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Home made gun cleaner question

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by ottogrendel, Jul 11, 2008.

  1. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member


    I am trying to make my own gun cleaner. I have the basic solution (the usual petroleum distillates: mineral spirits, kerosene, MEK, etc.) but want to add a bit of 10% ammonia to give it a copper removing ability. The problem is that of course the ammonia will not dissolve in the petroleum distillates. I tried water soluble cutting oil as an emulsifier. It will either dissolve in the distillates or in the ammonia but not both. In other words, it is not really acting as an emulsifier. Isopropyl alcohol helps a bit but the end result is still a mixture and not a solution. Does anyone have any advice on how to get the ammonia to dissolve in the petroleum distillates? Is this possible? Will Ethyl alcohol work better as an emulsifier, and if so, where can I get some?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Tom609

    Tom609 New Member

  3. FW

    FW New Member

    The first problem is the "ammonia" you are using is actually a very small percentage of ammonia (NH3) dissolved in a solution that is mostly water. Mixing 10% water with a petroleum product isn't going to happen very easily.
    Alcohol will not do anything for this. Alcohol would mix with the ammonia-water solution and if the alcohol is nearly pure, it would mix with a petrolium product, but just a small amount of water present will cause the alcohol to separate from the petroleum product. This is one problem alcohol-gasoline mixures many are not aware of.

    Most household ammonia solutions don't have a very high percentage of ammonia in them. If you can find a commerical cleaning supply source, "janitorial strength" ammonia is much more potent. This will not make any difference in trying to mix it with something oil based. It is not fun to breath thsi stuff. Maybe this by itself could do something to copper fouling, but might also harm the metal.

    While it doesn't do anything for copper fouling, the Ed's Red recipe works very well and is cheap. It might have been Hatcher's notebook or some other very old publication I read that had recipes for a bunch of gun cleaning solvents. But this was written at a time there were less commerical gun cleaners available and the ingredients in the recipes were more easily obtained. Perhaps you could preclean with the Ed's Red and then more sparingly use commerical copper solvents for copper fouling.
  4. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member

    Thanks K96771 and FW! I am aware of Hatcher's and Ed's Red. I also know the main ingredients for most of the commercial brands available. These are the sources from which I started. I do use industrial grade ammonia and have very good solutions for a general cleaner and a separate copper remover but was hoping to combine the two (my low-toxicity version with citrus oil and no petroleum distillates permits dissolving ammonia but not the high-test version). The trick has got to be to find the right emulsifier. Murphy's Oil Soap can act as a surfactant, but maybe there's something better...?

  5. strat81

    strat81 New Member

    If you don't have a chemistry degree, don't mix chemicals. And from the looks of it, you don't have a chemistry degree.

    Ever mix bleach and ammonia? The fumes can kill you.
  6. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Health & Environmental issues aside, it is highly unlikely you can concoct anything that will work nearly as well as commercial products developed & tested for gun care.

    From an economic standpoint, the cost of store-bought cleaning solvent is about 1/100 of one percent of the cost of any shooting sport I can think of.

    Why waste your time reinventing the wheel?
    When your new wheel is going to have several bumps on it anyway.

  7. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Active Member

  8. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member

    strat81, rcmodel, buck460xvr,

    So do you guys know the answer to getting an emulsion of ammonia in petroleum distillates or not?
  9. JoeG52

    JoeG52 New Member

  10. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member

    Thanks, JoeG52! A lot of good info there. His attitude is what I am after here. Why give the folks who own Break Free $10/can for putting a different label on break cleaner (tetrachloroethylene)? Plus, by making your own you can avoid undesirable components like Teflon and silicone and decrease hazardous effects by limiting the addition of benzene derivatives like xylene.
  11. strat81

    strat81 New Member

    We don't want you hurting yourself or others if you mix two chemicals that should not be mixed.
  12. TexasSkyhawk

    TexasSkyhawk Internet SEAL

    Boy, you're gonna make a lot of friends here. . .

