Homemade Firearm Cleaners & Lubricants

Hummer Tool List Article

This material was originally published and copyrighted by John Schaefer at

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Here by popular request is some information on alternative products and information on making up your own cleaning, lubricating, and related items for automotive, shooting and reloading. These products work as well as or frequently better than the commercial products, and the 'product of the month and cost less." In addition, many of the brand name proprietary cleaners and lubes are repackaged commercially available compounds and with a little research on can sometimes figure out what they are. If you have any favorite "home brews" that you use and find effective, or can offer any suggestions or improvements send me an email by clicking here and maybe you'll see them here with attribution.


Some of the chemicals suggested here, particularly acetone, MEK, and ammonia are "hazardous materials" and can pose a significant health or fire hazards if not used correctly. Mix outdoors or with appropriate ventilation and respiratory protection, avoid flames or sparks, and avoid skin contact. Do not consume or use as a mixer. Keep them away from pets and stupid people. Wear eye protection when mixing. If in doubt about proper safety measures obtain the appropriate Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which can be obtained on line through



I strongly suggest that you download, read, and heed them!

Bore Cleaners Rust Preventatives Copper Removal
Carbon / Grease Removal Gun Oils Lead Removal
Bore Paste Case Tumbling Media Chemical Case Cleaners
Case Sizing Lubricants Rust Removal Stock Finish Touch Up
Black Powder Stuff Plastic Wad Fouling

Bore Cleaners

Ed's Red
As a general bore cleaner, plastic wad remover, and carbon solvent the following formula, a creation of C.E Harris, and dubbed "Ed's Red" works quite well. In fact many folks claim it is better than anything they've tried. The original formula is:

1 part Dexron II, IIe or III Automatic Transmission Fluid - GM Spec D20265 or later
1 part K1 Kerosene
1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits federal spec TT-T-2981F (CAS# 64741-49-9) or Stodard Solvent/Varsol
1 part Acetone (CAS#67-64-1)

Formula Addendum

It has been reported that methyethylketone/MEK (CAS#78-93-3) can be satisfactorily substituted for the acetone if desired.

It has been reported that Turpentine can be satisfactorily substituted for the Mineral Spirits if desired. The original Frankfort Arsenal formula upon which Ed's Red is based used turpentine rather than mineral spirits which were substituted for lower cost.

It has been reported that Kroil penetrating oil can be satisfactorily substituted for the kerosene if desired.

It has been reported that Goo-Gone (a commercial citrus based solvent) can be satisfactorily substituted for the mineral spirits if desired.

It has been reported that commercial automotive "engine flush" can be substituted for the ATF (but you lose the red color).

For each gallon of Ed's Red produced you can also add 1 pound of anhydrous lanolin (CAS#8006-54-0), which helps to neutralize fingerprints but it's really not necessary. You can also leave out the acetone but then it doesn't remove plastic wad fouling as well. Store in airtight chemical-proof containers as the acetone, if used, will evaporate. Two sources for bulk anhydrous lanolin are http://www.selectoils.com/item--Lanolin--SO-Lanolin.html and http://www.thesage.com/ .

According to Ed, "Ed's Red" will flow at -65oF and won't carbonize at 600oF. It has seen use by both the FBI and the Army Marksmanship Training Units.

Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, or chemical-resistant, heavy gage NFPA approved plastic gasoline storage containers. Do NOT use light weight, thin, high density polyethelyne (HDPE), which is breathable, because the acetone will gradually evaporate. Don't use PVC containers as they will dissolve. A possible online source for metal 1 pint and 1 quart screw top metal containers suitable for storing Ed's Red is http://www.taxidermy.com . This site appears to be some sort of frames based design that does not allow you to link directly to containers, but you can find them via the following site links Products | Molding and Casting | Containers, Cups and Tools. The Blitz USA line of approved gasoline containers can be obtained at Auto Zone, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, and other retailers and are what I use. (www.blitzusa.com).

Add the ATF first. Use the empty container to measure the other components, so that it is thoroughly rinsed. If you incorporate the lanolin into the mixture, melt it in a hot water bath (lanolin melts at about 107 degrees F), or use a double boiler and avoid exposing to open flames. Pour the melted lanolin it into the larger container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved. (It will also, but slowly, dissolve in mineral spirits if you want to avoid using heat.)

