Rubbing alcohol to remove blackpowder corrosive salts


August 2, 2013, 08:16 PM
My understanding is it is the potassium chloride salts in black powder that corrode metal. I made up some concentrated salt solutions and poured them on glass and let it dry so the salt crystallized. I then wiped it down with a rag with rubbing alcohol ( 70% isopropyl alcohol) and it got it nice and clean. Rubbing alcohol has the same consistency as water it is not oily like hoppes, or other petroleum based cleaners are. Can you use straight rubbing alcohol to clean black powder guns? It seems a lot easier and less messy than soap and water, and it evaporates in about a minute with no residue, then you could oil it and put it away.

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August 2, 2013, 10:31 PM

Steel Horse Rider
August 2, 2013, 10:55 PM
Hot water and dish soap in a trough made from plastic rain gutter material is simple and cheap. Why solve a problem that doesn't exist?

August 2, 2013, 10:57 PM
Hi Mat35750,

There are many more chemicals in black powder fouling than Potassium chloride (which is very minimal with real black powder but very likely with Pyrodex) Nitric and Sulfuric acids to name two, plus Potassium carbonate. All of these are water-soluble. Isopropyl alcohol is at least 25% water so it may work fine. In my experience with both Isopropyl and denatured alcohol, they worked best as a bore wipe when mixed about 50/50 with plain H20 or better yet Hydrogen peroxide. None of these provided any rust protection however. Some "Moose-milk" formulas include Murphy's Oil soap or Balistol as a rust preventative, and both seem to work in this capacity. I personally favor the Balistol mix living in Florida, the land of high humidity and flash rusting.

August 2, 2013, 11:20 PM
My point is rubbing alcohol has the same consistency as water but also evaporates fast and is a fairly strong solvent. Due to it's solvent properties wouldn't it remove the other crude associated with black powder as well?

August 2, 2013, 11:37 PM
Potentially. For me, I've found plain old hot water to be the best remedy. It does a darn good job of starting the cleaning process, dries quickly, and also deals with any corrosive elements. It's hard to improve on simple and reliable hot H20.

August 2, 2013, 11:41 PM
I think the nitrites, left behind after burning BP, combine w/water vapor in the air, to form weak nitrous acid. It disolves steel slower than stronger nitric acid, but is still corrosive enuff to do immediate damage in the presence of water.

If that's not bad enuff, sulfur dioxide, also produced from burned BP, combines w/water, in the presence of nitrites, to form sulfuric acid, which is a strong acid.

70% Rubbing Alcohol is 30% water. It's the water that dilutes the acids so they can be wiped away. Isopropyl alcohol is insoluable in salt solutions.

As far as I know, there are no chlorides in BP or it's burned residues.

So, knowing all this, it's prolly better to use pure water w/a little water-soluable oil in it, as a preliminary BP solvent. Dry the bore quickly, & follow up w/your favorite oil. Oil keeps the water vapor off the steel, like a barrier.

If ya don't have BP solvent available out in the field, oil is the best thing to coat the bore, lock, & all metal parts. It keeps the water out. No water, no acid formation.

Boiling hot soapy (bar soap, like Ivory) water, for over 300 yrs, has been the best solvent for a full cleaning at home. Hot steel dries quicker & hot steel takes oil into mating surfaces better, like breach plugs, sight dovetails, tennon dovetails, touch holes, nipple threads, etc.

Bar soap water is mildly alkaline & stops acid action, but must be dried quickly and immediately followed w/oil.

Kindest Regards,

Fingers McGee
August 2, 2013, 11:50 PM
It has been reported in books about the Civil War that pistols were cleaned by the enlisted using lye soap water after the clothes were washed, and that Officers used whiskey to clean their pistols.

Ref: How the Colt Navy .36 Revolver was gunsmithed and fired during the Civil War by D.L.Rhea copyright 1985.

August 3, 2013, 12:04 AM
I use whiskey head to clean my smokeless shotguns, it melts away any residue in there. That's got a high concentration of alcohol and some other nasty stuff like acetone and such from what I've been told. For BP I generally use hot soap and water, it's more plentiful and works great. :) Don't get me wrong, head works fine for cleaning BP arms. I just prefer my water and soap because that's what I've always used.

August 3, 2013, 12:46 AM
Soap and water requires a complete disassembley when cleaning black powder revolvers, it messy and time consuming, requires rinsing, and careful drying. If a rubbing alcohol wipe down was enough that would be of great benefit. Also black powder as well as pydodex and 777 form potassium chloride which is the primary corrosive element according to my research.

