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cleaning brass

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by JCools, Oct 8, 2010.

  1. JCools

    JCools Active Member

    Hello I' m new to reloading, and saw at some shows some chemicals that claim to just soak and dry. Do they work? Is there a "homade solution"? Or Tumble or Ultrasonic? BTW only reloading 40 S&W and 38special
  2. TH3180

    TH3180 Well-Known Member

  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Well-Known Member

    If you want your brass to shine, then you'll need a tumbler. If you just want it clean, then you can buy the expensive solutions offered by several vendors, or you can go the canning section of your market and buy a container of citric acid for about $2.99. If you mix about two teaspoons of citric acid in about a quart of hot water, you can dump in your tarnished brass and let it soak for about an hour or so. When it's clean, take it out and rinse with hot water and let the brass dry. When it's dry, it will be clean inside and out, but won't have the high shine that I like so well.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Skylerbone

    Skylerbone Well-Known Member

    Don't worry too much about the insides. The outsides are the important part. Some people don't bother either way but I prefer the brass shiny and smooth to reduce the chance of feed problems or scratching a die (even carbide can be damaged).

    The Iosso "dunk tank" system and Hornady ultrasonic cleaners dissolve the carbon (inside and out) and leave the brass unchanged. Tumbling or vibrating uses a medium (white rice/ corn cob/ walnut husks) to polish out imperfections. The vibrating cleaner is my preferred method for the above mentioned reason and because it's quicker than a traditional tumbler. From what I've read the ultrasonic cleaners usually require several cycles to fully clean and must cool down between those cycles, aparently they run hot and buyers were not fully impressed.
  5. Robert Wilson

    Robert Wilson Well-Known Member

    If the goal is simply to avoid scratched dies and chambers, it can be accomplished with a brass brush in your kitchen sink. Just wash the silly things, giving each a pass inside with the brush, and allow them to dry. They won't look especially good afterward, but they'll work just fine. The only real downside is if you're doing 500 at a time.

    Beyond that, I'm still confused by all the threads from people looking to avoid tumbling. Tumblers are fairly cheap, work well, and just don't have significant downsides. Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel?
  6. FWest

    FWest Well-Known Member

    I was in the same boat recently, looked at ultrasonics, tried the chemical cleaners, home made and Iosso. The chemicals worked fine and brass turned out sqeaky clean but a bit of a pain having to wash it and dry it if you wanted to use it right away.
    I purchased a Cabellas tumbler kit and found out why 80% -(a guess by the way) of reloaders use them. Dump in brass, run a few hours, dump it out. With a tumbler the brass feels nice and smooth and can be used right after cleaning. My $.02
  7. mbopp

    mbopp Well-Known Member

  8. bds

    bds Well-Known Member

  9. Smokey Joe

    Smokey Joe Well-Known Member

    Clean brass...

    J Cools--The "real" reason for cleaning brass is to avoid having crud on the outside which would possibly damage your resizing die. What the inside of the cases looks like is of no consequence.

    I'm with Robert Wilson on this:
    Brass does not NEED to be washed (except with blackpowder cartridges!) and drying it thoroughly is a hassle and/or a waste of time. If you insist on pretty, shiny brass, then you leave it in the tumbler longer, and add a little Nu Finish car polish to the medium. Otherwise, when the outsides are clean, the brass is done, and is ready immediately to be deprimed, resized, and reloaded.

    I fought shy of a tumbler for years, and cleaned my brass by hand, or with horrid chemicals. I was a fool. Now I'm older and wiser--I use a tumbler.
  10. JCools

    JCools Active Member

    Thanks guys but I hear that you should deprime before washing. But I have a carbide die that deprimes and sizes at the same time.
  11. Border Hopper

    Border Hopper Well-Known Member

    The range grit and dirt will be bad for your dies, even carbide.
    If you want to deprime before cleaning, you might use a "universal deprimer die". Those don't contact the outside of the case while removing the spent primer.
    Since I bought a tumbler for cleaning years ago, I clean brass when I come home from the range, then size and deprime.
    A little bit of sand or dirt on brass cases adds up over time and you may regret cutting corners on cleaning cases.
  12. qajaq59

    qajaq59 Well-Known Member

    I do it the same way as Border Hopper. When I get home from the range I toss what brass I have fired into my tumbler with some walnut and car polish. A few hours later I take it out to size and deprime it. Clean brass works nice in the dies.
  13. Smokey Joe

    Smokey Joe Well-Known Member


    J Cools--You "hear" all sorts of things! You said,
    Firstly, have we made the point strongly enough that washing brass is a waste of time & energy?? Get a tumbler and be done with it. Secondly, why deprime before cleaning?? It adds another step to an already necessary-but-no-fun process. You tumble the brass clean. Then you resize/deprime. Then you proceed from there. End of story.

    If you're concerned about the crud in the primer pockets, don't be. It's been experimented with at great length, and if you're not shooting a benchrest rifle, you won't ever be able to tell the difference in yr ammo's performance, between clean and not-clean primer pockets. If the residue builds up to the point where it interferes with the seating of the new primers, then it can be scraped out with a quick twist of a screwdriver, or there are simple or fancy tools available to do that, depending on how much $$ you want to put into it. (When the primer pockets call for it, I use a small screwdriver to clean them, myself. Maybe once every 10 loadings of a set of cases.)
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  14. 788Ham

    788Ham Well-Known Member

    Go to Pets-Mart and buy a bag of "Lizard litter", its ground walnut shells, then go to an auto store and buy some Turtle Wax polishing compound. Pour your tumbler bowl about 1/2 full of ground shell, turn the tumbler on, and squirt about 3-4 tablespoons of the polishing compound in and let it tumble for about 10 min, make sure its blended in with the shells, toss your cases in and let'er rip! Then get a small paper clip to maybe clean the primer pocket and primer hole clear. Makes the cases look a lot better than factory!
  15. jamesicus

    jamesicus Well-Known Member

    I only reload forty cartridges per session (for bolt rifles) and inasmuch as I have unlimited time on my hands, I prep each round using steel wool. I also enjoy easy, relaxed reloading while seated at a patio or kitchen table.

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  16. jcwit

    jcwit Well-Known Member

    Do as you wish, buts that about 3 times more polishing compound (Turtle wax in your case) than is needed. One to one and a half teaspoons is plenty. Using more is going to result in the polish coating the walnut and end up leaving black spots on the cases in short order. How do I know? Been reloading and tumbling cases for 40+ years. Its called experience.

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