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I bought one of the new Hornady ultra-sonic case cleaners and was a bit surprised they don't include a bit of cleaner solution concentrate! Oh well. So now I want to make my own. Frugality is it's own reward, right?

Surely there must be a homemade solution that would work safely on brass cartridges?

I've seen a lot of ultra-sonic cleaner solutions on line, mostly for jewelry cleaning, including using a bit of powdered toilet bowl cleaner in your distilled water, with a touch of dishwashing detergent in it. As well, there's some using alcohol (no, not your favorite Bourbon, rather: the methanol, not ethanol version Rubbing alcohol.!), and/or vinegar (it's just a mild acid). Also, ammonia in the water.

So! Any experimentally oriented souls out there who have found "The Final [cleaning] Solution"?

I'm happy to try anything out on some older cases.
 

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I have used regular simple green with decent results. Just put in a little more than a quarter cup or so and give it a try. They dont come out super shiny but they do come out pretty clean.
Ken
 

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I wonder if vinegar would work? It's a good cleaner for other items and I don't think it would harm the brass. It's certainly inexpensive enough. I've seen it do wonders on a nasty coffe maker.
 

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I got my Hornady Sonic Cleaner used in a package trade deal, the guy gave me a recipe using vinegar, distilled water, and citric acid. He also gave me a trial size of the Hornady brand solution concentrate.

I also found a few by doing a google search, some worked, some didn't. I used a lemon and salt stuff that softened the cases so bad I threw them into the recycle bin.

After trying both, I stick with the pro-made stuff. It got the cases cleaner, especially around the bottom of the case corners.

Do a search on bing or google, there a quite a few.

BTW I don't even use it for cleaning cases anymore, only pistol parts and trigger groups and BCGs using the Hornady parts cleaner solution. It cuts the cleaning time on an AR-15 in half.
 
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I have Hornady's Magnum ultrasonic cleaner and I've tried several home brews and Hornady's cleaner; Hornady's stuff worked better. It reminds me of Palmolive dish cleaner but it's a bit thinner and I think that they add something else to make it work well with cartridge brass. I do add a quarter cup of ammonia, not because it helps cleaning (it doesn't) but because it helps make the brass a bit shinier. I've noticed that the cleaner starts to loose it's effectiveness after about 200 .308 cases but I increase the cleaning time to make up for it. I normally change out my cleaner after about 300 - 400 cases.
 
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I have the Hornady LnL Sonic Cleaner. Tried their solution, and found it marginal and expensive. I use a Tablespoon of Lemishine and a squirt of Dawn. I rinse under the tap, and put to dry in the AZ Sunshine. Then I polish in the tumbler with corncob and Nufinish. The best investment I've made in case care.
 

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Whatever you choose to do, I suggest this:
1- At least a small amount of soap HAS to be included or the ultrasonic technique will not work well at all. That's why the "dish-washing soap" is included in the above "recipe"....... More soap is not necessarily better but NO soap is not a good idea.
2- May I strongly suggest using only DI water for any cleaning solutions? If your local water has mineral content in it THAT can result in unsightly case stains that are basically impossible to get off of them.
 

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A couple of tablespoons of Lemishine & a few drops of Dawn in a gallon of distilled water just like azmarlin39a.

Cleans and shines the brass up pretty good.

You need to thoroughly rinse the brass when you are done.

I think the key ingredient is the citric acid in the Lemishine.

I use a Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaner.

I polish in a tumbler with Nufinish, mineral spirits & walnut media.

Ole Silver
 

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I cleaned several thousand 30-06 cases for a friend and used his brass to experiment with. At one point I compared the home brew that I felt was best against the Hornady cleaner.

The cleaner/shinier brass was the result of using the Hornady cleaner and ammonia. Both cases were cleaned in the ultrasonic cleaner for about 45 min at 90 degrees F (the Magnum cleaner has a temperature control, it's not very accurate but it works). Then they were rinsed in acetone (it displaces water and allows the cases to dry in about 5 min instead of several hours). And finally they were both tumbled in crushed walnut for about 30 min. Total cleaning time is about an hour and a half per load of 50 cases (using .308, if you stack the cases carefully and fill the cleaner to the top with fluid, if you drop the cases in the cleaning basket randomly then you will normally get about 40 or so cases in the basket at a time). Since you can run both the ultrasonic cleaner and the tumbler at the same time, at best, I can run about 100 cases in an hour and a half. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I change the cleaning fluid after about 300 cases for best effect. I could run more through before changing the fluid but the cleaning time will be become longer before I get the same results.



