Will lighter fluid ruin old bluing?


December 24, 2006, 07:54 AM
I'm new to this forum so I appologize if this is in the wrong place.

I have a number of old rifles and shotguns that belonged to my grandfathers. As an avid hunter when I was a kid, I shot most of them and lightly cleaned them periodically over the years. As an adult, I've moved around and subsequently negelected them.

As a result, two of my single shot shotguns are a little gummed up from what appears to be old yellowed hoppes oil. The lever to break the barrel open is gummed up as well as the triggers. I've heard that you can use lighter fluid to remove this, followed by a new lube (I just purchased some hoppes elite products).

Any help would be appreciated.

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December 24, 2006, 08:00 AM
I can't say that i have ever heard of using lighter fluid related to gun cleaning. If you value the guns at all, i would recommend that you get a cleaner/degreaser designed especially for guns before experimenting with an unknown. It would be a shame to ruin something that hopefully means so much.

December 24, 2006, 08:05 AM
the meaning of these guns to me is why I'm asking before doing. I'm not in a position to pay a gun smith to clean these, whoever, I want to do the right thing.

December 24, 2006, 08:06 AM
Lighter fluid would probably break it loose and you could re-oil it but spray cleaner, even carburetor cleaner works better. Remove the wood and spray clean it, then re-oil it with a good grade of oil.

December 24, 2006, 08:10 AM
Doesn't hurt a thing, except maybe the wood. I've used Zippo fluid for removing cosmoline, price tag glue ( :uhoh: ), gum, gunk, and other stuff. Just oil it afterwards, and don't worry. :)

December 24, 2006, 08:13 AM
They make degreasers just for guns. S&W even has one in a spray can. But i doubt lighter fluid would hurt bluing.

Larry Ashcraft
December 24, 2006, 08:23 AM
Lighter fluid (naphtha) won't hurt a thing. There may be better choices, as said above, but if lighter fluid is what you have, go ahead and use it.

December 24, 2006, 08:23 AM
I'm not in a position to pay a gun smith to clean these, whoever, I want to do the right thing.

No need to, everything that you could possibly need and more can be had here:


Spend a little time searching the web and you can find dozens of sites/articles on the subject.

December 24, 2006, 08:53 AM
...I use it all the time...It will remove ALL the lubrication...You MUST re-lube 'cause it'll be dry as a bone ;)
Make sure to protect any wood or plastic...

December 24, 2006, 09:08 AM
I have read several threads of guns "gummed up" by WD-40 left to sit for extended periods of time.

The advice usually given is to apply new WD-40 to loosen up the old. Several coats and some time may be required. Once everything is freed up, then throw the WD-40 away and use Hoppes, Eezox, whatever your choice of gun claening supplies.

Please do not use carb cleaner. It will damage plastic (polymers), rubber (o-rings, etc) and sometimes the finishes appllied to wood.

Use brake cleaner if you want the effects of GunScrubber at half the price. Will not harm plastic, rubber or finishes (although I would still not intentionally get it on a wood stock...)

Best regards, Rich

December 24, 2006, 12:04 PM
I have used carb cleaner on all my guns for 30 years with no ill effects. The poster is talking about two single barrell shotguns. You just remove the wood and have at it, then re-lube and enjoy. Polymer is another story but I'm not sure the carb cleaner would harm it. Never tried it. Been used for years on carburetors with rubber gaskets and "O" rings galore. Overcautious people have said don't use gas with added ethanol, have used that for years too.

December 24, 2006, 12:38 PM
Lighter fluid works very nicely to flush out triggers and bolts, and is pretty much all the little internal parts need for lubrication. Make sure you use heavy grease on the bolt lugs tho...

George S.
December 24, 2006, 01:53 PM
Non-chlorinated brake parts cleaner is inexpensive and will remove dried-up grease, excessive oil, and even cosmoline. I would remove any wood (stock,grips, handguards, etc.) before spraying it on the parts to be cleaned.

Use it outside or in the garage as it is pretty stinky; it's flammable so keep it away from open flame or electric heating units.

It dries fast but you can use a clean dry rag to wipe away any excess. It will remove all grase and oil so you will have to re-apply lubricants at wear/friction points.

