Alcohol as degreaser


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YZ
February 21, 2013, 09:59 PM
I have always wondered why not use alcohol to remove dirt from the barrel or even the action. Looked it up everywhere. Could not find any definitive statements in the mainstream literature. Now for the blogs... Below is a brief summary of why people NOT use alcohol on their guns, with my comments.

"Absolute alcohol is hygroscopic, attracts water". True, if you let it stay. But it also evaporates quickly. Whether it leaves any meaningful amount of water behind is debatable, but in any case it must be followed by oiling. Like any degreaser.

"Alcohol solutions contain water". Of course they do. So does the air we breathe. A brief controlled exposure followed by oiling is nothing compared to the constant and inevitable exposure to water vapor during storage, let alone hunting trips or rain on the range.

"Alcohol destroys bluing". That I am not sure about. So I would limit my alcohol wiping to the bore and chamber or receiver. Not blued finish - or wood.

"Alcohol makes metal brittle". In this application, no, it does not.

"Why bother with alcohol, we have solvents". Because alcohol is better for you. No pun intended. Inhaling alcohol vapor is harmless. Not so with industrial solvents. Read the labels. The non-toxic ones are proprietary formula soaps (quite possibly just soaps), ten times more expensive than rubbing alcohol (M-Pro), or some say bad for aluminum finishes (Simple Green).

In short, nobody and nothing has convinced me so far that alcohol is to be avoided for cleaning guns. I have college level chemistry but no experience in metal corrosion and such. If you have professional knowledge, please tell me where I am wrong.

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joecil
February 21, 2013, 10:05 PM
I soak new guns in rubbing alcohol as soon as I bring them home. I then let them air dry (takes a few minutes only) then lube, grease and ready to shoot. I've never had it effect the finish on any gun including painted spots such as sights, marks on safety etc. It does flat cut grease though. I might add it is also great for unfreezing pad locks when they freeze up and sure cheaper than the stuff in a the little spray cans.

YZ
February 21, 2013, 10:16 PM
I soak new guns in rubbing alcohol as soon as I bring them home. I then let them air dry (takes a few minutes only) then lube, grease and ready to shoot. I've never had it effect the finish on any gun including painted spots such as sights, marks on safety etc. It does flat cut grease though. I might add it is also great for unfreezing pad locks when they freeze up and sure cheaper than the stuff in a the little spray cans.
Just new guns, or any time after shooting?

CZguy
February 21, 2013, 10:20 PM
I've used rubbing alcohol as a degreaser for decades. I wasn't aware that there were any reasons not to.

C.F. Plinker
February 21, 2013, 10:27 PM
What are the practical differences, if any, between rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, isopropol alcohol, and ethanol? I assume that you want the strongest (i.e. 91% rather than 70%) if there is a choice of strenght.

icanthitabarn
February 21, 2013, 11:05 PM
I like brake cleaner and lots of it. Only on metal thou. The biggest problem is the overspray getting on things and discoloring them.

VA27
February 21, 2013, 11:08 PM
I use 190 proof everclear. It has other uses, too.

YZ
February 21, 2013, 11:15 PM
I've used rubbing alcohol as a degreaser for decades. I wasn't aware that there were any reasons not to.
__________________
Real experience counts - thank you. Many people don't trust alcohol for their guns possibly because the military and LE don't issue or endorse it, for obvious reasons.

Plinker - Sure it makes sense to use stronger alcohol. Distilled ethanol is drinking alcohol, whereas isopropanol aka isopropyl alcohol is not. For technical or medicinal purposes, both are called rubbing alcohol, because they are intentionally produced with bad odor and sometimes green dye to discourage injestion.

I too have used a lot of brake cleaner like Gun Scrubber. It works but remains toxic and does leave annoying stains.

Joe Z
February 21, 2013, 11:19 PM
I use gas line anti freeze for little jobs. Its close to 100% Methanol.

Sport45
February 21, 2013, 11:21 PM
What are the practical differences, if any, between rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, isopropol alcohol, and ethanol? I assume that you want the strongest (i.e. 91% rather than 70%) if there is a choice of strenght.

Rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are the same thing.
Denatured alcohol is ethanol with a little bit of something added to "denature" it, or make it un-drinkable. Methanol is often added for this.

I use denatured alcohol for degreasing and drying.

rodregier
February 21, 2013, 11:29 PM
I use isopropanol as my general degreaser and carbon fouling cleaner for firearms. Since it is flammable you have to be careful not to get stupid about handling it. I use that along with Ballistol as a lube and JB paste, Kroil and as a copper removal system for indoor firearm cleaning. These products tend to be much less problematic than some of the other solvents in a low-ventilation environment. (Not everyone has the time or opportunity to clean at the range or even outdoors).