You can divert a small quantity, up to 4 ounces per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for use as an "Ed's Red-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the mix.

a) Insure that the firearm is unloaded and that all magazines are removed. Cleaning is most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with Ed's Red, wrap or impale on a jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.

b) Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its action.

c. For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled "rattle battle" guns, leaded revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.

d) Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing, leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for up to 30 days. If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years.

e) Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it contains is harmful to most wood finishes and it could damage some plastics if left in prolonged contact.

f) Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described.

It has been reported that when Ed's Red is used exclusively and thoroughly, that hot water cleaning is unnecessary after use of Pyrodex or military chlorate primers. However, if bores are not wiped between shots and are heavily caked from black powder fouling, hot water cleaning is recommended first to break up heavy fouling deposits. Water cleaning should be followed by a thorough flush with Ed's Red to prevent after-rusting which could result from residual moisture. It is ALWAYS good practice to clean twice, two days apart, whenever using chlorate primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the residue out.

Thanks to Jim Dodd for the above instructions

An unusual use for Ed's Red. Several correspondents report that an application of ER to an ant hill, especially fire ants, kills 'em dead.

Also, Ed's Red is very penetrative and makes a superior penetrating oil for loosening rusted parts.

Eds Red Plus

This variation on the Ed's Red formula gives it a copper removing ability similar to the commercial bore cleaner Marksman's Choice MC-7. You will need:

11 ounces of basic Ed's Red
2 ounces of 10%-20% industrial strength ammonia
2 ounces of Rustlick WS-11 cutting oil or suitable alternative
1 ounce of Murphy's Oil Soap

Mix the oil soap and ammonia in a separate container. In a suitable 1 pint container containing 11 ounces of Ed's Red, add the cutting oil and mix together. Then add the oil soap/ammonia mixture to Ed's Red/ cutting oil and shake the container to mix the ingredients. You will end up with a pink opaque liquid that for the most part remains in solution, but some components may settle out over an extended period. It is always best to shake well before using. The resulting solution will remove mild copper deposits in bores if allowed to work about 15-20 minutes.

Water soluble cutting oils and rust inhibitors can be obtained online from http://www1.mscdirect.com/cgi/nnsrhm or locally from your industrial supplier. NAPA auto stores carry a soluble oil listed as NAPA Soluble Cutting and Grinding Oil," part number 765-1525. Metal screw top containers can be obtained from http://www.taxidermy.com under | Products | Molding and Casting | Containers, Cups and Tools.

Thanks to Bill Mecca for this information.

...And For Historical Reference--The Original Hoppes No. 9
The original "Eau de Gun." If you don't like this smell you ain't a real shooter! This formula came from Hatcher's Notebook and the amounts are rounded from the original formula to make 1 quart. Any resemblance to the current "environmentally correct" No. 9 is accidental.

Original component Notes
Ammonium oleate (CAS #544-60-5)
Oleic Acid CAS #112-80-1
5.0 oz (also known as ammonium soap) Could substitute lanolin but this would sacrifice its mild copper removal qualities
Amyl Acetate (CAS#544-60-5) 8.5 oz ("banana oil")
Nitro-benzene 2.0 oz (the racing fuel additive)
K1 Kerosene 8.5 oz
Neutral Saponifiable Oil 8 oz (Not identified, probably sperm oil, but ATF could be substituted

Storage Rust Preventative

For long term storage one of the best and simplest products to use is Lee Liquid Alox. This is actually the same material used by the Ziebart Co. to rustproof automobiles, and is a mixture of 45% calcium soap and 45% mineral spirits (petroleum distillates). According to Alox Corp., who sell the product under the stock #606-55, this material was intended to be sprayed on to protect naval machinery on the decks of ships against salt spray.

The only drawback is that it dries hard and is somewhat difficult to remove, but the material does come off readily with military rifle bore cleaner (Mil-C-372B or Mil-L-63460), or with ordinary firearms cleaners such as Ed's Red. It must be removed from the bore prior to firing, as would any grease or wax, because it would constitute a bore obstruction. If you wanted to secure a gun in a container for several years, and have it ready for future use, clean and lubricate it normally and then apply an even coating of Liquid Alox to all metallic surfaces. Store in a sealed storage bag with about100g of silica gel.

If you need to be able to fire the weapon soon immediately after taking out of the container, do not put Alox in the bore as the normal lubricants will protect it.

As an aside, click here for information on ammunition storage.

