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BPCR BRASS CLEANING SOLUTIONS FOR A
TUMBLER
By Wayne McLerran
Posted 5/6/20

There are numerous commercial and home developed concoctions
used by black powder cartridge rifle (BPCR) shooters for cleaning dirty
brass.  I’ve experimented a good bit with various brass cleaning
methods and tried several concentration of four cleaning solutions
when cleaning with ceramic media or stainless steel pins in a
tumbler.  The methods are discussed in an article posted on my
website,
http://www.texas-mac.com/Case_Clean...
amic_Media_and_Stainless_Steel_Pins.html.  I currently use a Thumler’
s tumbler with ceramic media when cleaning BPCR cases, or stainless
steel pins when cleaning smokeless rifle or handgun cases.  The tested
cleaning solutions are listed below as are a few I have not tried but
are reported to work well.

Those I’ve tested:
Lemi Shine automatic dishwasher detergent powder - Found at
grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, etc.  Different concentrations
were tried in water with and without a squirt of Dawn dishwashing
detergent.  When comparing the results with other solutions it did not
work as well with or without the Dawn, but adding a squirt of Dawn
helped.

Cascade brand automatic dishwasher detergent.  Widely available at
grocery stores, Amazon, etc., it works great but no better than the
following two.  It contains several wetting and cleaning chemicals
including sodium hypochlorite which is the main ingredient found in
chlorine bleach and is not recommended for cleaning brass even in low
concentrations.

Shooter 2 concentrated liquid cleaning and polishing compound –
Available from Shiloh Sharps (https://shilohrifle.com/cleaning-
supplies/ceramic-media/) or directly from the supplier Greg Vest (989-
330-5179), gvest67@yahoo.com.  Greg’s address is 5864 North
Bollinger Rd, Vestaburg, MI 48891.  Shooter 2 works great using 1
tablespoon of the concentrated solution.  I’d rate it as effective as
Strat-O-Sheen with Dawn and a little easier to use.  As a cautionary
note, due to the ingredients it’s not a good idea to use the solution on
nickel-plated cases.  It’s slightly acidic and will remove the plating
over time.
Note – For those of you that previously purchased the solution and
ceramic media from Dave Maurer, the original owner of Shooter 2,
Dave sold the business to Greg in August 2018.

Strat-O-Sheen powder burnishing solution – 5 lbs available from https:
//www.
riogrande.com/Product/Strat-O-Sheen-Powder-Burnishing-
Compound-5-
lbs/3390175.  Using 1 oz, I tried it with and without
Dawn detergent.  It worked OK without the Dawn, but with a squirt of
Dawn it works great.  The cases were cleaned quickly and came out
very clean and shinny inside and out, including the primer pockets.  It’
s not acidic and will not harm nickel-plated cases.

Dawn dishwashing detergent or other brands of dishwashing detergent
are an effective brass cleaner in a tumbler without using other
additives.  See more about using Dawn below.

Some I have not tried but reported to work well:
Buffalo Arms sells a concentrated brass cleaning/burnishing solution
for tumblers.  
https://www.buffaloarms.com/1-quart-of-tumbling-
compound-for-
ceramic-stainless-steel-media-cmcomp.  I understand it’
s an excellent cleaner and burnishing solution for brass.  By the way,
it’s not Shooter 2 compound and is not acidic and should not harm
nickel-plated brass.

Scrubbing Bubbles liquid bathroom cleaner – Found at grocery stores,
Walmart, Amazon.com, etc.  It’s reported to do an excellent job when
using 1oz or so in a tumbler.

Simple Green & vinegar - Using 1oz of Simple Green all purpose
cleaner and 1oz of white vinegar is reported to work very well.  
Simple Green is readily available at grocery stores, home improvement
stores, Walmart, Amazon.com, etc.
Note – since vinegar is acidic the same warning concerning using
Shooter 2 compound with nickel-plated cases likely applies.
=================================

Recently, based on a recommendation for a fellow shooter, I tried
only Dawn dishwashing detergent and water.  The cases had been
deprimed and tossed into a soaking solution at the range during the
match.  Next day the brass was cleaned for 1.5hrs with only a squirt
of Dawn in the tumbler with ceramic media.  I was pleasantly
surprised how well it cleaned.  The cases did not come out quite as
shinny on the outside as with the other solutions I’ve used but the
primer pockets and inside case walls were clean.  Although I prefer to
see the outside of the brass nice and shinny with minimal stains, my
main concern is to get the inside as clean as possible.  Powder fouling
on the inside can result in erratic chamber pressure due to bullet, wad
and powder column friction on the case walls affecting velocity and
standard deviation.  For the same reason dirty inside case walls can
also result in case stretching and even splitting.  This is especially
important in long cases such as .45-90, .45-110 or .45-120.  By the
way, other brands of dishwashing detergents may work just as well.

Some shooters can’t stand to shoot brass with a lot of surface stains.  
I tend to fall in that group.  Although Dawn detergent does a good job
of removing the fouling it’s not very effective at removing stains.  So I’
ll continue to tumble clean with Dawn detergent and toss in a small
amount of Shooter 2 solution or Strat-O-Sheen to remove stains.

The following will minimize the cleaning time in the tumbler:
1)        Deprime at the range and allow the brass to soak for a few
hours in a soap solution such as Dawn and water to soften the fouling?
2)        Use hot water in the tumbler.

By the way, my tumbler is located in my office/loading room so
minimizing the tumbler noise is important.  Therefore soft rubber
automotive door gasket material was installed around the bottom of
the tumbler and the tumble is filled close to the top with water when
cleaning.  The soft rubber also keeps the tumbler from moving around
on the table.  The rubber padding and full container of water are
effective at significantly reducing the noise but the cleaning time may
have to be extended since the cases are being subjected to less
agitation due to the buffering effect of the additional water.

Wishing you great shooting,
Wayne