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Scrubbing My Rusty Singer 12 Treadle, Podcast #66

Hello My Quilting Friends! I have a quick podcast for you today, filmed as I was up to my elbows with apple cider vinegar and scrubbing the rust from my Singer 12 treadle parts. Enjoy watching this podcast episode here:

Or you can listen or download the podcast to your computer here:


Quick links to things shared in this podcast:

How to Quilt Pinstripe Matrix Maze

Marvelous Mosaic Quilting Designs

Hello My Quilting Friends Podcast

More Podcast Episodes

Cleaning the Singer 12 Treadle Machine

Cleaning the Rusty Parts of a Singer 12 TreadleThis vintage sewing machine might be over 140 years old, but it only cost me $60 so I'm loving the experience and experiment of taking it apart, cleaning all the pieces, and putting it back together again.

In this episode I talked a lot about restoring the Singer 12 which has involved 6 gallons of apple cider vinegar! While filming I was scrubbing off all the lingering rust and stopping the chemical reaction with baking soda.

The next step is to polish all the smooth pieces with Blue Magic Metal Polish. All the pieces that need painting will be sprayed with Rustoleum Hammered Finish black spray paint.

Just to showcase the difference in the pieces: here's the bobbin winding mechanism for the Singer 27 before polishing:

Cleaning a rusty treadle singer 12 machine

I carefully took all the pieces apart and polished each separately:

cleaning a rusty singer 27 bobbin winder

And here's how it turned out!

cleaning a singer 27 bobbin winder

I love seeing the transformation of all these pieces. It's a lot of work, but so rewarding to see the pieces looking brand new and shiny silver.

The Singer 12 is still a long way from looking this good, but after this scrubbing I'm one step closer!

The materials I'm using are very simple:

Apple cider vinegar - soak the rusty pieces for 1-3 days to loosen and lift the rust

Blue Magic Metal Polish - make sure to use this in a well ventilated area with gloves! 

Rustoleum Hammered Finish black spray paint - I wish I was being more gutsy with a brighter color, but the original machine was black so I feel like it needs to be repainted black. If I do this again I'm going red or white!


Hi Megan – I have a family hook up on information as my Dad was a metal worker and machinist. He has lots of experience with machines so was able to guide me through cleaning up this machine. If your machine is super rusty, a soak in apple cider vinegar might be in order. Unfortunately I never got this machine running because it was just too old and in very bad shape.

Leah Day,

You did an amazing job with this! Did you document at all how you took it apart and put it back together? I’m trying to find that information, preferably with pictures or a video, but can’t find anything really useful anywhere on wubwubwub. Mine is an old 1892 Singer 28K, but its winder looks really similar to yours. Except that mine is phenomenally rusty. Just as phenomenally, it still has some movement so I’m pretty sure if I can just get it apart, de-rust it, and get it back together again it will work. If you found the info on how to do it somewhere, could you please point me to it? Or if you’re one of those really clever clogs who can do 3D puzzles in her head and worked it out for yourself, do you think you could help us lesser mortals facing the same task, please? Thank you and regards… Megan :-D

Megan Mills,

Hi Kerry – I believe there’s a newer needle that can be used as a replacement for the Singer 12 needles. Run some searches and see what you can find. If not, you can find just about anything on Ebay or Etsy these days – even 140+ year old needles!

Leah Day,

Hi Marcia – I definitely do sleep – every night! Just keep in mind that this is what I do for a business to support my family so I don’t work a job and then come home and clean treadles, quilt, and make videos. I do work a LOT, but I try to keep it balanced with play, family time, and good old fashioned staring at the sky daydreaming.

Leah Day,

Such fun.
I don’t have a Singer 12 (yet!) but have 2 transverse shuttle handcrank machines that were German origin – even though they were for the British market. One has the most gorgeous wooden lid but sadly whoever found the items prised the lid off and damaged the locks so I have to carry them from underneath. One has a steam sailing ship and the other has mother of pearl roses – so pretty.
The only problem is finding the needles as they are no longer made. I think the Singer 12 has different needles too, so may be difficult to source – something for you to hunt next! For the moment I’m happy to play with turning the handles and cleaning the machines. Needles must wait until sometime in the future when I have time to go hunting in those haystacks! And then there are the others that do use the current needles . . . yayyy playtime!

Your machine will be so lovely when you finish – can’t wait to see.

Kerry ,

I don’t know how you do all you do. You must never sleep!! LOL You always have such interesting videos. I did your sea oats pattern & it looks really good. Thanks for all you do!

Marcia Baker,

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