You best value on isopropanol is the 99% stuff sold in drug stores and end-user medical supply vendors. 100% isopropanol quickly pulls moisture out of the air, so 99% is much easier to produce and sell without elaborate packaging/processing.

481
February 22, 2013, 01:05 AM
Many of the commercially available polymer-safe degreasers use isopropyl alcohol as a degreaser and water displacer. Birchwood Casey Polymer-Safe Gunscrubber and Shooters Choice Polymer-Safe Degreaser are two such such examples.

BigBore44
February 22, 2013, 01:36 AM
Find a better degreaser than diesel. Ever seen an old school mechanic that has parts laying in a tub filled with liquid? 99% chance it was diesel. Of course you don't get want to get it on the stock or anything. But you want to clean a gunked up, gummed up pistol, rifle or shotgun? Try it. First hand knowledge. It flat works. And way cheaper than other degreasers.

RTR_RTR
February 22, 2013, 02:19 AM
Rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are the same thing.
Denatured alcohol is ethanol with a little bit of something added to "denature" it, or make it un-drinkable. Methanol is often added for this.

I use denatured alcohol for degreasing and drying.

Additionally, denatured alcohol can get above 95% ethanol (ethanol/water mixtures cannot), and you save money (can't drink it = cheaper, avoids bureaucracy).

As far as isopropanol vs ethanol, isopropanol is probably a better solvent for degreasing (without getting into the nitty gritty, it's more similar to the compounds in grease, which makes it "pick it up" better).

icanthitabarn
February 22, 2013, 07:28 AM
The red Heet drygas is 99% ISO or so and the yellow Heet bottle is methyl alcohol.

mcdonl
February 22, 2013, 07:30 AM
I have used it as a social lubricant before.

joecil
February 22, 2013, 08:13 AM
Just new guns, or any time after shooting?

Yes I mix it with perioxide and Murphy's oil soap for clean my black powder guns. I use Gun Scrubber on my non black powder but would us it for that too but just easy with the spray.

YZ
February 22, 2013, 10:33 AM
Find a better degreaser than diesel. Ever seen an old school mechanic that has parts laying in a tub filled with liquid? 99% chance it was diesel. Of course you don't get want to get it on the stock or anything. But you want to clean a gunked up, gummed up pistol, rifle or shotgun? Try it. First hand knowledge. It flat works. And way cheaper than other degreasers.
Good reminder. I'd like to be able to soak the dirt out of bolt faces and extractors without further disassembly. Not sure if the tritium and f/o sights will be safe in diesel. or just painted sights

243winxb
February 23, 2013, 10:03 AM
Rinse bronze brushs in 91% isopropyl alcohol after use. They last longer.

jimmyraythomason
February 23, 2013, 10:17 AM
Find a better degreaser than diesel. Ever seen an old school mechanic that has parts laying in a tub filled with liquid? 99% chance it was diesel.Actually(and I speak as an old school diesel mechanic,retired) that bucket most likely contained mineral spirits. Diesel fuel is a poor degreaser compared to mineral spirits and none of the shops I worked in used it as such. I often used denatured alcohol to remove the oil film in oil sight glasses that other cleaner/degreasers couldn't remove.

OilyPablo
February 23, 2013, 10:23 AM
I use IPA to wipe excess oil off grips.

bainter1212
February 23, 2013, 07:37 PM
Denatured alcohol works great as a degreaser. The fumes are crazy though, so good ventilation ie a fan is a good idea. Also wear gloves and eye protection.

Clark
February 23, 2013, 10:56 PM
I use alcohol all the time as a degreaser. I learned this from the electronics biz. Every assembler or technician had alcohol on their bench.

I like to get the metal clean before I put on the Loctite.

I clean the cutting fluid out of drilled and tapped holes with alcohol on a Q tip.

I clean scope lenses with alcohol and a Q tip.

I have tin cans or plastic cups in a few rooms that have a container of alcohol, a toothbrush, and Q tips.

The other thing I use is Simple Green, with a tooth brush or with ultra sound. But sometimes Simple Green gets things so decreased, they rust right away.

I never use lacquer thinner. I feel it is too toxic.

paintballdude902
February 23, 2013, 11:57 PM
i use it on anything i plan to paint. limited effect on plastic, no effect on metal. and it can be had cheap.


