Handwash brass?


Lucky Strike
January 9, 2009, 08:38 PM
So i'm hopefully going to be loading my first ammunition this weekend.

I've got my Dillon 550B and Lee dies, some once fired 9mm brass, HP38, berry's plated bullets and CCI primers.

one thing i don't have is a tumbler yet though.

Is it ok to just handwash the brass? Obviously a tumbler would be faster and likely do a better job but i don't have the cash right now to buy one and am anxious to start using this stuff i've been collecting over the last 2 months. I'm only going to load up a small batch (like 50 rounds) since it'll be my first time.

Should i use some sort of soap or just warm water and a pipe cleaner?

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January 9, 2009, 09:03 PM
I seldom tumble or wash pistol brass. Unless I have a bunch of range pickups in the mix, and those might have mud or something else in the cases. Then I would tumble.

Washing works fine as a way of removing powder residue. Just add dishwashing soap to the hot water.

I regularly wash rifle brass. To remove the RCBS water soluble lube. I wash the stuff in a plastic sink tub, rinse. I put the rinsed brass in a stainless colander.

Colander and brass goes into the oven at low. I have a couple of oven thermometers; when they read above 210, the brass is dry. I take the colander out and let the stuff cool..

An old reloading book from the 30ís said not to get brass above 437 F. The guy may have had access to brass data, something that I donít, so donít try to heat the stuff fast to dry. Let it take its time in the oven.

Lucky Strike
January 9, 2009, 09:09 PM
great...thanks for the tip

January 9, 2009, 09:24 PM
I have a tumbler but it has never bowled me over with it's brass polishing powers so I hardly bother with it anymore. I give my rifle brass a good rinse in hot water after I'm done prepping them. Water doesn't seem to do much to remove powder fouling but it does remove any lingering sizing lube. I use RCBS lube too and it rinses away easily. I let the cases dry at least 24 hrs over a vent afterwards.

If you're not lubing the cases (carbide dies), I don't think that water will do anything for you.

There are liquid cleaners just for this purpose. Lyman Turbo Case Cleaner for example but I've not tried them. There are probably household cleaners that would work well but I don't know what would be best. It's an interesting question.

.38 Special
January 9, 2009, 09:28 PM
You can also give each case a couple of twists with 0000 steel wool. This would be pretty annoying for more than a handful of cases, though.

Oh, and to address the inevitable comments about how you will wear out cases this way, it has been the standard practice of benchrest shooters for decades, and they reload the same cases dozens of times.

January 9, 2009, 10:27 PM
To remove the RCBS water soluble lube. I wash the stuff in a plastic sink tub, rinse. I put the rinsed brass in a stainless colander.
I have done pretty much the same thing with .223 brass. Hot water rinse and air dry. When I had access to unlimited 170ish degree water it worked great for rinsing off the RCBS Case Lube II.

The Bushmaster
January 9, 2009, 10:29 PM
Spent all that money for the "Blue Kool-ade" And you didn't get a tumbler?

I used to hand clean EACH case before resizing/decapping it. A $50 to $80 tumbler will pay for itself, in labor saved, in a matter of days...

January 9, 2009, 10:39 PM
I've heard of guys putting brass in a nylon mesh laundry bag and running it in the clothes washer, but I haven't tried it. I think I'd want to double-bag it though, just to be safe.

I prefer using a tumbler with walnut media first, then corncob mixed with Nufinish, but I like 'em clean and shiny.

January 9, 2009, 11:38 PM
Laundry detergent, a bit of lemon juice, and swirl around. Let air dry, works just fine either in a tumbler or in the sink. If you're doing this in a tumbler, add cut up scrubbing pads or copper scouring pad into the mix. Shinier then factory :)


January 9, 2009, 11:50 PM
Lucky Strike, Richard Lee in his book MODERN RELOADING wrote cases do not have to be shiny, or cleaned between firing and reloading, but, some reloaders are soo completive, If we are at the range, do not make excuses, clean is one thing, showing off is something else.

F. Guffey

Jim Watson
January 10, 2009, 12:02 AM
I used to hand wash black powder brass, but now I have a tumbler loaded with ceramic media and save a lot of elbow grease.

Iosso makes a kit for washing brass at no great cost, and there are some home mixes involving vinegar, citric acid, and a few drops of nitric acid if available. The drying time will eventually drive you nuts, though.

January 10, 2009, 12:04 AM
Lucky, welcome to reloading. I've never washed brass, only tumbled it. If you do wash it, you need to be sure there is no moisture left in the cases when you begin the reloading process.

I reloaded a lot of 9mm before buying a tumbler. All my brass was previously shot by me, and was picked up clean other than the powder residue. If your cases are free of dirt, sand or similar abrasive which could damage your dies, give them a quick wipe just to be sure and go about your reloading.

January 10, 2009, 08:01 AM
And tumblers are cheap. Try Harbor Freight...about $35.

January 10, 2009, 08:07 AM
Tumblers are cheap and I like clean shiney brass. Pick up a plastic colander at Walmart for a buck or two to sift the media out of the cleaned brass. Try Harbor Freight...about $35 for a tumbler; may even come with media.

January 10, 2009, 08:29 AM
I've heard of guys putting brass in a nylon mesh laundry bag and running it in the clothes washer, but I haven't tried it.
Works pretty good.

