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How to Clean a Motor Armature

by Terry Hollis

The armature of an electric motor, also known as the motor rotor, is a cylinder with a shaft running straight down the middle that is rotated by a magnetic field. Once the rotation has gained momentum, torque is created to drive the engine. Armatures can come with brushes or not, and cleaning an armature is an important part of keeping the engine running properly. Armatures can be found in everything from washing machines to sewing machines to model trains. Knowing how to recognize and clean one will help you get more than your money's worth from your appliance.


Locate the armature. Unplug your appliance and remove the paneling that covers the motor with a screwdriver. The motor armature is a long cylindrical steel unit with slots along the sides, and a pole going right through the middle. For smaller appliances like sewing machines, the armature should be visible when you remove the motor end plate. If you can, remove the motor from the appliance, but don't disconnect any of the wiring. If your armature has brushes, check those for dust build up.


Clean any brushes with a toothbrush. To clean the slots of your armature, which will probably be caked with carbon, remove the wire coils inside of the armature and the insulation that covers the slots. Wipe down the coils with a cloth dampened with industrial cleaning solvent. If necessary, scrape built up insulation from around the slots. File in between the slots with a small file to remove the remaining materials.


Lubricate the armature, because the solvent will remove most of the oil from the surface of the components. Your engine's armature will have bearings in the shaft; oil between each bearing, being careful not to use too much. You should not see any pooling. Once this is done, reassemble your armature and motor, then run your appliance to allow the oil to circulate.


  • Automotive carburetor cleaner can be used to remove carbon.


  • Do not use steel wool; the threads can cause a short in your appliance.
  • Using alkali solutions like soda will damage your insulation the longer you use your appliance.

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About the Author

Terry Hollis began writing professionally in 1999. His work has appeared in "Dance Insider Magazine," on and for short story readings at Emory University in Atlanta, where he now lives. He received his Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Morehouse College.

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