December 24, 2006, 02:50 PM
At the local gunshop that I spend way too much time in, the gunsmith/owner of the shop's parts cleaner tank is full of (lighterfluid), naptha. He's been doing it this way about fifty years, and no problems so far...

December 24, 2006, 02:58 PM
carb cleaner can mess with things. melt plastics, ect. lighter fluid is far safer.

my opinion is that the best way to un gum a gun is with hoppes9. then oil it. hoppes leaves the metal too dry for my taste. wd-40 will un gum a gun too but its too light for my taste as well.

December 24, 2006, 06:25 PM
The lighter fluid will work fine as a mild degreaser and won't hurt a thing. WD40 is a great product for what it is made for, Water Displacing. When you come in from hunting in the rain nothing is better to lift the water off the surfaces of your guns. But, a long term protectant it ain't, nor is it much of a lubricant. All oils are liquid and liquids will evaporate eventually, the degree of goo it leaves behind is what causes our problems

There are precious few, if any, oils or lubes manufactored for guns. They are either repackaged industrial oils/greases or mixtures of those. Ed's Red (do a web search for how to make it) is as good a mixture for cleaning and protecting as anything packaged in small cans or bottles and sold for big bucks by the ounce in gun stores.

Simplist effective degreasing product is stoddard solvent, sold as oderless mineral spirits in paint stores and Wal Mart, etc. Oiling afterwards with automotive Automatic Transmission Fluid is great for seasonal protection and lubing triggers - ATF penatrates, won't dry for months and doesn't gum things up when it does.

Marine greases work well as a heavy gun lube and great rust protection. Long term storage is perhaps best done with Rust Inhibiting Grease (RIG). Failing that, use OMC or Mercury outboard's "High Pressure" grease. These greases are both slippery and totally water-proof. Clean and oil the weapon before its next use if you coat the bore with grease.

Spay carb or brake cleaners are great for cleaning any oil or grease gummed-up things such as (steel) pistol actions or rifle triggers after disassembly; don't let that stuff get on your gunstock's plastic or varnish-like finish! And, after cleaning, all steel will be at the mercy of any moisture so be sure to lube and protect it soon - with ATF!

December 24, 2006, 07:25 PM
By far the best way to clean any firearm is to dissassemble it and submerse the parts in HOT soapy water followed by a VERY light coating of oil. The urban myth about WD40 gumming up firearms goes back 35/40 years when a batch that had been stored in used (and uncleaned) varnish tanks reached the market and caused some problems. I will only use (personally and when I was a professional smith) Remoil or WD40 for firearm lubrication. I always dried the parts and gave them a light spray of lube then allowed the carrier agent to evaporate before reassembly. The result is a perfectly cleaned firearm that will not attract dirt and dust and will remain gum free.

December 24, 2006, 07:30 PM
I have never seen WD-40 hurt a firearm finish or gum anything up.

It works well for removing sticker goo and some carbon fouling. I don't use it to lube anything but it makes a great cleaner for light stuff.

December 25, 2006, 01:41 PM
By far the best way to clean any firearm is to dissassemble it and submerse the parts in HOT soapy water followed by a VERY light coating of oil.How about putting them in a dish washer? Would that work?

Heat dry or non-heat dry if the dishwasher thing works?

Sleeping Dog
December 25, 2006, 03:01 PM
If you have the metal separate from the wood, you can use a spray can of brake cleaner. Carb cleaner seems to leave some kind of oily residue, brake cleaner does not. You have to grease or oil the parts afterwards.

December 25, 2006, 03:40 PM
Use mineral spirits.

Carl N. Brown
December 25, 2006, 07:48 PM
WD40 is OK for anything you can wipe off.

However, I feel that I did gum up a Remington 700 striker
by just spraying the bolt down and wiping off the outside.
The problem took a year or so to show up and was
solved by taking the bolt appart and wiping the striker
and spring well before reassembly.

Dec 16 I sprayed some WD40 in a metal cup and left
it sitting. I checked today Dec25 and it was the consistency of
warm honey. I suspect as the solvent evaporates, it will
thicken further.

WD40 is like a wax dissolved in a penetrating solvent.
It is a good cheap readily available cleaner/protectant
for parts that can be wiped off. I would not spray it into
any complex mechanism that cannot be wiped.

December 25, 2006, 11:39 PM
I have never thought about that. I already have wash tanks set up for guns so I wouldn't try it myself and would suggest a very strong relationship with the wife for anyone who does.