I used to put dirty brass in a sock and tie the end off. Run through washer and dryer with regular laundry. Comes out clean. Not as shiny as a tumbler, but clean.

Nowadays I use a tumbler.

January 10, 2009, 10:24 AM
I agree that tumblers are cheap but suggest to stay away from Harber Freight. I had one and ended up going thru 3 or 4 replacements before I just demanded my money back. Problem was the Motor bearings were bronze sleeve and didn't hold up

I ended up with a Cabelas which was basically the same price and has an excellent warrenty. Its been going for 4 years now with no problem.

Regarding washing brass in the washer. One of the byproducts in the case is lead from the primer, not a very good thing to get over your cloths or for that matter your loved ones cloths. Want to wash it do it in a bucket, then wash your hands.

Really I believe all this concern over lead is grossely overblown but why just ask for possible problems.

Read some of the posts about lead poison.

50 Shooter
January 10, 2009, 01:46 PM
Here's another option, just don't let the wife catch you!;)


January 10, 2009, 04:42 PM
This is a joke right?

50 Shooter
January 10, 2009, 07:12 PM
Kind of, I used the drying part of the washer to dry the brass after running it through Iosso to clean it. Works great for .50 brass as all those posts that hold the dishes and glasses in place, hold the .50 brass in place also.:D

January 10, 2009, 07:47 PM
I tell ya what, I recently bought a Lyman Pro 1200 on sale at Sportsman's Warehouse for ~$40, and it works great! Not the biggest tumbler, but the bottom is shaped like an upside down bagel and man, you talk about cyclonic action! I can pack that sucker completely full to the top with brass and media, and it flat boils that stuff around like nobody's business. It puts the Frankford Arsenal tumbler I have to shame. The FA is going in the trash (it's broke anyway).

January 10, 2009, 08:50 PM
If you're not into "pretty" brass, then mild soap such as Dawn and warm water will do just fine.

If you're dealing with only 50 cases right now, just shake off the excess water and air dry. If you clean more and haven't invested in a tumbler by then, just stick with washing and get a cookie sheet. Place the brass on it and stick it in the oven at "Warm" setting for about 1/2hr or so.

The main thing is to make sure you do clean your brass safely in some shape or form. If you don't you'll run the risk of scratching your dies and then you'll really have a bad day...

January 11, 2009, 06:21 PM
Using a progressive reloader like the Star, having a 'glitch' in the reloading process the previous night does cause wayward lapses in concentration on the firing line the next day. So, brass was sorted.

A coffee can, when they were cans, held about 200 rds of 45 brass.

I'd tunk those into a one gallon plastic milk jug, add dishwashing soap, shake, rinse, wait for my bride to go to bed and use the collander to get the .22rf and .38 brass out of the .45 stuff.

Place the brass on a towel and let sit in the sun to dry.

Worked for me.


January 11, 2009, 06:55 PM
Here's another option, just don't let the wife catch you!

50 Shooter -
I was LMAO.... until I realized we have that same GE washer and we have the same vinyl kitchen floor...

Hey! Don't let me catch you with MY wife! :D

Lucky Strike
January 12, 2009, 03:33 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions...i do plan on buying a tumbler (gotta wait till next paycheck) but this is just for my initial 50 round first reloading session.

January 12, 2009, 03:56 PM
Here's a golden secret I came upon a while back. I use it to clean all of my particularly dirty outdoor range brass in larger batches - just don't have the patience to do multiple tumbler batches to get through a new 5-gallon bucket - and I have two tumblers!

Get a pair of 5 gallon buckets. Leave one as-is, and drill a ton of holes in the bottom of bucket number two.

Get yourself a bottle of Lysol Liquid Toilet Bowl Cleaner at the store. Any bowl cleaner (usually have that gooseneck bottle) that has HYDROCHLORIC ACID (HCl) in it - NOT phosphoric and/or sulphuric if you can help it from my experience - and put a good squirt (about and ounce) in the large bucket. Fill it full of nice hot water.

Toss in your brass. Stir the stuff around for a minute - I use my hand but you may prefer a stick (?) - and let it sit for about 5 more. Then stir it again, and dump into your draining bucket. RINSE RINSE RINSE - it's important to flush things thoroughly in the draining bucket and once all the suds are gone rinse and fill the normal bucket and dunk your brass in a few times, changing the water.

You want to get all the cleaner off the brass - HCl over time could either corrode the brass or weaken/harden it IF you do a LOUSY job of rinsing. But I've never had a problem, and shy of steel wet media or some other such hardcore cleaning NOTHING gets the inside and out of the cases cleaner, old and brown or not. I've cleaned cases this way, dried them, and stored them for later... then pulled and loaded them after 2+ years on the shelf and had no issues with the brass's integrity being harmed.

It also helps with range brass, because any brass plated and/or euro-mil junk usually gets a pinkish hue to it, unlike true "brass" brass. So it's easy to cull for the scrap pile.

Sorry this is a longish post. But I think you'll be pretty tickled if you give it a try. It DOES work better if you decap things first, don't have the primers hiding access to the pocket lint... but it works fine either way and I rarely decap all the brass I don't reload due to the time.

January 12, 2009, 04:28 PM
Vinegar and salt will do the same thing. Remember cleaning pennies with it when you were a kid?


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