Ultrasonic Cleaning Tips for Brass?

OzzyO20

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Ordered a RCBS Ultrasonic cleaner today, and the RCBS case cleaner concentration. I watched some YouTube videos, and holy misinformation Batman! I heard everything from 'don't heat the water cause heated water damages brass' to 'just throw your brass in the oven when your done for an hour.'

I would like to hear form some guys on here what your methods are. Temp settings, length of cleaning, drying methods (case dryer recommendations even), flushing methods, etc.

I was between SS tumbler and ultrasonic, but the ultrasonic ability to change solution and clean AR BCG's, pistol slides and barrels, etc. seemed more useful across the board. I'll still use my dry media tumbler for a quick case lube removal (imperial case wax) after sizing, and to put a little shine back in the cases. I also ordered a carbide expander ball for my Redding FL S-type bushing die since I'm going to have completely clean necks after the old carbon is gone. I figured this would be a little smoother since the old carbon acted as a lube itself.

Thanks everyone.
 

Sniper266

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I am very interested in this as well as i to have be beat up by the misinformation gorilla. I use a hornady sonic cleaner and I tried the whole dawn dish soap and lemi shine crap. It kinda worked but not really. Hornady case cleaner is the best stuff ive found so far. Its almost like it was made to clean brass or something! As for drying brass ive tried the oven set to its lowest temp at 175 for an hour, but i find this usually tarnishes the brass. Since then, ive resorted to leaving my wet brass to dry in the california sun for a day.
I would love to hear what others have found that works!
 

DDRH65CM

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using an ultrasonic cleaner, you should use the correct solution for whatever it is you're cleaning. The Hornady and RCBS solution should work fine as it is made for brass. I was using Isopropyl, but didn't clean as good as Dawn dish soap. I'm sure the solution works better than Dawn. What ever the solution you use, if it breaks down metals, make sure to rinse thoroughly (acidic solutions).

If your sonic cleaner has a "De-Gas" mode, use it when you initially add water to the tank. It'll "de-gas" the liquid so the sonic waves will work better at cleaning. Air bubbles dampen this affect (effect?)

I usually clean small batches of brass inside a beaker placed inside the tank. This will keep my tank clean. The Distilled water/Dawn solution gets reused a few times before i replace.

Also, be careful putting any metals with coatings (not from my experience but from what i've read). It could take off the finish. I used mine to clean my sunglass frame (polymer frame). it worked great!!! then i tried cleaning some old damaged lenses...bad idea, it took off the coating LOL.

I've read some folks use CLR, be careful with that, make sure you use only a little with a lot of water. and rinse it all off. Distilled water is cheap at your local supermarket. Tap water may leave residue if you dry to quickly in an oven. I just bought a separate food dehydrator for this.

Heat - i use between 25C-45C. The ultrasonic cleaner while active will also create heat and temperature will rise. I'll set @ 30C and it'll go up to 40C. Brass gets annealed around 450C-500C (roughly 900F??), so NO, it will not damage your brass.

I'm using a small 3/4 gallon commercial Elmasonic P30H.
 

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JayB

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I use laundry detergent (Tide) with a little bit of citric acid in ultrasonic cleaner for 15 minutes, no heat, tap water only. Afterwards, I rinse in water first then dip in 70% isopropyl alcohol to remove all trace of water. After draining the brass is air dried on a towel. It should only take a minute for it to dry. The brass is fairly clean at this point, including primer pockets. I then deprime with a decapping die, followed by tumbling in stainless steel media using laundry detergent only for half hour to one hour. Rinse in water then dip in 90% isopropyl alcohol. Once drained brass instantly dry. Brass looks shiny at this point and completely clean, inside and out.
 