4v50 Gary
August 3, 2013, 12:49 AM
I think water is cheaper than rubbing alcohol. I think I can buy a gallon of bottled water cheaper than a small bottle of rubbing alcohol.

August 3, 2013, 02:50 AM
FWIW I have been using a mix of rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and Murphy's oil soap (mix 2/2/1) for the last 5 years and have seen no corrosion (and it drys quickly). I easily shoot 200-300 rounds per month using the mix followed by a dry patch, and either ballistol or wd40 at the end of a session.

I do a complete disassembly and use hot soapy water about every 3 months just to be sure I don't develop a "cake" at the breech in my long guns, and to do a complete cleaning for the internals of the revolver.

Pete D.
August 3, 2013, 07:37 AM
I use denatured alcohol as a bore wipe between shots while at the range. For cleaning, I use Moose milk made up of water, Murphy's Oil Soap, and Ballistol.
I expect that the water content of rubbing alcohol along with its solvent properties would make it an effective cleaner. I shall have to try.
I wonder about a mix of 70% rubbing alcohol, Murphy's, Ballistol....another Moose Milk formula.

August 3, 2013, 12:40 PM
I am not talking about using rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and Murphy's oil soap. I am saying just use rubbing alcohol.

August 3, 2013, 01:02 PM
I have use ammonia followed by hot water with good results.

August 3, 2013, 01:02 PM
Matt, you may be onto something. I'll have to give it a try on one of my revolvers to see for myself.

August 3, 2013, 01:52 PM
Anybody try Windex? I use it to disable the residue and rinse with real hot water. Windex and a tooth brush really clean up the nipples and sockets. After removing the nipples I use a cotton swab soaked in windex to clean the threads in the cylinder then rinse.

August 3, 2013, 05:01 PM
Every possible combination of liquid ingredients have been used to clean black powder firearms including the owners urine.
All work to some degree but the active ingredient in most of the better ones is water.

August 3, 2013, 06:16 PM
Anybody try Windex?

Yes. Windex with vinegar.

Many of the CASS guys and other BP shooters clean their guns using Windex with vinegar, now called Windex Multi-Surface. Started cleaning my BP centerfire guns with Windex with vinegar about 20 years ago. Mike Venturino, blackpowder shooting editor recommended it. When i got back into muzzleloading i used it to clean those guns too.

The slightly acidic Windex with vinegar destroys the BP crud which is mostly base material. You can sometimes see it fizz. It works equally well with BP substitutes. i would not use it for BH 209.

Before leaving the range i run a patch saturated with Windex with vinegar in the bore. By the time i'm home the crud is softened. Then dry patches are used. If needed the bore is again swabbed with a saturated patch followed by dry patches and an oily patch.

Windex with vinegar makes inline breechplug cleanup a snap. Takes all of about two minutes to spray it the plug, hit the plug with a toothbrush and rinse.

August 3, 2013, 09:02 PM
+1 on the Windex...but why do you add vinegar when Windex alone works so well?

Jim Watson
August 3, 2013, 09:20 PM
One variety of Windex contains vinegar from the factory as others contain ammonia.
Either way it is a detergent in water, just what is needed for black.

August 3, 2013, 09:49 PM
I once left some stainless steel soak in vinegar for a couple hours and it rusted it , I dont think I would use it on my gun.

August 3, 2013, 10:57 PM
Thanx Jim

August 3, 2013, 11:51 PM
I've used vinegar to strip the blue from steel gun parts. A half hour soak did a good job in taking the factory blue off a Pietta Remington cylinder and frame. I wouldn't want to jack up my stuff and use the stuff for cleaning.

However yesterday I fired my .22 caliber single shot cap and ball derringer. When I was done, I used moonshine likker' heads on a Hoppes nylon brush. That high-power solvent cleaned the bore with one pass using the nylon brush and three patches, the third one was oiled and came out practically spotless. :D

August 4, 2013, 08:16 AM
Yep, pure vinegar will damage guns.

Windex with vinegar (now Windex Multi-Surface) is about five percent acetic acid; it will not damage the blue. i use it to clean my antique Winchester rifles.

Mike Venturino dilutes his Windex with vinegar, i use it straight from the container.