December 26, 2006, 12:14 AM
Additional note about the famous WD 40 I read in Popular Science some years back. First, after using it on my guns for a few years for general protection, I heard from somewhere (?) it is not the best agent for this purpose, because it is not a rust preventative, as may be widely believed. The "WD" stands for "Water Displacement"; the formula was discovered accidently by someone looking for something else circa 80 (?) years ago. I'm sure the Internet offers better information than my puny, shrivled memory. And finally, it is not good for the environment - other products are preferable for firearms preservation. WD 40 melts holes in the sun, inviting attention from interstellar predators.

I am not suggesting any product here; just do the research (much of it available above) and take care of those old fowling pieces! :)


Not to be bragging, but the first time ever I fired a 12 guage, I destroyed the first clay pigeon launched in front of me with 00 buck shot. More luck than skill? Maybe, I don't know, but I'll never forget it.

December 26, 2006, 12:19 AM
Interesting. By the time I finished mine above, several others came on line. Good Thread!:)

1911 guy
December 26, 2006, 01:33 AM
I've used for years and the only bluing with abnormal (?) wear is that on my carry guns from holsters. Naptha, that's what lighter fluid is, will help break gunk loose and wash away crud and oil. This leaves you with a completely unlubricated surface, so lube up with a proper lube before use.

WD-40 is for water displacement only. Ask a mechanic or someone else who knows, not guys who's Grandfathers told them to use WD because it's also good for the gout. Better yet, go to a bike shop and tell them you've been pondering using WD to lube your brake cables. That sissy in bicycle shorts will knock you into next week.

There's a link to follow on another recent thread about lubrication. The guy who wrote it has probably forgotten more about the properties of lubricants than most of us will ever know and deals with the WD and "what lube is best for..." questions pretty well.

December 26, 2006, 04:04 PM
WD-40 works because the main secret oil in it is actually fish oil. Very penetrateing, and it will catch you a few more fish it you spray it on your lures.

December 26, 2006, 05:02 PM
you think WD 40 has any value whatsoever, buy a can and I'll give you five bucks for every time you find the word lubricate on that WD 40 can. They got their a** sued off many years ago for claiming that this junk "cleans, lubricates and penetrates" (CLP anyone?) it is ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS as anything more than a Water Dispersant.

December 26, 2006, 08:24 PM
+1 on the hot, soapy water! If that didn't work, (and I strongly believe it will), then I would try the mineral spirits approach.

Lighter fluid would work, but it is flammable, and I would rather avoid that.

Hot, soapy water was the cleaner of choice in the 19th and early 20th century. How we ever got away from that I have not been able to figure out. Some times it just seems like people want to go backwards instead of forwards.

Brad Johnson
December 27, 2006, 02:24 PM
WD-40 is a kerosene base with small quantities of mineral spirits and other "stuff" in it. You can brew up a reasonable facsimile by taking a quart of kerosene and adding a cup of Marvel Mystery Oil.

For the purposes of cleaning your guns it will work fine. Remove the stock, hose down, and attack with a nylon brush. It should make short work of the offending crud. Any type of petroleum-based solvent - including the the kerosene base in WD-40 - will function well as a non-corrosive cleaner that will dissolve away greasy gunk (unlike water which, as everyone knows, will not dissolve grease unless loaded with detergent, and will cause unprotected parts to rust quickly). Once the guns are free of gunk, hose them down with CLP, FP10, or some other protectant, and wipe down with a clean cloth.


I would never use WD40 to lubricate/protect a firearm unless it is an emergency and it's the only thing available. Even then at first chance I'd clean the gun thoroughly and lubricate it with something more suited for firearms.

I would stay completely away from brake cleaner - even the non-chlorinated kind - for many reasons. It's made for the power-cleaning of greasy, unfinished metal, not gun parts. It's simply too aggressive for me to be comfortable hosing down my cherished Springfield wit it. Even with made-for-guns zero residue cleaner I still refuse to use it on anything unless I can pull all the plastic and wooden parts off the gun. The mildest of these cleaners can still deform or dissolve some gun-related plastics. They will also quickly strip just about every known varnish or laquer finish from wood as well as disssolving the resins and oils from unvarnished wood, raising the grain and possibly causing cracking problems.


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