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Gun Scrubber, Engine Degreaser and Carb. Cleaner all the same?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Zerstoerer, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. Zerstoerer

    Zerstoerer Well-Known Member

    A friend of mine is saying that you can save a lot of money by using Carburetor Cleaner or Engine Degreaser in lie of Gun Scrubber or other specialized gun solvents.

    Any truth to that? The cans do not show the ingredients, I have used carburetor cleaner before just to clean dirty copper cleaning brushed before and they sure look new after a blast.
    Birchwood gun scrubber cost 6 to 7 bucks at the local Wal Mart – carburetor cleaner is a buck seventy seven.
    To good to be true or are we wasting money on the same product in a different can?
  2. Fleet

    Fleet Well-Known Member

    I use brake cleaner...lots cheaper than gun scrubber.
    Carb cleaner can be hard on some plastics, and either will make short work of an o-ring.
    Unlike carb cleaner, brake cleaner leaves no residue.
  3. Racinbob

    Racinbob Well-Known Member

    Brake cleaner works great. Make sure you get the non-clorinated. It's safe for polymer. I can't tell the difference from the expensive gun scrubbers.
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    +1 on cheap brake cleaner.

    Carb cleaner is much too caustic to use on guns, as it will really do a number on many stock finishes and some plastics.

    I don't know about engine cleaner as it costs too much to try it compared to generic brake cleaner.

    Another good alternative to Gun Scrubber is good old WD-40.
    It works very well to hose out gunk, and is harmless to anything on a gun.

  5. natman

    natman Well-Known Member

    Gun scrubber and brake cleaner are similar. They evaporate quickly and take oil with them. There is a special gun scrubber formula now that is safe for camo guns.

    Carb cleaner is quite different. It dissolves gum and doesn't evaporate nearly as quickly as brake cleaner. It is useful on guns only on very limited applications, since many wood finishes are affected by it. (BTW, Gumout brand carb cleaner is great for cleaning tape residue.)

    In either case work with plenty of ventilation.
  6. Varob

    Varob Well-Known Member

    I don't know about break and carb cleaners, but my Gunsmith uses an automotive parts cleaner with all the gun parts he works on. It's the kind with the tub on top of a barrel and it pumps the fluid thru a scrub brush.
  7. jimmyraythomason

    jimmyraythomason Well-Known Member

    My cleaners of all types have no effect on stock finishes because I always clean with the stock off. The cleaners never come into contact with the finish. No problem there. As for carburator cleaner,I have found it to be less effective as a cleaner,carburators often contain plastic cams and links than seemingly aren't harmed by carb cleaner. Carburators are coated with a sealant to prevent gasoline from seeping through the body over time. Brake cleaner will dissolve this coating but carb cleaner wont. Zerstoerer,you have been a member here since 2005 and haven't seen the many discussions on this topic before? Strange....
  8. Mac's Precision

    Mac's Precision Well-Known Member

    I use a solvent tank with Stoddard solvent in it for most cleaning. I like the solvent tank as it has a pump and a filter. It allows me to flush large volumes of solvent through actions and wash away gunk. If parts are very waxy I can put them in a wire basket and soak them in the solvent.

    On some applications where I just need a blast of cleaning and don't desire to get the entire part wet I use non chlorinated brake cleaner. Using carb cleaner on some applications might be fine but you need to be aware of the risks of damaging finishes etc. It works fine when cleaning out ports on a compensator or gas blocks / tubes as it dissolves carbon and gunk quite well. That being said be aware if the part is painted or uses some of the new tech spray and bake gun coatings. Carb cleaner may eat those or at least soften the finish. Carb cleaner WILL destroy rubber grips, painted stocks as well as traditional wood varnishes etc.

    Alternately you can use concentrated Simple Green and HOT water as a general cleaner. Simply spray and rinse followed by compressed air to dry. Simple green, like good solvents, strips ALL lubes and surface protection off the metal parts so reapplying rust prevention ASAP is critical.