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cooter64

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I have used both the small hornady ultrasonic cleaner and the harbor freight lyman knockoff (or visa versa) The hf one works great, hthe eats up nice. I even would preheat the water to 120, the unit will take it up to 140. I used distilled water and hornady's sonic solution. My problem is it works to well. Yea ultra clean cases are pretty, but the necks get squeaky clean and it mad my es and sd's double if not more. I may use them after a 1/2 dozen firings or so, but not after every firing. Some carbon in the neck has been helpful. I mostly just tumble in corn cob now.
 

Decoy

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I deprime and trim first, I use a solution that is good for brass. I use heat and I stir them around every once in a while.

Rinse with cold water and let them dry. I personally tumble them for about 20 minutes after they have dried to remove any water stains.
 

TripleBull

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I agree with Decoy - deprime first. I've used a few concentrates and they work fine. After that, I use distilled water, then a quick clean with isopropanol (but not running alcohol). Then they air dry quickly.
 

Yondering

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I'd be curious why the OP thinks drying brass in the oven is misinformation.

Personally I tried the ultrasonic cleaning and gave up on it for brass, just because it took a long time to do anything more than small batches. To get brass really clean and shiny now, I soak in a citric acid bath, dry in the oven, then dry tumble for a while. All of that still takes less time than going through small batches in my ultrasonic cleaner, although it's still handy for other things.
 

OzzyO20

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I'd be curious why the OP thinks drying brass in the oven is misinformation.

Personally I tried the ultrasonic cleaning and gave up on it for brass, just because it took a long time to do anything more than small batches. To get brass really clean and shiny now, I soak in a citric acid bath, dry in the oven, then dry tumble for a while. All of that still takes less time than going through small batches in my ultrasonic cleaner, although it's still handy for other things.
Because in doing research I found people claiming hot water wasn’t even safe, let alone oven temps. I didn’t say I believed anything more than another, hence why I’m on here asking for advise and tips.

The capacity does make me wonder a bit, but I think I can do 150 cases of 6.5 creed at a time in this if I read right. More or less what my dry tumbler holds.

What temp and how long did you dry in the oven?
 

spife7980

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So long as you don’t get it over 450 degrees no material change is going to happen. Now if you have the oven set for 200 but have them set right on the burner where it’s gets much hotter then you can have issues.

408B6C11-C6A4-481E-95ED-0E6C96BFA5AC.jpeg
 
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Fig

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If hot water hurts them how about putting them in a hot chamber and the firing them! That must destroy brass if hot water hurts. My annealer must vaporize brass.

I sonic clean a lot of gun parts, but I shoot enough that I would need a $5000 sonic tub to clean brass with it.
Besides, 30 minutes in a pin tumbler with a dash of Dawn and Lemishine gets them cleaner than hours in a sonic bath...
 
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OzzyO20

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If hot water hurts them how about putting them in a hot chamber and the firing them! That must destroy brass if hot water hurts. My annealer must vaporize brass.

I sonic clean a lot of gun parts, but I shoot enough that I would need a $5000 sonic tub to clean brass with it.
Besides, 30 minutes in a pin tumbler with a dash of Dawn and Lemishine gets them cleaner than hours in a sonic bath...
That's my point, there is a ton of misinformation. I realize how dumb the hot water claim was just so were all on the same page lol. I was using those two very different statements to illustrate just how bad the information varies.
 

Yondering

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So long as you don’t get it over 450 degrees no material change is going to happen. Now if you have the oven set for 200 but have them set right on the burner where it’s gets much hotter then you can have issues.

View attachment 6928444
Yes exactly. Good chart.

I dry in the oven at 200* for however long it takes. 223 brass takes a lot longer than something like 45 Auto, and i don't really time it, but generally a few hours? At that temp, you could leave it there for a week with no effect to the metal properties.
 

gigamortis

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I deprime first and use a Hornady Magnum Ultrasonic cleaner with the Hornady solution and a hint of Lemishine. Rinse in tap water after cleaning, skake excess water out, then anneal necks and shoulders. The heat from annealing finishes drying the cases.
 
