Can I Use Sewing Machine Oil On My Bike Chain

Bike Maintenance Basics

Bikes require regular maintenance in order to perform at their optimal level. Chains are one of the most important parts of a bike, and it is very important to keep them well-oiled so that they move smoothly without getting stuck in the gears or slipping off the sprocket. But is it safe to use sewing machine oil on a bike’s chains?
The short answer is no. Sewing machine oil is designed for use on metal surfaces that move quickly against each other and can create a lot of heat and friction. While this may be the case in a bike chain, the oil used on this type of machinery is not well-suited for bike chains, as it does not hold up to the environmental conditions and the wear and tear of the metal used for the chain.

What is the Difference Between Sewing Machine Oil and Bike Chain Oil?

Bike chain oil is specifically formulated for bike maintenance. It contains special additives that allow it to lubricate the chains without being affected by the elements, such as rain, snow, and dirt. The bike chain oil is also able to hold up to the strain that is placed on the chain and will not wear down or leave a greasy residue.
Sewing machine oil is not designed to be used in the same manner. It is meant to lubricate the gears of a sewing machine, which move much faster and with much less friction. The oil used in a sewing machine will not be able to hold up to the same conditions that a bike chain requires, and can actually cause damage to the bike chain over time.

Problems Caused by Using the Wrong Oil

Using the wrong oil can damage bike chains by accelerating corrosion, gumming up links, and wearing down the teeth prematurely. This can make it difficult to shift gears, cause premature wear and tear on the chain, and decrease the lifespan of the chain.
In addition, some sewing machine oils contain ingredients that can strip away any protective coatings that are on the chain. Without this coating, the chain is more likely to rust, increasing the amount of friction, and potentially causing links to become stuck.

The Right Oil for the Job

The best oil for bike chains is specially formulated for the unique conditions that bike riders face, such as temperature extremes and frequent wet/dry cycling. The oil also needs to be able to stand up to the wear and tear that comes from use and has to be resilient to the dust and dirt that can accumulate on bike chains.
Specific bike chain oils can vary in strength and viscosity, depending on the type of bike you own and the environment where you ride. A light weight oil is more suited for off-road riding, while a heavier weight can provide better lubrication for road biking.

DIY Chain Maintenance

For those who don’t want to pay for a professional to do their bike maintenance, it is possible to keep your chains healthy with a few simple steps. First, use a rag to wipe away any built-up dirt, grime, and rust. Then, apply the bike-specific oil in small, targeted bursts on the chain links. Finally, use a pedal to turn the chain and spread the oil along the links.
By following these steps once a month, you can keep your bike chains lubricated, cleaned, and running smooth.

Why a Professional Service?

While it is possible to maintain your bike chains yourself, there are many benefits to having a professional do the work. They have the knowledge and experience to properly maintain the chains and will be able to spot any imperfections or problems that an average rider may miss. Additionally, they will use the proper tools and know the best oil to use for the job.
While the cost of having a professional take care of your bike may be higher than DIY maintenance, it can help to eliminate the worry about whether or not you are using the right oil and tools, or if you are performing the maintenance correctly.


In conclusion, sewing machine oil is not suitable for use on bike chains. Bike-specific chain oil is formulated for the unique environmental factors, strain, and elements that bike riders face, and it is important to use the right oil to ensure that the chain is properly lubricated and can last as long as possible. For those who choose DIY bike maintenance, it is important to be aware of the risks that come with the wrong oil and to follow the correct procedure. But for those who want to ensure their bike is taken care of properly, it may be beneficial to invest in a professional’s services.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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