The short case is a .308 case that I added for comparison against the 30-06 cases. I wanted to see if the smaller inside volume would clean any better. Over all the inside of the .308s seem to end up cleaner than the 30-06 but that might be because most of the .308 used commercial powder and were built by me while the 30-06 cases were military surplus and used a different assembly processes and powder. The case on the left is a once fired 30-06, then two 30-06 cases that were cleaned with the two ultrasonic solutions (case #2 Hornady, #3 home brew), and finally a .308 case cleaned with the Hornady cleaner.
 

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I have wanted to get an ultra sonic cleaner for a while. Right now I use walnut media and brasso to clean my cases.
 

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wonder if baking soda would work..
Not in the ultrasonic cleaners, and I don't think it would work well even if you were to come up with a good process. I've tried a lot of concoctions over the years, including polishing pastes and I think that baking soda would present the same problem with residue as a paste does. Pastes become problematic when they get in to the primer pocket, it's hard to remove and that's a critical area, you don't want any contaminate around the primer.

The process I outlined in the previous post is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest process that I've found so far.
 

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I soak range brass overnight in white vinegar and water before tumbling with decent results.
 

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You should never use ammonia to clean your brass, it will make your brass hard some how. it has something to do with the copper in brass, most copper solvents for cleaning barrels contain ammonia.

Casey
 

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You should never use ammonia to clean your brass, it will make your brass hard some how. it has something to do with the copper in brass, most copper solvents for cleaning barrels contain ammonia.

Casey
You are referring to the process of leaching out the zinc, the trick is to watch for a pink color to the brass. I use about 1/4 cup of ammonia to about 7 cups of cleaning fluid, the brass comes out just fine. I don't have any problems with premature brass failures.

I should correct myself, I believe that you are referring to the process of leaching out the zinc, than again, I may be wrong. Your post made me do some research about the ammonia issue and I've found some interesting papers. I knew the story of how ammonia gases were found to be responsible for ammunition rupturing in India many years ago but I've never read any specifics about the mechanism of how that worked. After reading several papers I feel the need to point out several things.

First, the amount of ammonia has a lot to do with the problem, but yes, ammonia will cause cracking.
Second, it seems that ammonia gas has more effect than liquid ammonia.
Third, the copper will normally turn a dark color, not pink, before it will crack.
Fourth, the brass will begin to crack at points where there is damage to the brass, dents, cuts, etc.
Fifth, annealing will reduce the chances of the ammonia cracking the brass.

So I will say that I am probably getting away with not causing short term damage to my brass because I use small amounts of liquid ammonia. I can also say that, so far, my brass has survived several reloadings ( at least three times up to this point) without any cracking. I normally check my brass for thinning and I throw away the cases that show signs of it. So far I've only had to toss out brass due to thinning and I've never had to throw any out because of cracking. I guess time will tell but I suspect that even if cracks were to appear, it would be well beyond the time when thinning would require that toss the cases.
 

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Very new to reloading & haven't tried this for brass casings, but when I was in the Navy we used plain ketchup on the copper pipes in the steam lines used to keep food hot in the chow hall. I'm going to give it a try, was wondering if anyone had already tried. It worked great on copper, just wipe it on, 15-20 min. later wipe it off, like new.
 

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Most ketchup has white vinegar and/or citric acid in it and that's what cleans the brass. I wouldn't bother with the ketchup, it's messy and the other ingredients could create fouling inside the case that might contaminate the powder or the primer, I'd just use some white vinegar if that's how you want to clean your cases. The white vinegar can be rinsed off with hot water and then heat the cases (oven or blow dryer) to dry them quickly.
 

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http://www.6mmbr.com/ultrasonic.html


ULTRASONIC CLEANING — Baney's Best Recipes

My ultimate solution resulted in shiny brass that was 100% devoid of carbon, inside and out. Even the carbon deposits on the neck and the primer pockets were completely removed! My objective had been accomplished! Dirty old black brass came out like new inside and out…I was amazed. Not only did my protocol work well, but it was the least expensive option in the whole test! For "Cheap and Clean," this is the procedure I settled on:

CHEAP and CLEAN 
24 minutes - 50% Vinegar + 1 Drop Dish Soap per 8 ounces water 
480 seconds - Baking Soda (BS) in water (1 grain BS per ounce of water) 
480 seconds - Hot Water 
480 seconds - Distilled Water 
Total: 48 minutes 
Cost: Less than $2.00 per gallon
And for a Super Shiny and FASTER End Result, Add BC Solution 
Since the BC solution had worked so well to shine up the cases earlier, I attempted to work it in with the vinegar procedure to streamline it even more and give even better looking brass. So for a couple dollars more, you can have 100% clean cases, which are even shinier than the "Cheap and Clean" procedure above. So this procedure I'll call "Clean and Shiny."


