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How to Clean & Polish Your Singer Featherweight

Ever wondered how some Featherweight machines look polished and beautiful while others look dull or oily?  With these tips, you’ll take your average looking Featherweight and turn it into something beautifully reflective.

Waxing your machine provides a protective layer to help preserve the clearcoat and decals of the machine, but it also gives your treasured Featherweight a beautiful and attractive shine that others will be sure to notice. If your machine has not been polished in a long time and is very dirty, you may want to remove a few items so that you can get the polish everywhere. This could include removing the needle plate, bobbin winder tension bracket, the tension unit itself, light bulb housing, and possibly even the motor. If you don’t feel comfortable removing any of those things then just do your best to polish around them.

The tools we will use for this demonstration are:
  1. 100% Cotton Rags about 3 inches square (old cotton T-shirts work great)
  2. Kerosene or other Petroleum Distillate (see note below)
  3. Zymol Carnauba Car Wax, or other high quality carnauba wax
You will want to start by dusting off your machine with a dry or an almost dry rag. Do not use household cleaners or soap and water to clean your machine. Many of these contain alcohol, or degreasers or even citrus that will harm the clearcoat of your Featherweight machine. Many of us who have been in the Featherweight business for years have learned the hard way what not to use on our Featherweight machines. Hopefully we can help some of you avoid those trial and error mistakes.

We use a petroleum distillate to clean tape and other residue off the machine before beginning the waxing process. A petroleum distillate, used as a cleaner, will not hurt the clearcoat finish on a Singer Featherweight machine. In the Featherweight Shop here we had used Ronsonol Lighter Fluid for many years, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find readily.  Therefore, we are now recommending Kerosene, which is also a petroleum distillate.  Small containers can be found at your local Wal-Mart in the camping section.  The Kerosene or Zymol will not hurt the decals or the clearcoat, however, these machines are decades old so to be on the safe side, use them sparingly.  Kerosene is great to have on hand because it can also be used to clean the internal gears of a Featherweight.  We even carry small, empty oil bottles for this purpose - allowing you to carefully direct where you want the little drops of Kerosene to go.

If the machine does not have any adhesive residue or is not excessively grimy then we don’t use any extra cleaner and just start by using the Zymol.  You can begin the waxing process after a good dusting off with a dry or almost dry rag.

For the waxing of your machine we recommend Zymol, which is an automotive water-based cleaner wax that does not have any harsh solvents or harsh abrasive cleaners. The mild cleaning properties found in Zymol come from almond meal, which is the same as almond flour ground from the seed itself (not the shells). The waxing and polishing properties come from carnauba wax. Therefore, it is all natural and excellent to use on the finish of your Singer Featherweight.

Sidenote: If the clearcoat has worn off or been removed from your Featherweight machine, and your decals are exposed, be very gentle with any cleaning and waxing.  Exposed decals can sometimes be the wild card depending on what they have been exposed to over the years.  If the decals are silver it has no clearcoat left in that area, so proceed very carefully. A light coat of wax will help to keep them from diminishing further but too much friction from rubbing too hard isn’t good either. You need to find a happy medium in being gentle but still giving it a good wax to protect it. If you do nothing, then sewing with fabric, pins, etc. will cause the decals to wear faster. 

Because Zymol has a cleaning property, any oily residue will come off in a brownish tint.  But, if you get a nice shine with one coat of wax then the color of your rag is not that important.  We have used Zymol for years and years but other dealers have their own preferences.  Any wax that is a high quality/high content carnauba wax should work well.

Start by putting a drop of Zymol in the center of your all cotton rag. Old T-Shirts that are 100% cotton work great for this. Start polishing in a small circular motion being careful to avoid getting wax into areas that it should not be — such as the crack around the needle plate, in screw holes, or in the gap around the Singer emblem, etc.

When you have applied the polish in a swirling motion for about 10 seconds, then immediately take another clean rag and wipe off the visible wax. Then take a 3rd clean rag and buff to a clear shine.  If the machine has not been polished in a long time or you end up with swirl marks, apply a second coat.

You want to polish one small area at a time, especially until you get accustomed to how quickly the polish dries and how quickly you need to get it wiped off. You do not want to apply the polish and leave it on to dry to come back to later. It would be difficult to buff off and would probably need to be rewaxed if that happens.

Zymol can be found at many auto parts stores and one large bottle should be enough to polish the average automobile three to four times.

We try to answer all questions that come to the shop, so if you have a project machine that you are working on, please feel free to contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

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