August 4, 2013, 10:15 AM
I use rubbing alcohol in my cleaning process but also use other things as well. I use cold water & soap, dry, wd40, wipe off, rem oil in that order. I remove the nipples soak in rubbing alcohol wii off let dry,oil only the threads, oil only the out side of the cylinder leave the cylinder walls dry, if needed I will use a brass brush on the cylinder walls. When breaking the gun completely down clean internals with rubbing alcohol polish with brite boy, lube some things with synthetic bearing grease also use it on the arbor. Only break the gun completely down a couple of ties a year.

August 4, 2013, 08:28 PM
Been using soapy water for cleaning black powder guns for well over 40 years. No problems, no rust.
It's not any more complicated to clean with soapy water than with anything else. Read the directions for "Black Powder Wunder Cleaner" solvents sold commercially, and they're identical to using soapy water.
I use tap water, a little Dawn dish soap and -- if I feel I may need a little extra grease-cutting ability -- a little alcohol. But on the whole, soapy water works just fine and is cheap.
Commercial black powder cleaners are water-based. They must be, to dissolve the salts left behind. The old G.I. bore cleaner, used up to the 1960s or early 1970s, was water-based too. It was necessary to have water in it, to dissolve the salts left by corrosive primers.
Salt is dissolved in water, but not in oil or alcohol. It's as simple as that.

People overthink the cleaning of black powder guns. I've tried a variety of liquids, including Windex and "Moose Milk" and always go back to soapy water.
It's cheap. It's effective. In 40+ years of use, it has never damaged my guns IF I used it properly -- that means, ensuring the metal is dry after cleaning.
Even the Wunder Cleaners require drying the metal after use.

Water. Soap. Mebbe a little alcohol (about the only thing that Bacardi rum is good for). It works, and it's inexpensive.

August 4, 2013, 08:35 PM
BusyHands, hope no one was smoking around you while using those heads! That **** is really good for paint removal and a carb starter (I've been told).

August 4, 2013, 09:48 PM
To "alsaqr" the stuff I used was 5% acetic acid as well and it rusted the stainless steel

August 4, 2013, 09:55 PM
I use the individually packaged alcohol soaked patches they sell to swab injection sites. I use these in the field with my flintlock rifles. After every shot I run one or two alcohol patches down the bore to clear out the fouling before loading the next shot.

They work great for that, but there are way better products to do a complete cleaning.

Steel Horse Rider
August 4, 2013, 10:47 PM
Have any of you ever given any thought to the fact that Revolutionary or Civil War soldiers could not possibly worry about swabbing the bore between shots if they were firing multiple shots per minute? I bet they never worried about a "hot chamber" setting of the powder charge they were dumping in either. I think in this modern litigious and pants wetting world we spend way too much time in the world of "what if" to actually think about the reality of our ancestors or the foolishness of our fears.

August 4, 2013, 11:34 PM
I second your assertion Steel Horse Rider but a large part of this forum's content is "over thinking". One of our luxuries and curses in modern times is "over thinking". Makes my brain tired.
From Pancho in Loveland, Ohio

August 4, 2013, 11:52 PM
Hot water and dish soap in a trough made from plastic rain gutter material is simple and cheap. Why solve a problem that doesn't exist?
Thats how my dad said he always did it but i was shocked. Ide never put any of my cartridge guns in water and i remember for years he always ran a dehumidifier in our basement because of the moisture in the air.

It does require fully disassemble the firearm but i dont think ide want to do it any other way.

The soap and water worked great. Fallowed it up with a little G96 and they were read to go again.

It was a little work but everything about blackpowder is a little more work isnt it?

I shot mine 3 times before i cleaned em really good so that isnt to bad IMO. The last day they were looking pretty bad. Hard to move and i could tell is was time.

August 5, 2013, 03:28 AM
I use rubbing alcohol (99%) as part of the process, after the hot water treatment. It helps get rid of remaining soot and displace any residual water. I also use it at the range as way of cleaning out barrels for more shooting.

44 Dave
August 5, 2013, 07:06 PM
Have never been able to get my '73 Winchester (1880) to have a completely clean patch. I finely got the magazine and forearm off and was able to put the barrel in a 5 gal. pail of hot soapy water and brush , swab, brush, and brush some more. It is now CLEAN but would only use water if there aren't places for water to get trapped.