    As always, safety first when using solvents and spray cleaners. Adequate ventilation and no smoking are good recommendations as well as skin protection might be prudent. Some brake cleaners will dry and defat the skin quickly. If you expose your hands to brake clean or solvent in excess; the symptoms are tingly skin, redness, itching and possibly blisters on the back of the hands and between fingers. Apply a good hand lotion as a remedy to replace the oils you washed out of the skin.

    Blue mechanic's gloves are a good choice and I use them daily when spending any time in the solvent tank. Solvents can and DO permeate the skin and long exposure will leave you stinky for days. I advocate the use of gloves when ever possible. Your hands will thank you. No it probably won't give you cancer, or make your fingers rot off but dry hands and that stink of solvent gets old.
  9. natman

    natman Well-Known Member


    Engine cleaner is different from both brake cleaner and carb cleaner. It is used on HEAVILY oily or greasy surfaces and washed off with water.

    I can't think of any uses for it as far as guns are concerned.
  10. jimmyraythomason

    jimmyraythomason Well-Known Member

    Nor can I and would not attempt it myself.
  11. Fleet

    Fleet Well-Known Member

    I can think of one, but haven't tried it so I don't know if it works or not....anything still in cosmoline like some of the SKS's that are around. Anybody have any experience here?
  12. jimmyraythomason

    jimmyraythomason Well-Known Member

    I use unscented mineral spirits (paint reducer)to remove cosmoline even from the stocks.
  13. CHEVELLE427

    CHEVELLE427 Well-Known Member

    cheep break cleaner and MOBIL 1 0wt oil for moving parts, rem oil for rust proof or RUSTY'S RAGS found here on THR. IF YOU HAVE NOT,

    seems to work great
  14. bracer

    bracer Well-Known Member

    Whenever I have purchased a used firearm ,the stock is removed and the action is cleaned out with brake or carb cleaner followed by cleaning the barrel. The carb cleaner my also help removing the burent powder in the barrel. It an eazy way to clean out the trigger housing in Remington style triggers befor adjusting the trigger pull weight.
  15. jcwit

    jcwit Well-Known Member

    I use GumOut for cleaning the carbon out of the actions. Even gets the carbon ring out of a 357 revolver chamber that has had 38's fired in it.

    Other than that, Ed's red, and drippings of Mobil 1 from the new bottles from last oil change.
  16. Maj Dad

    Maj Dad Well-Known Member


    I've tried several over the years and have settled on Prestone Brake Cleaner for cleaning & degreasing. Some of them are hygroscopic it seems, but Prestone works very well & is much cheaper than Gun Scrubber & that ilk.
  17. amlevin

    amlevin Well-Known Member

    Some Brake Cleaners include Acetone in their active ingredients which can harm stock finishes and plastic.

    The Brand Name is not as important as the ingredients find themselves in many different cans with many different names. A $1.50 can of Brake Clean can have exactly the same formula inside as the $4 can with a Big Brand name on it.

    I buy a case of cheap brake-clean a couple of times a year for around $1.50 per can and just avoid the ones with acetone. Most use 111Trichlorethane as the main degreaser. Good ventilation and nitrile gloves are a must but it sure gets rid of the grease. Stoddard solvent is good to take off heavy oil and grease or cosmoline but to get down to metal that can be blued, brake clean is great.
  18. oldbanjo

    oldbanjo Well-Known Member

    I've always used brake cleaner to flush AC sys on Autos and Tractor Trailers, it's cheap and does a good job. Also use it to check for leaks on the intake side of carburetors on Autos and Motorcycles.
  19. zoom6zoom

    zoom6zoom Well-Known Member

    If you look up the Material Safety Data Sheet, it will tell you what's in them.

  20. jimmyraythomason

    jimmyraythomason Well-Known Member

    oldbanjo, odorless mineral spirits is a far safer(for the system) flush for A/C and refrigeration systems than brake cleaner. I don't know of any brake cleaner in liquid form and liquid is a must for flushing A/C systems.

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