Copper Fouling Removal

The "Ammonia Solution"
The typical "household ammonia" is only 3 percent and does not work very well as a copper remover. However, to remove copper fouling you can use use straight "strong ammonia" (9 - 10 percent) carried by many janitorial supply houses and hardware stores. My local ACE hardware carries the 10 percent janitorial strength for about $1.50 a quart and it works great straight, followed by a thorough cleaning with Ed's Red. Run a wet patch through the bore and allow to sit for about 5 minutes and proceed as usual. Don't use a brass bore brush or jag! I have seen no scientific proof that the use of ammonia in any strength will harm bores, IF the bore is thoroughly cleaned with bore cleaner after using ammonia to prevent after rust.

If your local ACE hardware store doesn't stock the "10% Janitor's Strength Ammonia," they can order it for you from their master order book. The stock number for the 1 quart size is ACE10183.

If you are worried about its high strength, you can bring it down to the 6 - 8 percent ammonia content of most commercial copper removers by cutting the janitor's strength ammonia with some K1 kerosene or water--try 3.5 to 4 parts 10% ammonia to 1 part water or K1 kerosene. This seems to have little, if any effect, on its copper removal abilities.

Straight 28% ammonia (CAS#7664-41-7) followed by a thorough cleaning with Ed's Red can also be used but 28 percent ammonia may be difficult to get and is VERY strong stuff and potentially aggressive on metal.

Some notes about Ammonia. Ammonia won't harm the rifle's metal, the pH is way down there for even 10% but as you get into stronger solutions (> 10%) the pH becomes basic ( >7 up to 14) and is caustic. The problem comes from ammonia being hygroscopic and folks not cleaning it all out of the bore and the attracted water then causes rusting. [As a test I left a polished mild steel strip in straight 10% ammonia for 48 hours and saw no noticeable corrosion or etching.]

Thanks to Roger Rothschild, Chemist, for this information.

...and an Improvement--"Humpy's White Bore Cleaner"

This modification of the "ammonia solution" thickens the liquid and helps to keep it in the bore for more efficient cleaning.You can if you like omit the 1-part sudsy ammonia

2 parts - 10% ammonia,
1 part - standard household "sudsy" ammonia (optional)
1 part - Ivory liquid dishwashing detergent (It has been reported that "Formula 409" can also be used though the resulting mixture is probably thinner.)

This formula yields about a 6.5 percent ammonia solution. If you omit the sudsy ammonia the solution is about 7.75 percent.

Thanks to Mark Humphreville for this solution

It has been reported that Kroilspenetrating oil will remove copper fouling with light brushing if the bore is swabbed with it and allowed to sit overnight.

Electronic Fouling Removal

A Caveat

The Outers FoulOut operates at a very low voltage (.3 V - three-tenths) at the cleaning electrode. Higher voltages can start to etch the bore, and even at the lower voltage the Outers can do so if there is rust in the bore. While the simple designs given here can be used safely there exists the possibility of bore etching due to their higher voltages. This is a particular concern if you use the Outers solutions. The electrical problem with all the home-brew series current limited (by the short indicating lamp) devices is that they apply voltages that will start taking iron into the solution, according to the FoulOut patent information which has expired. This aspect of the circuitry deceives those without electrical backgrounds. They look at the batteries or the wall adapter voltage used to operate a FoulOut and assume it must be safe to apply that much voltage between the barrel and the rod. Not so. The voltage regulation schemes inside a FoulOut are designed to hold a 0.3V limit regardless of how many volts the power supply has.

A Basic Homemade Electronic Copper Fouling Remover

Most shooters are familiar with the Outers FoulOut ™ electronic copper fouling remover that will remove unbelievable amounts of crud form a "clean" barrel. It is quite easy to build your own simple version of this handy device.

A Current and Voltage Limited Homemade Electronic Copper Fouling Remover
While this design is a little work to build it provides current and voltage limitation to prevent etching. Designed for use with the Outer's type solutions it should work with the vinegar/ammonia formula. You can download the article which is a 340K PDF document, by clicking here.

Make your cleaning solution of:

1 part white vinegar
1 part household ammonia (3%)
2 parts distilled water

I am currently researching a better formula.