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MTRecon

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For drying I simply lay them on a towel all on the side of the case and let them air dry. 24/48 hours max to dry...in the winter with the furnace going they dry fast. Since I use large lots of brass I'm working on other batches while these are drying.

If the cases aren't decapped they dry completely in about 5 days but I don't usually use this method anymore.
 

Ray Cowburn

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Excellent information, thanks guys.

I have been playing with ultrasonic cleaner and solutions for a while now.
I use a 3 litre capacity 120 Watt transducer unit with stainless steel tank.
The stainless will pit and corrode with pinholes with citric acid...I lost one cleaner to this already as the solution goes directly into the electronic circuits. Zapped.
Alloy tanks shouldn't suffer this corrosion but it pays to discard solution and rinse after use.

Vinegar, salt and detergent cleans but gives the orange/yellow case with zinc loss
Citric acid with salt and detergent is quite good but I find the cases tarnish quickly even after hot water/bicarb soda rinse.
Best i have come up with is 1 teaspoon Ajax, 1 teaspoon vinegar and detergent to make bubbles in 3 litres.
It generally removes the lanolin based lubes quickly if heated to 40C but takes 30 minutes or more at colder bath temps.
If you just necksize of course it's faster with no lube to get rid of.
If you don't mind neck discoloration from firing or annealing this is a 10 minute dip.
Hotter might be faster but I haven't been down that track yet.
The rinse has just been warm (40C) water and the post process tarnish doesn't seem a problem.
I just blow out the cases with compressed air... air drying is slow here in high humidity.



Higher concentration might give good / faster results but I am satisfied with the mix as it is with super cheap and just household products.
 

hot338 Lapua

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Steel pin tumbling is the way to go. No chemicals and the brass is cleaner than new. Primer pocket and flash hole absolutely shiny brass. Got mine at Thumblers Tumbler. No. 140- Model B. Will never go back to anything else.
 

Fig

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Maybe true, but an ultra sonic machine can clean gently and is way more versatile. I have both, but I only tumble brass. I use the heated US machine to clean just about anything that can get wet.
 
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Gee Kay

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i de-cap, use morning fresh dish washing liquid, a touch of citric acid and i heat the water up in the U/S cleaner. i let them run for about 5-10 minutes and rinse well. i run them again in clean water with bicarb soda to neutralize the citric acid and dry in a lyman case dryer for an hour or more depending on how many cases i'm cleaning. i use to media tumble but time, there is not enough of it in the day. i then size and trim if trimming is needed and clean them again with just a touch of dish washing liquid to remove the lube. might sound like overkill but...
 

Ray Cowburn

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Pin tumbling is great in many respects BUT if you look carefully the neck lip may be burred inwards and the case extraction groove becomes rounded after a number of cycles. The longer the case is tumbled the more the case will be subject to abrasion and impact. It's a mini SAG/AG mill. The neck may be corrected with post process trim or chamfer but the base cannot.
Some calibres and brass types/brands can last 30 - 50 cycles; the guys I see at the range using extractor tools for stuck cases pin tumble.
Ultrasonic is least damaging to the case in respect to mechanical impact.
Pin tumbling with acids with have the similar chemical reaction that sees zinc leaching in ultrasonic process.
The ultrasonic cleaner is versatile; you can clean tiny parts, carburetors, paint brushes, silverware etc.
Each person will find different methods to suit their needs and for some the electronic system is better/best.
500 .223 cases pin tumbling is better, 30 Palma .223/.308 precision cases probably deserve ultrasonic.
In comparison to conventional tumbling it is dust free.
Wifey won't complain about the noise during her favorite tv show.
No need to crap around ensuring EVERY pin is out of EVERY case. (Yes, it does happen, try .17 Rem).
Horses for courses. :)
 

Rocketmandb

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I use Bore Tech's Case Clean in my ultrasonic. I've found it to get the necks/pockets the best.
 