I use 190 proof everclear. It has other uses, too.
mind=blown........

my only experience with it was one wicked night in new orleans.......i remember everything until i got on a balcony.... woke up back on base 4 hours away...... LOL

CZguy
February 24, 2013, 12:06 AM
my only experience with it was one wicked night in new orleans.......i remember everything until i got on a balcony.... woke up back on base 4 hours away...... LOL

Keesler?

paintballdude902
February 24, 2013, 12:17 AM
hurlburt.......

RetiredUSNChief
February 24, 2013, 12:30 AM
Alcohol will work great and will not damage gun metals at all.

No worries about alcohol and water: alcohol is a great way to remove moisture from things, as it carries away the moisture when it evaporates.

Alcohol is a great grease-cutting solvent.

However, don't assume alcohol fumes are "safe" to inhale. They are not, especially isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol. In fact, ethyl alcohol fumes are not safe, either, even though this is the alcohol that's in alcoholic drinks. Always be sure to have adequate ventilation when using alcohol (or any other solvent) as a cleaning agent.

Alcohol can be even more damaging to skin than other solvents used for cleaning guns, however. This is because alcohol not only cuts through and disolves grease, it absorbs water as well. This is extremely damaging to skin. So be sure to wear proper protective gloves when using it, like the blue "nitrile" gloves.

brickeyee
February 25, 2013, 03:17 PM
It is less effective tan other solvents on longer chain lubricants.

twice barrel
February 25, 2013, 04:35 PM
Denatured Alcohol is basically everclear that has been poisoned so you won't drink it. Its a great cleaner/degreaser. Rubbing alcohol has more water in it depending upon the % of the blend. These are both great for quick cleaning between shots with blackpowder.

And just like blackpowder weapons you can clean modern firearms with hot soapy water if you wish. Follow that with swabbing down with denatured alcohol to possibly remove even more firing residue and assist in quicker drying. And as usual, lubricate and oil for smooth operation and corrosion prevention.

But nowadays since I no longer fool with black powder its hard to beat kerosene & atf for an everyday gun cleaner. :D

YZ
February 25, 2013, 06:04 PM
This discussion is worth a seminar. Exceeded all my expectations. Thanks to all who contributed their knowledge. From now on, alcohol it is. I am going to put Gun Scrubber on hold.

This should complete my transition to odorless, least toxic cleasning. I have ditched stronger solvents in favor of lead cloth. The heavy variety almost like oilskin in texture, such as Kleen Bore. (Not on blued finishes)

Been to Keesler also in a different capacity altogether...

Someone mentioned ultrasound. When I started using it for barrels and other steel, it worked great. (Still not a sparkling miracle from the gun magazines, but ready for a quick wipeout) Recently I noticed it no longer works! The Lyman tub runs as usual, makes all the right sounds, but doesn't seem to clean any more than a simple soak. Anyone seen their ultrasonics petering out like that? Again, the cleaner powers up, blinks and buzzes, all for naught.

CZguy
February 25, 2013, 10:12 PM
Someone mentioned ultrasound. When I started using it for barrels and other steel, it worked great. (Still not a sparkling miracle from the gun magazines, but ready for a quick wipeout) Recently I noticed it no longer works! The Lyman tub runs as usual, makes all the right sounds, but doesn't seem to clean any more than a simple soak. Anyone seen their ultrasonics petering out like that? Again, the cleaner powers up, blinks and buzzes, all for naught.

I use a Harbor Freight stainless steel model that has run really well for about six years.

BWB
February 27, 2013, 09:40 PM
Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol is mostly water. Denatured alcohol us a volatile solvent that will evaporate (cool) so rapidly in humid conditions that it will leave a metal surface wet with condensation. More importantlly, it is at best an indifferent degreaser. If it is petroleum you are talking about, common paint thinner (mineral spirits) is as effective and reasonably safe a degreaser as is commonly available.

Elkins45
March 1, 2013, 07:47 PM
I like to get the metal clean before I put on the Loctite.

I clean the cutting fluid out of drilled and tapped holes with alcohol on a Q tip.

I do exactly the same thing and it has worked very well for years. I also have the habit of swabbing down the charge holes (or chamber) and breech face of any handgun that might be used for SD purposes. I know the chances of lube killing a primer aren't very high, but I prefer to minimize them just the same.

Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol is mostly water

Even the cheapest bottle of rubbing alcohol is 70% isopropanol, so it's mostly alcohol. I prefer to buy the 91% stuff for scope mounting, but the cheaper mix will work OK for most purposes.

