Cleaning cases by hand?


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ChiefPilot
October 15, 2005, 11:00 PM
This is a naive question perhaps, but how do people clean their brass by hand? I've seen doing so referenced in several other posts. Folks don't actually sit down with a toothbrush and soapy water to clean each individual case by hand, do they?

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Fumbler
October 16, 2005, 12:49 AM
This is what I do because I'm too poor to buy a tumbler:

-mix half water half white vinegar, and a drop or two of soap in an old pickle jar
-put brass in, swirl around
-wait 5-10 min swirling occasionally, then take brass out
-wash brass in a bowl or bucket with hot soapy water and rinse well with hot water
-shake water off brass and let dry

I dont wash each by hand, just push them around a little in the bucket.
If I full length sized some rifle brass (requires lube) then I'll sometimes brush the necks with soapy water and rinse well to clean it out.

The vinegar/water mix will work most of the fouling off of the brass. Some say it weakens the brass but I havent noticed.
It can make the brass turn just a hint pinkish.

Lupinus
October 16, 2005, 12:59 AM
When they turn pinkish that is because one of the componates of the brass is leeching out. I forget what it is exactly. Zinc I think but don't quote me on that. But when cases turn pinkish it is because the alloy is changing properties by having one of its parts leeched out.

Smokey Joe
October 16, 2005, 03:03 AM
The Lee Engineering folks say to use their Zip Trim to clean brass--chuck the case into the Zip Trim, and pull the string while holding a piece of Skotchbrite pad against the case w/the other hand. Should work, I guess, but seems kind of putzy to me. Anyhow, that would be a safe--and sort of quick--way to clean brass by hand.

Fumbler--ANY chemical strong enough to dissolve fouling from the case, is strong enough to affect the brass. If you don't load heavy-duty maxed out loads you may get away with this with no ill effects, but I wouldn't count on it. You can wash the worst of the crud off with soap and water, but I'd use nothing stronger. That's why most people use a tumbler. Do you have a bud you could go halfies with on buying one?

Come to think of it, most BP cartridge shooters wash their cases right away at the range with soap and water.

The Bushmaster
October 16, 2005, 12:10 PM
I use a similar mix of water, not as much white vinegar, dish soap and a little salt. The only places that I noticed pink showing up is anywhere there is a little corrosion in the first place. Not where there is no corrosion. If you just tumble the cases and there is a little corrosion on them you still have the same problem. The same weak spot. I have loaded these cases hot for my Ruger many times and have had no problem. It seems that the zinc/copper loss (pink color) is where the loss is in progress already...:scrutiny:

BruceB
October 16, 2005, 12:26 PM
The easiest, simplest, cheapest method I've ever used is simply putting the cases in a cloth or mesh bag of some description, and running them through a normal wash cycle in an automatic washer. Spread them on a towel or some-such to air dry afterwards (too noisy, drying them in a clothes dryer!). They will be CLEAN, and even a bit shiny, if they weren't tarnished before the procedure.

I preferred to put the detergent right inside the bag with the cases, when I used cloth mineral-sample bags for the job. I have graduated to a Midway tumbler now, but the washing machine will work. (I never tried running them along with clothing in the washer, but actually that might work all right, too.)

The Bushmaster
October 16, 2005, 12:45 PM
BruceB...My wife wants to know if you're still married...:D

Lupinus
October 16, 2005, 03:07 PM
Could be worse

Could bake powder coated engine pieces in the kitchen oven.

BruceB
October 16, 2005, 04:24 PM
Heh..."My wife wants to know if you're still married."

Well, that's a fair question, I reckon.

Considering that our 39th Anniverary arrived last Saturday, I guess she hasn't yet found out ALL the things I've done....

Actually, she's very supportive, has bought me MANY of the best guns I've ever owned (a couple dozen by now, I suppose), and is an active shooter and hunter herself (this, you understand, REALLY limits the type of BS stories I can use as excuses for "whatever").