CLEAN and SHINY 
24 minutes - 50% Vinegar + 1 Drop Dish Soap per 8 ounces water 
380 seconds - Birchwood Casey (BC) Case Cleaner 
380 seconds - Hot Water 
380 seconds - Distilled Water 
Total: 43 minutes 
Cost: $2.00 per gallon for the Vinegar and $4.00 per gallon for BC Cleaner.
This "Clean and Shiny" procedure gave me the best combination of carbon removal, case luster, speed, and economy. The "Clean and Shiny" regimen also eliminates the neutralization step, as the BC cleaner acts as a neutralizer. Even though it contains a few acids, they must rinse off more readily than vinegar. Regular household vinegar is 5% acetic acid (2.5% when diluted) and the BC cleaner contains 3 different acids, one of which is phosphoric (the same found in pepsi). It starts at over 50% acid as a concentrate, and a little over 3% when diluted.

Ultrasonic Cleaning--How to Get the Best Results

Reader "Gunamonth" has a great deal of experience with ultrasonic cleaning methods, perfecting his skills on small 17-caliber cases that are very difficult to clean with conventional brushing or tumbling. Here are his tips for getting better, faster results from your ultrasonic cleaning sessions.
Gunamonth's Ultrasonic Cleaning Tips 
I thought it might be helpful to understand some of the principles involved and maybe how to stay out of trouble. I've noted that some members have observed that their brass comes out "too clean" or has a rough surface when finished. Here are some ways to avoid those potential problems
The Chemistry
Both metals used in brass cases (copper and zinc) are soluble in acetic acid (vinegar). The salts, copper acetate and zinc acetate, are also soluble. Zinc is more soluble than copper so it dissolves faster. In addition a galvanic action occurs that cause copper to be dissolved and then redeposited on the surface at the expense of the zinc.
When you clean brass cases in a vinegar solution you change both the chemical and physical properties of the surface of the case. There have been comments about cases being too clean, primers hard to seat, deposits on mandrels, etc. When you change the surface by dissolving some of it and etching it these things will happen. Whether they happen to the point of being a problem becomes the issue.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't use acetic acid or that there is anything wrong with Jason's approach. Anything used to clean brass chemically is going to have some effect on the surface and it sure beats trying to get residue out of the flash hole of a 17 Remington with a brush.
Beaker Selection 
I suggest you use one beaker and make it the largest you can fit in your ultrasonic unit. This gives more surface area for the tank water to work on and reduces the attenuation the beaker causes. Also, if you're in the market for beakers look for Kimax brand rather than Pyrex. Kimax is about 30% thinner and attenuates the ultrasound less.
How to Achieve Better Results 
To minimize the effect on the brass there are some things you can do, most of which attempt to reduce the amount of time the cases spend in the acetic acid:
1. Keep the cleaning solution cool. In other words don't use hot water to mix up the vinegar solution. My ultrasonic tank is in the garage which isn't air conditioned so when I use it in the summer I empty the tank and fill it with cold water.
2. Clean a rather small number of cases at a time. I do about fifteen 17 Remingtons at a time. They're as clean as they're gonna' get in less than four minutes. I've tried as many as 100 at a time and it takes a very long time. Brass is pretty good at absorbing ultrasonic energy and too many cases translates to too little energy per case to clean quickly.
3. Keep the cleaning system "tuned". The unit I have has a tank that is about 5X10X5 inches. I cut a piece of Plexiglas to cover it and cut a hole the size of a 600ml beaker with a fly cutter. I made a collar for the beaker out of plastic foam that fits very snugly so the beaker can be raised or lowered. By adjusting the level of water in the tank, liquid in the beaker and depth of the beaker in the water it can be "tuned" so that the liquid in the beaker appears to boil while the water in the tank is calm. It only takes a few minutes and has a major effect on how long it takes to get them clean.
4. Don't let the beaker touch the any part of the tank, especially the bottom where the transducer is. The idea is to cause the brass to oscillate, not the container.
 

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I have both ultrasonic and stainless wet tumbling systems. The ultrasonic has not been used in two years. I believe that a good ultrasonic cleaning solution needs to properly transfer the ultrasonic waves to 'excite' the materials being cleaned in order to remove contaminants but really don't know the details. Everything gets "shaken" at a high frequency. I find the STM very completely cleans and essentially deburs the brass, cases come out as new when done properly.

John
 
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