RetiredUSNChief
March 2, 2013, 12:46 AM
Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol is mostly water. Denatured alcohol us a volatile solvent that will evaporate (cool) so rapidly in humid conditions that it will leave a metal surface wet with condensation.

This can be said for some of the non-alcohol solvents, as well. Most expecially aerosol solvents.

I don't really consider this a factor because the thing that immediately follows cleaning is oiling/lubricating.


There are solvents which are better suited for cleaning guns, because they are also designed to remove other residue as well. To that end, I would personally prefer to use them, slightly more expensive thouth they may be. However, the point is that alcohol can safely be used as a solvent without fear of damage to the metals of firearms.

Alcohol has an affinity to both oils and water...meaning it will act as a solvent to both. And alcohol will act as a drying agent, removing moisture as it evaporate.

:)

xfyrfiter
March 2, 2013, 04:50 PM
the two best degreasers I have ever used were etoh and acetone, xylene is good also but very toxic, need lots of ventilation and nitrile gloves.

OilyPablo
March 3, 2013, 12:26 PM
Acetone should not be near any plastic gun parts.

99% IPA is sometimes a surprising degreaser and while basic organic chemistry is all well and good, it does work on long chain lubricants . For one of my non gun related companies we lubricate a freewheel we sell with a proprietary synthetic gear oil with tackifier (a lubricant we developed). Sure some nasty solvents will clean the stuff up, but not that much better (if better at all!) than IPA. IPA is inexpensive, easy to use and won't kill you with a mere wiff of the fumes.

As stated I have used it for certain gun jobs over the years with zero problems.

jgh4445
March 3, 2013, 06:46 PM
I use alcohol pads to wipe the grease and oil off of the finish before I apply wax.

brickeyee
March 7, 2013, 03:19 PM
Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol is mostly water.

70% and 90% isopropyl are rather common at every drug store.

Pretty far from "mostly water."

If you can find isopropyl 'dry gas' it is pretty close to 100%.

Avoid methyl.

You can absorb enough through your skin (let alone breathing vapors) to cause problems.

Methyl is metabolized to formalin in the body and proceeds to attack your retina.

blaisenguns
March 7, 2013, 04:12 PM
Everclear works great :D

orionengnr
March 8, 2013, 04:53 PM
Come on now, we have all been told for decades that alcohol and firearms don't mix! :)

CZguy
March 8, 2013, 10:58 PM
Everclear works great

Come on now, we have all been told for decades that alcohol and firearms don't mix

Apparently not all of us were taught that. :scrutiny:

YZ
March 8, 2013, 10:59 PM
Started using alcohol instead of gunscrubber. It washes off the grease just fine, dries quicker, leaves no stains, has almost no smell (so I can take my time with it), is cheaper than canned brake cleaner. Of course it helps if you don't let your guns foul up badly, but I clean often anyway.

The military has never popularized alcohol for cleaning. It would be self destructive to issue to the troops in large quantities.

paintballdude902
March 9, 2013, 08:49 PM
Started using alcohol instead of gunscrubber. It washes off the grease just fine, dries quicker, leaves no stains, has almost no smell (so I can take my time with it), is cheaper than canned brake cleaner. Of course it helps if you don't let your guns foul up badly, but I clean often anyway.

The military has never popularized alcohol for cleaning. It would be self destructive to issue to the troops in large quantities.

good to hear. id still like to see how it works in an ultrasonic cleaner. i used to use simple green and water, worked reasonably well.

HEY....... general order 1 says i can have it as long as i can buy it at AAFES ;)

brickeyee
March 11, 2013, 02:04 PM
the two best degreasers I have ever used were etoh and acetone

Try some MEK

YZ
March 15, 2013, 11:06 PM
good to hear. id still like to see how it works in an ultrasonic cleaner. i used to use simple green and water, worked reasonably well.

HEY....... general order 1 says i can have it as long as i can buy it at AAFES ;)
I keep reading here and there that Simple Green is bad for aluminum. Is that an urban legend? I did see alloy parts getting a peeled look in a Beretta 92 INOX and in a 10/22 receiver.

jimmyraythomason
March 16, 2013, 10:21 AM
I keep reading here and there that Simple Green is bad for aluminum. Is that an urban legend?I used the general purpose Simple Green undiluted to clean the aluminum condensors and evaporators on a fleet of 75 transport refrigeration units for the entire length of the lease which was 10 years. Never once did I see any sign of harm to the very thin aluminum cooling fins.

OilyPablo
March 16, 2013, 11:16 AM
Regular Simple Green is not caustic and will not attack aluminum. I believe and I could be wrong - there are some stronger "Simple Green" variants on the market.