Last Saturday she gave me a new CED Millennium chronograph, which I needed badly since my PACT seems to be expiring from old age and over-use. One more example of her listening to what I tell her about needs, wants, attitudes etc. I do try to do the same for her.

She DOES know about the cases-in-the-washer, and also the heat-treating of my cast bullets in the oven.....

The Bushmaster
October 16, 2005, 05:51 PM
L O L Congrats on your 39th. I have a total of 39 years. 14 with the first one and 25 with this one. This one spoils me rotten...

ChiefPilot
October 16, 2005, 06:05 PM
Thanks for all the replies - I have been considering how to get into reloading and figured that I would have to just go for a tumbler and such, but it seems apparent that I don't need to do that! I was a little put off by the idea of cleaning each case individually.

Although I don't have the equipment yet, I have collected perhaps 400-500 empties over the last couple of months in anticipation of reloading them. I'll try some of these methods prior to ordering the tumbler.

Thanks!

Fumbler
October 16, 2005, 10:19 PM
No, I don't have anyone I can split the cost of a tumbler with, but I did recently start my first real job out of college, so I will be getting one soon.:)

As far as harming the brass with vinegar, the only time it has turned pink on me is when I left it in for 30 minutes.
Every single bit of fouling floated off then and I decided that yes, if that was the way I did it then it was probably too long in the wash and if I cleaned like that every time then my brass would probably weaken.
That's why I limit it to 10 minutes now.

So far, I've been through 5 reloads of 308 Win with that same batch of brass that I let sit too long.
That includes 3 neck sizings and 2 full length resizings and I have not found any problems.

A lot of people say acid washing brass (vinegar is acidic of course) is a bad thing, but there are many who do it and to this day I have never heard anyone claim first hand experience to shorter brass life.

The Bushmaster
October 17, 2005, 09:37 PM
And there ya have it...Thanks Fumbler...:)

bakert
October 17, 2005, 09:58 PM
I only load for handguns. I have two tumblers now but don't really use them that much. Just wipe the empties off with an old towel then resizing with a carbide sizer is clean enough for most of my shooting. Friend of mine does the same thing with rifle cases before lubing and resizing(regular dies)). Been doing this for years with no problems at all. Sometimes old or scrounged brass takes more work to clean and then a tumbler or fine steel wool can be used. Washing machine? Not if you had my wife! If your'e a fanatic about shiny brass there's various solutions as mentioned but for me life is too short for this. I'd rather be shooting.

The Bushmaster
October 17, 2005, 10:19 PM
My wife told me that "I wash your levi's, your skivies and you want me to wash your what in my washing machine??? I don't think so"...I believe that was the end of that subject.:o
And you're right, Bakert, I vote for shiny brass....:D

Smokey Joe
October 18, 2005, 12:05 AM
It strikes me as a VERY poor idea to wash brass in a washing machine that is used for your clothing. Brass comes with a certain amount of lead residue on and especially inside the cases. This is not from the bullet, the lead of which may never touch the case, but from the lead styphnate used in the making of modern primers.

Mercury fulminate was the old compound used for primers, but that left metallic mercury inside the cases, which attacked the brass vigorously, not to mention that metallic mercury is not good for human beings. These were the old so-called corrosive primers. Then they changed to lead styphnate, the residue of which does NOT attack the brass, therefore the brass lasts longer. But if you wash it out in a washing machine, you get a washing machine contaminated with lead.

Were you to then wash your underwear in that machine, you'd be getting lead in your pants, which would not please your boss :D but far worse, some could be absorbed into your body. Lead in the body does nasty things to the central nervous system.

Frankly, I don't know exactly how much of a danger there is here. But I do NOT intend to play the guinea pig and find out.

One of the contributory factors to the fall of the Roman Empire was lead in the Roman drinking water, leached out of the lead water-supply pipes. As time passed, the Romans made worse and worse decisions about the running and defense of the Empire. The lead built up over the years in their brains.