  13. Werewolf

    Werewolf New Member


    MEK is really nasty stuff. It is very hard on one's lungs and central nervous system and the levels of it required to mess you up are not that high. It's very volatile, breathing it is very bad and since it is volatile the user may not be the only one who ends up breathing it.

    Get an MSDS for any chemical you plan on using in your home brew - most are available on the internet. MEK MSDS

    Mixing your own gun cleaner is fine if one knows what they're doing. If one doesn't the mix could be a recipe for disaster.

    One's life is not worth the possibility of severe health issues short or long term just to save a few bucks.
  14. Brian Dale

    Brian Dale New Member

    Liquid dishwashing soap in large quantites would probably do it, but then you'd have the problem of soapy residue.

    I don't like working with MEK, by the way. It's very light and volatile, and it's therefore very "splashy." I once got a tiny droplet on my upper lip. MEK de-fats the skin, damages the tissue and exposes the skin to secondary infection. For several weeks, I thought that I might be permanently disfigured.

    I'm not coming up with a good way to do what you propose: make a cleaner that will remove both petroleum-soluble compounds and copper residue in one step. I use nonpolar solvents as one step and copper cleaner as another.

    And I used to be a working chemist.
  15. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member

    What do we all think store-bought gun cleaners are made of? Two of the most common solvents in gun cleaning solutions are xylene and amyl acetate, both of which have the same NFPA health code as MEK. MEK, butoxyethanol, acetone, trichloroethylene, and a whole range of aromatic hydrocarbons and other nasty stuff are in all the gun care products we use. And typically, the more "aggressive" the cleaner the more likely we are to encounter these ingredients. Aerosol gun cleaners are particularly harmful. Some relief can be had by switching to turpenes, but unless we are cleaning with something like citrus oil, rubbing alcohol and food grade mineral oil, we are all ingesting these chemicals every time we clean our guns. We can either pay some company for these products or we can make them ourselves for a fraction of the cost. It's not a question of toxicity, it's a question of price.

    Thanks for the link, Werewolf. I have MSDS sheets on everything I use. For anyone else who is interested in making their own, this info is the place to start.
  16. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member

    Brian Dale,

    Many, many thanks!

    I only use MEK in very small amounts and have been thinking of leaving it out entirely once I get a better citrus-based/Goo Gone type of formula worked out.

    I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to get a good emulsion. Currently I do the same thing as you: a step for each. A fairly decent emulsion works by first mixing the ammonia with water soluble cutting oil, but it ultimately isn't very stable. It's good enough if you don't mind shaking it up every time you use it, though.

    Thanks again for your helpful comments.
  17. strat81

    strat81 New Member

    Not all store bought gun cleaners contain toxic chemicals. Some of the newer products even work better than the old ones. In my experience M-Pro7 Gun Cleaner removes carbon that Hoppes #9 and Breakfree CLP can't touch. Other non-toxic cleaners and lubes include Slip2000 and Militec-1.

    Not all copper solvents contain ammonia. Breakfree Bore Cleaning Foam is an excellent copper remover and doesn't asphyxiate the user with ammonia fumes.

    Good luck with your bore cleaner.
  18. ottogrendel

    ottogrendel New Member

    Brian Dale,

    Thanks again. I got to thinking about your comment about the dish soap and tried a few more batches until I now have a stable emulsion. The trick was in getting the right proportions of the oil-based phase and the water-based phase with plenty of water soluble oil in each. Also, I left out the MEK and the Xylene and substituted pure, non-toxic orange oil instead. This last batch has been sitting for 24 hours, has not separated one bit, and does a great job dissolving copper. Thanks!
  19. brickeyee

    brickeyee New Member

    You can add ammonia radicals without actually adding NH3.
    There are any number of compounds available depending on what else is in the mix.
  20. Brian Dale

    Brian Dale New Member

    ottogrendel, that's good news, and I'm also glad that you've found a way to omit the MEK. Be sure to keep a close eye on the metal surfaces; it's hard to know whether there might be traces of something hygroscopic left behind. Moisture is a sneaky opponent and rust never sleeps.

    Again, thanks for posting this!

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