For sure caustic products like Castrol Purple cleaner will readily attack aluminum. Find out if the product is caustic (contains NaOH, or KOH and pH over ~10). No good for Al.

YZ
March 16, 2013, 11:46 AM
Excellent, thank you!

bill3424
March 16, 2013, 12:30 PM
Rubbing alcohol has always worked for me. I've always been very strict about to lube it after the alcohol as dried up. Wear a mask and gloves.

YZ
March 16, 2013, 01:52 PM
Why mask?

limpingbear
March 16, 2013, 02:34 PM
I keep reading here and there that Simple Green is bad for aluminum. Is that an urban legend? I did see alloy parts getting a peeled look in a Beretta 92 INOX and in a 10/22 receiver.
They banned the use of Simple Green for use on aircraft while I was in the navy. It worked awsome for getting the surfaces clean, it made that paint job look almost new! The drawback was that over a relatively short time span the Simple Green caused a form of hydrogen embrittlement on the aluminum, and caused some pretty serious cracks in the skin.
No more Simple Green on aircraft.....

YZ
March 16, 2013, 05:09 PM
They banned the use of Simple Green for use on aircraft while I was in the navy. It worked awsome for getting the surfaces clean, it made that paint job look almost new! The drawback was that over a relatively short time span the Simple Green caused a form of hydrogen embrittlement on the aluminum, and caused some pretty serious cracks in the skin.
No more Simple Green on aircraft.....
That would rule out scrubbing the firearms. I wonder if Simple Green is a brand like Tylenol that may represent an ever changing mixed bag of ingredients.

Not to argue with you, I can't help recalling a highly respected, world travelled instructor who swore by Simple Green for his carry 1911.

CZguy
March 16, 2013, 09:29 PM
They banned the use of Simple Green for use on aircraft while I was in the navy. It worked awsome for getting the surfaces clean, it made that paint job look almost new! The drawback was that over a relatively short time span the Simple Green caused a form of hydrogen embrittlement on the aluminum, and caused some pretty serious cracks in the skin.
No more Simple Green on aircraft.....

The same thing happened to us in the Air Force. We even had simple green on bench stock at one time.

OilyPablo
March 16, 2013, 10:33 PM
http://industrial.simplegreen.com/ind_solutions_faqs.php?search_query=&btnShowAll=Show+All

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=451060

RetiredUSNChief
March 16, 2013, 11:50 PM
They banned the use of Simple Green for use on aircraft while I was in the navy. It worked awsome for getting the surfaces clean, it made that paint job look almost new! The drawback was that over a relatively short time span the Simple Green caused a form of hydrogen embrittlement on the aluminum, and caused some pretty serious cracks in the skin.
No more Simple Green on aircraft.....

It made the paint look "new" because it stripped a thin layer of paint off the surface. You could see it on the kimwipes after wiping down a painted surface.

I had a bottle leak on a metal shelf, the kind with the baked on enamal paint. When I finally discovered it, all the paint on the shelf where the Simple Green had sat was completely bubbled up and separated from the metal shelf. Wiped "clean" off in one pass when I was cleaning up that mess.

:):)

YZ
March 17, 2013, 12:53 PM
http://industrial.simplegreen.com/ind_solutions_faqs.php?search_query=&btnShowAll=Show+All

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=451060
Thank you for the link. So SG is alkaline with ph>9. Not strong enough to do damage in a brief exposure to aluminum alloys. Caustic enough to get aluminum on a prolonged exposure e.g. when not rinsed away or in the cracks. Chances are, older steel guns don't mind. I think I'll keep SG as a backup cleaner.

Done several cleanings with alcohol and a touch of M Pro 7. No brake cleaner. Result - excellent.

dprice3844444
March 17, 2013, 01:04 PM
all my pistols are dishwasher safe

Clark
March 17, 2013, 01:31 PM
The only problem I have had with Simple Green in the last 13 year of using it on guns is breathing it.

I put Simple Green is a plant spray bottle, went into the shower with dirty old guns started spraying.

The Simple Green mist in the air did not seem fit to breathe.

YZ
March 17, 2013, 08:52 PM
The only problem I have had with Simple Green in the last 13 year of using it on guns is breathing it.

I put Simple Green is a plant spray bottle, went into the shower with dirty old guns started spraying.

The Simple Green mist in the air did not seem fit to breathe.
Agreed. Non toxic but pungent. Best for bathing guns not showering.

OilyPablo
March 17, 2013, 08:53 PM
I agree Simple Green makes my lungs lock up tight.

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