Anyhow, I'm solidly with Bushmaster's wife on this one. Fired brass in the washing machine. It's a Bad Thing.

Third_Rail
October 18, 2005, 12:28 AM
One of the contributory factors to the fall of the Roman Empire was lead in the Roman drinking water, leached out of the lead water-supply pipes.

Not quite. It was the fall of the aristocracy, not the general population. The general population couldn't afford the good wine, nor the lead amphorae to keep it in and make it sweet.

BruceB
October 18, 2005, 01:01 AM
Lead Poisoning from your WASHING MACHINE????

That, sir, is one of the best examples I've EVER seen of the modern bliss-ninny approach to handloading. Some even espouse the wearing of surgical gloves and masks for handloading, and your response to this brass-washing procedure is just about as ridiculous.

Did you ever LOOK in a washing machine after the cycle had been completed? HOW MUCH WATER did you see? Where do you think all those bad ol' styphnates WENT? Are they really hiding in nooks and crannies, waiting to leap onto one's Fruit-of-the Looms? I don't think so....

There's a well-known, but very-little-publicised saying in industry (political correctness, y'know) to the effect that, "The solution to pollution is dilution". In the example of cases in a washing machine, there are MANY gallons of water being pumped through the machine in the course of a cycle. The detergent-bearing water is very effective at dissolving many chemical compounds, including such things as primer residues. That "polluted" water is then DISCARDED, pumped out of the machine and the house, and replaced with a complete new load of CLEAN water, which then takes away not only any slight residue which MIGHT be on the brass, but ALSO the remaining tiny amounts of the detergent-bearing wash water that MAY still be in the machine, and which is thus HEAVILY diluted with the clean rinse water. The chance of ANY trace, however minor, of lead styphnate or any other harmful compound remaining in the machine is infinitesimal.

I seriously doubt the Romans were drinking their clothes-washing water, any more than we do ('course, they didn't have much in the way of washing machines, either).

Sheesh. What about all that "horrid lead vapor" in our oven, from heat-treating bullets?? Same answer...it IS NOT a problem, because there's not enough heat to allow vapor formation, and I DO know, understand and take precautions for REAL hazards, not imaginary ones. After almost forty years of intensive bullet-casting and several system-lead-level tests later, my body lead reading is BELOW what is considered "normal", as it has been since I started casting my own bullets in 1967.

The Bushmaster
October 18, 2005, 02:37 AM
Man...I'll tell ya. This lead thing really fires people up, But I love a good argument. Note...I said a "good" argument....Everyone go to your corners and come out with facts...:D

Hi BruceB...:)

M-Rex
October 18, 2005, 03:03 AM
The easiest, simplest, cheapest method I've ever used is simply putting the cases in a cloth or mesh bag of some description, and running them through a normal wash cycle in an automatic washer. Spread them on a towel or some-such to air dry afterwards (too noisy, drying them in a clothes dryer!). They will be CLEAN, and even a bit shiny, if they weren't tarnished before the procedure.

I preferred to put the detergent right inside the bag with the cases, when I used cloth mineral-sample bags for the job. I have graduated to a Midway tumbler now, but the washing machine will work. (I never tried running them along with clothing in the washer, but actually that might work all right, too.)

I'll be darned. I'm trying this tomorrow.

HSMITH
October 18, 2005, 09:55 AM
Take a bore brush, chuck it in your drill motor, push a case on the brush and use the drill to spin it while you polish with something non-acidic and non-ammonia. GLEAMING cases are the result, and it goes pretty quickly.

Cleaning cases beyond just wiping them off is pretty much useless, but clean pretty reloads are hard to resist.

Poodleshooter
October 21, 2005, 06:22 PM
The only thing I ever clean by hand are primer pockets when the tumbler doesn't clean them out well enough. I've been having problems with some Winchester LP primers lately due to my getting lazy and not cleaning the pockets sufficiently A second strike on the primer usually does the trick.

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