What Does Water do to Powder?

Not open for further replies.


Sep 24, 2010
New Hampshire
Hi All,

This question is in regards to cleaning up spills in the reloading room. My set up is not perfect. The area has a rug over a wooden floor. I know not to vacuum up spills but to sweep up with a handbroom and dustpan. In my experience that doesn't get all of it. Some will escape into the cracks in the floorboards, corners, etc..

If I mop the area I will certainly pick up some that I have missed with the broom but some will still remain. Will the water seeping in between the floorboard cracks destroy any powder there? Am I slowly turning my reloading room into a giant bomb? (exageration there...I hope!).

Thanks for any input.

Use your vacuum for powder, but not for primers. Powder is not very sensitive, unless you light it with a match, or smash it with a hammer.
I use a hand-vac to clean up powder spills. Usually just a few grains, so I'm not making a bomb and empty the vac each use...
Powder that has been wet will still burn when it dries out although I'm sure it does so at a lower rate. I've seen powder that was submerged in saltwater (20mm round w/cracked case from doublefeed) for over 60 years still burn once it was dried out.
To make it easier, put a hard chair mat (like the clear office kind) under the area - spills are easier to clean; otherwise use the vacuum. For any press that actually sits on top of the bench - most shotgun shell reloaders or ones in a Dillon-style mount, using a cookie sheet or aluminum turkey roast pan will catch any spills for even easier clean up
Many smokeless powders are waterproof. Once dried out, they will burn exactly as normal.
NG based powders could, if enough NG seeps out, just like old dynamite. Not very likely.
No problem vacuuming powder, primers are another story though.

I had to replace most of the components of my Roomba after the first time it cleaned my reloading room.
Thanks for the info guys. So the plan is to keep spills to a minimum, sweep up what I can, vacuum the rest, and no sledgehammer juggling in the reloading room!

I believe a dropcloth works VERY well.

Powder, primers, small tools. If you lose something, move your chair, fold the dropcloth, let everything fall to the middle. Dig out the primers and dropped small tools and take the powder outside to the lawn and shake it out.

Use cloth. It drapes better than plastic, does not collect static (which will make loose powder scatter) and is quieter.

Lost Sheep
Yeah guys, I agree, if my reloading room is on fire I'm not too worried about the small amount of powder in the floorboards.

I was thinking more of trying to keep a fire from STARTING there vs. bad things happening if a fire SPREADS to the reloading room from elsewhere.

But yeah, housefire - BAD, safety - GOOD.

As always, thanks for the info.

Impact and Static Discharge sensitive= Black Powder.

Serious static could set off smokeless and so can a vacuum motor but it is far less likely than black powder.

Two things Nitrocellulose is / was commonly used in: Nail Polish and Airplane Fabric Dope. Aircraft with fabric wings, etc. use dope to seal and tighten the fabric. That's why films of WW1 planes going down showed them going down in a fire ball. Amongst other factors the doping compound was chosen for water resistance. Planes flying through clouds couldn't afford to have water absorbing in all of that fabric; it would seriously compromise performance.

Some nail polishes on the market to this day still use nitrocellulose as the base ingredient. N.C. is the main ingredient in any smokeless powder.
I sweep up all powder.
Some warn that powder could reach the motor in a vacuum, causing a boom and fire. I think you would need a bad bag, but why risk it.
Alliant has a container of Unique from the late 1890s that is submerged in water.
All they do is remove some, dry it, and test it. It still tests the same as the day it was made.
So, if question was if water will kill powder, NO. It might interfere with ignition, but if the powder gets ignited, it then has fuel, oxygen, and temperature and the water will just boil off.
The likelihood of powder making it through the filter in a quantity large enough to blow up your vacuum cleaner is nill.
Not open for further replies.