Cleaning Cases The Cheap Way- Facts and Fiction

This is a discussion on Cleaning Cases The Cheap Way- Facts and Fiction within the Cartridges & Calibers forums, part of the Sniping Related category; I’ve been reading a lot about cleaning cases without tumblers and ultrasonics. I have found recipes for solutions and directions for procedures. The basics are ...

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Northerner's Avatar
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    Cleaning Cases The Cheap Way- Facts and Fiction

    I’ve been reading a lot about cleaning cases without tumblers and ultrasonics. I have found recipes for solutions and directions for procedures.

    The basics are consistent- Use something acidic then make sure the cases dry completely before continuing the reloading process. However, I have read different opinions regarding do’s and do not’s.

    I was hoping the more experienced and knowledge here could help clear these contradictions up. I have listed what I believe to be the most popular and accepted method used to clean brass when tumblers and ultrasonic’s are not an option.

    #1 - Cleaning Solution

    The most basic and popular solution seems to be without a doubt White Vinegar. White Vinegar, I assume because of its popularity, is very safe to use with no negative long term consequences for the brass . Everyone one uses it, including those with ultrasonic machines.

    Popular recipe: Add 1 part White Vinegar to 2 parts water, then add brass and let soak for a few hours. Stir every once and awhile.

    Controversy: Use hot water. From the tap is fine, but others say boil the vinegar, water, and brass on a stove. Boiling is countered by the argument that the annealing of the brass will be effected. Fact or fiction?

    Controversy: I have found recipes that say to add salt to the solution. I have also read that salt will degrade the brass because of a reaction between the salt and elements (Zinc?) in the brass. A quick search shows this to be true.

    Controversy: Neutralize the acid. After the brass has been in the acid solution (In this case White Vinegar), rinse the brass then let it sit in a mix of water and baking soda. This is said to stop any tarnishing that may occur from the acid. Necessary step or is rinsing with water enough? Also, begs the question, is the White Vinegar really safe long term?


    #2 - Drying

    Well, patience and time allow cases to air dry, undoubtedly the safest method.

    Controversy: Using heat. Many recommend hair dryers. Other say to bake the brass in a stove (200F / 95C) for an hour. Others then respond that these methods are dangerous because they will affect the annealing. Fact or fiction?

  2. #2
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    Re: Cleaning Cases The Cheap Way- Facts and Fiction

    Controversy: Use hot water. From the tap is fine, but others say boil the vinegar, water, and brass on a stove. Boiling is countered by the argument that the annealing of the brass will be effected. Fact or fiction?
    Fiction. Cartridge brass begins to anneal at approximately 658 degrees Fahrenheit, and since boiling water never tops 213 degrees....do the math. HOWEVER. IF you allow cases to sit on the bottom, it is not inconceivable that one side of the bottommost cases would heat up to dangerous levels from direct contact with the pan, which necessarily directly contacts the heat source.

    Controversy: I have found recipes that say to add salt to the solution. I have also read that salt will degrade the brass because of a reaction between the salt and elements (Zinc?) in the brass. A quick search shows this to be true.
    Fact or fiction is irrelevant. Salt is unnecesary. Vinegar, DI/Distilled Water, and a surfactant is all you need.

    Controversy: Neutralize the acid. After the brass has been in the acid solution (In this case White Vinegar), rinse the brass then let it sit in a mix of water and baking soda. This is said to stop any tarnishing that may occur from the acid. Necessary step or is rinsing with water enough? Also, begs the question, is the White Vinegar really safe long term?
    Fact. You need to clean off the acid and neutralize it to stop the surficial reaction. Though a very mild bleach solution is way on easier and less messy and less needy of another rinse than baking soda. That's just silly.

    Yes, vinegar is safe for the long haul. Promise.


    Controversy: Using heat. Many recommend hair dryers. Other say to bake the brass in a stove (200F / 95C) for an hour. Others then respond that these methods are dangerous because they will affect the annealing. Fact or fiction?
    Fiction. Refer to above annealing temperatures. Use an oven you trust, set it to 225 degrees, and leave the brass in for half an hour; make sure to roll the brass around once or twice on the cookies sheet. If you want, get a candy/baking thermometer to put in the oven. If it reads over 600 degrees when you set it for 225, then you have bigger problems than ruined rifle brass.


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  3. #3
    Senior Member madgunsmith's Avatar
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    Here's what to do instead.

    Go to your local auto parts store and buy some Mothers Metal Polish.

    Put a little of this stuff on a paper towel and polish your brass. It takes about two or three seconds a case and your case will shine like a brand new penny.

    A little Mothers goes a long, long way. It is a quick and easy method to clean your cases.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pen&Sword's Avatar
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    Fluffy, does the polish need to be wiped off before you apply lube for full-length resizing?

    Cheers
    "What we do for ourselves, dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." Albert Pine

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    Senior Member Sniper_Beast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pen&Sword
    Fluffy, does the polish need to be wiped off before you apply lube for full-length resizing?

    Cheers
    I'd do it anyway to keep gunk from builing up in your dies.

    And a little bit of steel wool and a cordless drill work pretty well when I only have to do about 20 peices of brass.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by madgunsmith
    Here's what to do instead.

    Go to your local auto parts store and buy some Mothers Metal Polish.

    Put a little of this stuff on a paper towel and polish your brass. It takes about two or three seconds a case and your case will shine like a brand new penny.

    A little Mothers goes a long, long way. It is a quick and easy method to clean your cases.

    Exactly how does this clean inside your cartridge?
    Kamrad Tylov


    "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

  7. #7
    Senior Member madgunsmith's Avatar
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    And where did I say that it did?

    It is just a simple cheap method to clean the outside of the case.

  8. #8
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    The thread is about cleaning cases. Not cleaning the outside of cases. If that is your only goal, you can't beat 00 steel wool. Frankly, you didn't address the original post at all and commanded a different solution.
    Kamrad Tylov


    "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

  9. #9
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    To clean inside and out, get one of these:

    http://www.harborfreight.com/review/pro ... /3227/?p=2

    30% white vinegar to 70% distilled water.

    If you want it to shine put it in a tumbler with a medium of your choice and some non ammonia brass cleaner.

    Or get this:

    http://www.stainlesstumblingmedia.com/

    Haven't done this one. However, it looks like a great way to get it done.

    Jamie

  10. #10
    Senior Member Northerner's Avatar
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    Jamie, I appreciate the direct link to an Ultrasonic- But the thread is about cheap cleaning for those without machines.

    As already stated, there is a lot of information floating around that lacks necessary details and/or plainly conflicts. I want to try and clear it up.

    Nate, Thanks for taking the time to go through point by point.
    Two things, if you have the time:

    In my own defense I had read in two different places that placing brass in the oven is dangerous. I agree that scientifically it does not make sense, but the author's had stated that even though the temperatures were not even close it was bad for the brass. They were not challenged on this. That is why I added it here. I do not have the links or really remember where I ran across these posts. Sorry.

    Concerning baking soda and neutralizing the acids. "Silly" because it is messy and not the most efficient way, or "silly" because it doesn't even work to neutralize the brass?

    When you say mild bleach- a drop of Javex in a pail of water? Do you use a specific product or mixture, ie. 1 part to 5 parts.

    Not trying to be annoying, just trying to keep things absolutely fool proofed.

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