’t want your sewing machine to be damaged. 

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