Cleaning fusible glue off sewing machine needles

30 07 2009

Following on from my earlier post about cleaning fusible glue off a Teflon-coated iron, here’s the problem I had with gunked up sewing machine needles and how I solved it with the help of a couple of people on the Etsy forums.


I’ve been doing some fast free motion quilting on a piece that’s made up of stiff interfacing onto which is fused a piece of fabric. I’ve gunked up (technical term!) 7 sewing machine needles already this evening.

The speed of the needle going through the layers seems to be re-melting the glue on the fusible and sticking to the needle, ultimately causing the thread to snap and the eye and shaft of the needle to become sticky and full of sticky gluey gunk.

How do I clean the gunk off these needles? I’ve tried an orange-based cleaner (which helped to an extent), and am now trying acetone. Any other suggestions?

These needles are perfectly fine otherwise.


These options were suggested:

  • Sewer’s Aid: “If you put a drop on your needle before sewing through fusible it even prevents the build-up”
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soak in orange cleaner then wipe off
  • Soak in orange cleaner and use a scourer to wipe off
  • Holy Cow (degreaser)
  • Nail polish remover (acetone)
  • Rubbing with a wet rag
  • Scraping off with a fingernail
  • Acetone
  • Put under a flame and wipe clean

What I did while waiting for all these suggestions to come through:

  1. Soaked the needles in acetone overnight.
  2. Wiped down and then scraped with a fingernail and a pin.
  3. There was still a bit of gunk in the eyes and the slot along the shafts of these needles, so I put them in one of those little sort of ‘sonic’ things for cleaning jewellery, then scraped them again. That pretty much got all the gunk off them.
  4. I’ve also ordered some Sewer’s Aid from the local fabric store…

The next day I discovered something else: Leave the fused fabric alone for some hours before sewing it!! I left another piece for 24 hours before starting to free motion quilt it and had no problems with glue getting on the needle, whereas the first piece that caused the grief I was sewing within an hour of fusing. I shouldn’t be so keen and eager!

Cleaning fusible glue off a Teflon coated iron

30 07 2009

Over time, I get a gunky glue build-up of glue from fusible web on the sole plate of my Teflon iron. I try hard to use an applique ironing sheet (which prevents LOTS of fusible disasters!), but sometimes the glue is almost invisible and before I know it, it has stuck to the bottom of the iron. I also use distilled water for the steam in my iron. I never use the tap water because of all the chemicals in it. It can clog up your iron something terrible.

Today I had a spare 30 minutes, so it was time to tackle the problem…

Teflon is not stainless steel, so using harsh abrasives and scrubbers is not the answer. Off to the internet, where I didn’t find many answers. However, I found some, so I thought I’d collate them here for future reference for me and anyone else looking for a solution.

I’ll try each option over time and report their effectiveness here. But first, some options using things I already had in the house (Note — except where stated, your iron must be COLD):

  • Orange oil-based glue remover (De-Solv-It): Smells great, but required a lot of elbow grease and still didn’t remove it in a timely manner. Perhaps if I had more patience…
  • Xylene-based glue remover (Goof Off): Use in a well-ventilated situation with NO possibility of sparks or flames. Highly flammable and toxic to the respiratory system — you’ve been warned! Like De-Solv-It, it worked to a degree, but required a lot of elbow grease and didn’t remove it as quickly as I’d hoped.
  • Acetone (cheap nail polish remover): Same as for the xylene-based cleaner — worked to a degree, but required a lot of elbow grease and didn’t remove it as quickly as I’d hoped.
  • Damp cloth: I wet an old kitchen sponge with just water and squeezed out the excess, then laid it over the sole plate holding it down with elastic bands (you could put it on the bench and just put the iron on it!). After about 15 minutes, I removed the sponge and used my thumbnail to scrape off the residue. It worked pretty well! If you don’t have longish fingernails, perhaps use a credit card or a piece of thin, hard plastic or wood (like a pop stick, orange stick or clean satay stick) on an angle to gently scrape off the residue.
  • Nylon scourer: I took the iron to the kitchen, turned it on to the highest setting, put it on steam, held it over the kitchen sink and pressed the steam button several times. Then I turned off and unplugged the iron. While it was still pretty hot, I used a nylon kitchen scourer to remove the residue (I used a scourer  with a sponge back — one of those thin ones would probably let too much heat through and burn your fingers!) I don’t know whether it was all the other things I’d done, but this worked really well. Next time, I’ll just try this without using any of the other techniques first to see how well it really works.
  • The winner!!! Cheap, easy, and it works a treat!! This from Zzazz on Etsy: I use a soft brush, like an old toothbrush, and some white vinegar suitable for cleaning. It’s amazing what comes off the bottom. Rinse with warm water and dry with a clean towel. It should be good to go after that.

I found these suggestions on the internet but I haven’t tried any of them yet:

  • Baking soda paste: Make a paste of baking soda and water, and scrub with a washcloth. Requires a bit of elbow grease and you have to clean out the steam holes when you’re done. See
  • Bounce dryer sheets: This tip wasn’t specifically for a Teflon sole plate, but I can’t see that a dryer sheet would hurt Teflon. Wet a new dryer sheet (Bounce brand is recommended, though it’s possible other dryer sheets may work as well), wipe it over the iron and you’re done. I suspect this would work very well for a just-created gunk of glue, not for a build-up of some weeks. See
  • Use an iron cleaner made specifically for Teflon irons.
  • Salt and waxed paper: I think this solution is specifically for irons WITHOUT a Teflon sole plate so read the information on the web forum I’ve linked to BEFORE trying this. I have not tested this and offer no guarantees for its efficacy on a Teflon sole plate. You’ve been warned. See
  • Tin foil (!) and other options: A wide variety of solutions is listed here:

Of course, avoiding the problem in the first place is the best solution so use an applique ironing sheet (or baking paper if you don’t have one), clean off the sheet between each use with a scrap piece of cloth, and have a scrap piece of cloth an old plastic card (like  a credit card) near the iron to scrape it immediately you realise that you’ve got fusible stuck to it.

If only I practiced what I preach! 😉