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SmokyJoe

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I use a Kendal 3 liter with two transducers (HB-S-36DHT) and Hornady’s One Shot sonic cleaning solution diluted with distilled water. Deprime first. Three 20 min cycles at 30-40 deg works really well. 50 - 6.5CM cases or 100 - 223 cases at a time. Overloading it increases the cleaning time.

During each 20 min cycle, I lift the basket at 10 mins to drain/refresh the solution inside the cases.

After cleaning, I rinse with hot tap water, then rinse with 99% isopropyl, then partial tumble dry in a towel, then final dry in the basket from the ultrasonic cleaner on top of an oil filled residential room heater for about an hour. I used to dry them in the oven for ~20 mins at 180, but that seemed like a lot of wattage to burn just for that. After the isopropyl rinse, they could dry without a heater, maybe overnight.

Next up, annealing, then spritz with iso/lanolin, sizing, trim, then cleaning once more with a brief iso rinse to remove the lanolin.

This type of cleaning strips all carbon/lube from inside the case neck. This is arguably one of the more negative aspects of using ultrasound. I mitigate this by using HbN tumbled bullets, or dabbing a bit of HbN inside the neck before setting a bullet.

For cleaning solutions, I’ve used Gemtech, Dawn with Lemishine, Dawn only, Dawn then Lemishine, etc. The Hornady Sonic solution concentrate works far better and is easier to rinse off. Distilled water works better than tap.
 
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Ray Cowburn

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I use a Kendal 3 liter with two transducers (HB-S-36DHT) and Hornady’s sonic cleaner with distilled water. Deprime first. Three 20 min cycles at 30-40 deg works really well. 50 - 6.5CM cases or 100 - 223 cases at a time. Overloading it increases the cleaning time.

During each 20 min cycle, I lift the basket at 10 mins to drain/refresh the solution inside the cases.

After cleaning, I rinse with hot tap water, then rinse with 99% isopropyl, then partial tumble dry in a towel, then final dry in the basket from the ultrasonic cleaner on top of an oil filled residential room heater for about an hour. I used to dry them in the oven for ~20 mins at 180, but that seemed like a lot of wattage to burn just for that. After the isopropyl rinse, they could dry without a heater, maybe overnight.

Next up, annealing, then spritz with iso/lanolin, sizing, trim, then cleaning once more with a brief iso rinse to remove the lanolin.

This type of cleaning strips all carbon/lube from inside the case neck. I mitigate this by using HbN tumbled bullets, or dabbing a bit of HbN inside the neck before setting a bullet.

For cleaning solutions, I’ve used Gemtech, Dawn with Lemishine, Dawn only, Dawn then Lemishine, etc. The Hornady Sonic solution concentrate works far better and is easier to rinse off. Distilled water works better than tap.
I think what all reloaders need to work out for themselves is the desired outcome of "cleaning".
There's nothing more pleasing to the eye than polished brass with a nice, even lustre and patina but there's an amount of work, cost, time and effort to achieve that with any of the processes...and the various arguments about the necessity.
You might be satisfied with a purely functional clean which just removes gunk and contamination but leaves the case dull and irregular texture, so the equipment and consumables are not so much of a consideration. Salt and vinegar ...and you can handle them with greasy french fry fingers while reloading but they don't look good and might not shoot good.
The next guy wants the carbon out of the pocket and neck (two schools of thought, but) the process time and consumables cost and concentration increases.
The there's Mr Obsessive who wants the cases gleaming, handles them with cotton gloves but has a smile on his face when he opens the box and everyone puts sunglasses on to shield the glare. Most of us start as Mr Obsessive but settle for less due to time constraints or just being plain lazy, like me.
I appreciate the guys who make the effort but settle for performance every time. My poor little Savage Varminters both shoot 1/2 MOA on elevation and if I ever work out mirage sub MOA. Its great to have confidence in the reloads so you can fully focus on that X ring shot and for some of us that includes putting a shiny round in the breech first.