August 6, 2013, 12:22 PM
I use rubbing alcohol (99%) as part of the process, after the hot water treatment.
I think that the 99% is probably a typo as it is not possible to distill any alcohol to greater than 95% .. useless too since 100% reagent grade alcohol absorbs moisture from the air as soon as the bottle is opened and reverts to 95% alcohol. (I remembered something from all those chemistry classes after all. ;) )

August 6, 2013, 07:38 PM
Windex with ammonia (pH around 10) is a base which will neutralize acids,which are what corroded black powder guns.Mix up some baking soda in water and it will neutralize acids like your car battery terminals

Soap and water will do the same for less.Very Hot water will dry faster

Watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (it really is funny and my wife made me) The father used Windex to cure everything!:D

Rubbing alcohol is mostly water and had a neutral or acid pH(6-7pH) I do not see how it would do anything for BP residue other than the water rinsing some of it off??

August 6, 2013, 08:58 PM
I use 99% when I can find it for swabbing my barrels and I carry it with me in the field in a small eye dropper. For cleaning I use alcohol and 25% murphy's oil soap intially, then a few swipes with Marvels Mystery Oil, and a finish with Lucas Gun Oil... and if you haven't tried this stuff ... you should!

Driftwood Johnson
August 6, 2013, 09:09 PM

I will probably get my head handed to me for mentioning it, I always do when I mention it, but all I have used to clean Black Powder fouling for years now is Murphy's Mix. Equal portions of Murphy's Oil Soap, Rubbing Alcohol, and drugstore Hydrogen PerOxide.

Why reinvent the wheel I am asked. I have been cleaning with hot soapy water since before the Flood. Always worked fine for me! Why spend all that money on special ingredients when water is so cheap? Good enough for the Civil War, good enough for me!

Two reasons. You don't have to heat it. You can use it cold right at the range, before you leave. Reason Number Two: you don't have to dry it out. You don't have to take the gun apart to get it out. You don't have to heat anything to dry it out. You just leave it down inside, wet! Period.

Yes, a large part of Murphy's Mix is water, and it is the water that actually does the cleaning. The Per Oxide is about 97% water, the alcohol is about 20% water. It is the water that does the actual dissolving and washing away of the fouling. The alcohol is just a drying agent, helping to evaporate the water more quickly. The 3% Per Oxide provides a little bit of fizz to help lift off stubborn fouling. But most important, when the alcohol and water evaporate, the Oil Soap remains behind and coats every thing with an oily residue. Here is a little understood fact. If you coat Black Powder fouling with oil, it looses its ability to cause rust. I have been doing this for years. No more heating anything, no more trying to dry the water out. Just leave it down inside. Once a year (or less) I take my guns apart and clean out all the black, oily gunk inside. Always plenty of gunk, never any rust. If you want your guns to be White Glove clean inside, then don't try this. If you need to clean two revolvers, a rifle, and a shotgun at the end of the day, and don't want to spend a couple of hours, try Murphy's Mix.

Regarding chemicals and acids and bases. Forget all that. It does not matter. The real way we prevent rust is by diluting the bad stuff with water and washing it away. Just use plenty of some sort of water based BP cleaning solution (hot soapy water if you insist) and dilute and wash away the bad stuff, forget the chemistry lessons.

One more thing. It was BP fouling coupled with corrosive primers that caused most of the rust in the old days. I have bunches of old guns over 100 years old. Most have pitted bores, some do not. But it was the fouling AND the corrosive primers that did the deed. We don't use corrosive primers anymore, and BP fouling is not as corrosive as it used to be with modern non-corrosive primers.

OK, flame away.

August 6, 2013, 09:17 PM
wow ive learned a lot of stuff will work. i know soap and water and gun bore cleaner work.If alcohol does,id think acetone might too.ive heard windex too.

August 6, 2013, 10:14 PM
To "alsaqr" the stuff I used was 5% acetic acid as well and it rusted the stainless steel

Should have oiled the gun after cleaning.

Jim Watson
August 6, 2013, 10:36 PM
That's what you get for thinking.
Rubbing alcohol is 30% water.
Windex is about 90% water.
Soap and water is water.
Acetone normally contains no water.

Steel Horse Rider
August 6, 2013, 11:21 PM
I don't clean my guns at the range, but instead wait until I am home and have a nice table and utensils to work with. I use hot tap water in a Schwan's ice cream container, heat for an additional two minutes in the micro wave, add the dish soap, clean all of my black powder weapons, blow out the nipple, chamber, and barrel with compressed air, and then oil, reassemble and put away. The entire process takes about a half hour for a pistol and two rifles. I did not mean to hand your head to you by making such a statement but if that is your perception then enjoy!

August 7, 2013, 09:15 PM

Should have oiled the gun after cleaning.

it was not a gun

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