How to Clean Your Spinning Wheel

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Does your wooden spinning wheel need a bit of a bath? Maybe you’ve picked up an antique wheel that needs some love, or you’ve been spinning oily wool? Spinning is naturally a dusty, fiber-y activity, so it’s a great idea to look over your wheel a couple times a year (perhaps more if you spin a lot) and give it a nice wipe-down to keep it working well and looking great.

Here are my tips for cleaning your spinning wheel to maximize its beauty and longevity!

Photo via Morguefile

Work bottom-up

If your wheel is very dusty or dirty, spread an old sheet, towel or newspaper over the floor to protect it — or work outside if you have the space! Remove the bobbin and drive band, and the mother-of-all and flyer if you can.

Working from the bottom up, begin by wiping down the whole wheel with a soft lint-free cloth, like a microfiber towel or cut-up t-shirt. If there’s a lot of dust, you can use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to carefully go over the larger areas.

If there are any sticky, gummy, or stubborn areas that need cleaning, you can dampen the cloth with plain water or a bit of diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to wipe it up. Make sure to dry the area with a clean cloth afterward.

Photo via Laura Chau

Places to pay extra attention to:

  • Wipe down the flyer, including the shaft, to remove fiber and old oil. If you need to clean or replace any flyer hooks, remove and rethread them carefully so you don’t split the wood.
  • Use slightly damp pipe cleaners or cotton swabs to get inside the orifice and clean that out, making sure to dry it thoroughly afterwards.
  • A toothbrush is great for cleaning the grooves where the drive band and brake bands sit.
  • While you're at it, wipe down all your bobbins and use a pipe cleaner to get inside.
  • Don’t forget to turn it over to get under the treadles! A lot of dust and fiber can accumulate under there.
  • Leather parts should be wiped down and rubbed with an appropriate leather conditioner.
  • Compressed air can help clear out anywhere you can’t reach.

Photo via Laura Chau

Caring for the wood

If you have access to the manual for your wheel, take a look and see what it suggests in terms of waxing and oiling. Different spinning wheel makers will have different opinions on what sorts of products to use on the wood.

If your wheel is unfinished (bare wood), it’s definitely a good idea to coat it with something to protect and nourish the wood. Don’t use products that contain silicone though, or furniture polish meant for varnished items. Beeswax paste made for butcher-block and cutting boards is great for spinning wheels! Apply the wax sparingly with a clean cloth, then buff it out well until the wood is nice and shiny. Avoid the grooves for the drive and brake bands, or your bands will slip!

Once you’ve wiped down your wheel and shined up the wood, oil the moving parts and put everything back together. Check to make sure all the joints are moving freely, and enjoy your lovely clean spinning wheel!

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How to Clean Your Spinning Wheel