It is best to remove the barreled action from the stock for cleaning. For best results clean and then degrease the bore with a commercial "gun scrubber" or automotive brake cleaner. Plug the chamber with the rubber stopper and carefully insert the rod down the bore and insure it is seated in the hole in the stopper. Using a dropper or a syringe fill the bore with the cleaning solution and the attach the black wire to the rod and red wire to the gun. If the gun is dirty the flashlight will glow but not at full power. If the flashlight immediately glows full power the rod is not centered in the bore and has caused a short. Allow the unit to work for 45 min or so, disconnect the leads and carefully pull the rod out of the bore. The accumulated copper fouling can be removed from the rod with fine steel wool. Drain the barrel, remove the stopper and dry the bore and chamber. Run a couple of patches with bore cleaner on them through the bore and chamber to prevent any after rust and you're done. Those of you with a background in metal plating may want to contribute your own solution recipes. Send them to me by clicking here.

36" long TIG welding rod in stainless steel are available from local welding shop. Get 3/32" and 1/8" diameters at a cost of about $1.25 each. Ideally you want a rod about 1/2 to 2/3 of the bore diameter.

Thanks to Robert Schaedel, et. al. for this tip.

Some Interesting Information.
Just for those of you with curious minds, the Outers CopOut Plus solution contain approximately 0.6 percent cupric acetate and 2.5 percent ammonium acetate (3.62 grams/ liter of copper acetate and 38.5 grams/liter of ammonium acetate) in distilled/deionized water. The LeadOut Plus contains approximately 2 percent lead acetate and 5 percent ammonium acetate (6.50 grams/liter of lead acetate and 38.5 grams/liter of ammonium acetate ) in distilled/deionized water. A good basic solution for either would be

Copper Solution
562.3 grains Ammonium Acetate
51.3 grains Copper Acetate or 58.3 grains Cupric Acetate Monohydrate
Add distilled (or high megohm deionized) water to make 1 Qt.

Lead Solution
562.3 grains Ammonium Acetate
95.0 grains Lead Acetate or 110.8 grains of Lead Acetate Trihydrate
Add distilled (or high megohm deionized) water to make 1 Qt.

Note that since the Outers FoulOut unit limits the voltage and current in the electrolysis process and runs at about .3 volts (3/10 volt)-- at typically a max of about 20 milliamps. If the vinegar/ammonia solution described for the homemade unit is used in an Outer's unit the cleaning process will be much slower because the solution does not contain any ions of the lead or copper (one reason the homemade unit runs at a higher voltage).

Possible sources for these chemicals in small quantities are:

Post Apple Scientific, Inc.
Sigma-Aldrich Ammonium acetate (800-325-3010)
Sigma-Aldrich Lead acetate (800-325-3010)

This company lists 100 grams of Copper (II) Acetate for about $19 and 500 grams of Ammonium Acetate for about $17. If you assume $1.00 per gallon for distilled water, you can make the solution for copper removal for $1.60 per quart. This does not include shipping costs on the chemicals.

The Science Company

The following is from Outer's Q&A page.

Q. Why has the solution become discolored during use?

A. You need to check the solution about every 30 minutes to see if it has changed color. Pour all the chemical into a clear container to see if there may be a color change. Sometimes there may be sediment or a color change but it isn't apparent by simply looking at the chemical in the barrel.

If chemical is orange or orange/brown you may have some rust. If chemical is black you may be lifting iron from the barrel or its oxidized copper salts. It could also be some powder fouling being removed from the barrel. The unit may have been on too long without checking the solution color often enough.

Black/Gunky chemical could mean that in the first 30 minutes you hit a lot of lead and lead started to settle set the bottom of the barrel as well as on the rod. It could also mean the unit was left unchecked too long and rust has formed.

Green colored chemical could mean that you may be pulling out iron, blueing or rust. Sometimes new barrels will have blueing and its removing that.

Q. What do I do if the chemical changes color?

A. Dispose of the chemicals according to local and state laws. Clean the barrel using regular gun cleaning methods. Degrease the barrel and rod with Outers Crud Cutter. If you can't find Crud Cutter, you can use Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber or household rubbing alcohol. On a scale of 1 to 10, alcohol rates as a 2 and Crud Cutter rates as a 10. After cleaning and degreasing the barrel and rod, start the Foul Out III according to the instruction book. [Automotive brake cleaner is the same as the Birchwood or Outers products and cheaper. - Fr. Frog]

Q. The unit isn't cleaning fast enough.

A. To speed up the process, after cleaning for two hours, change the solution and you should obtain faster results.

Q. Can I Use Cop Out Plus and Lead Out Plus with my Foul Out II Unit?

A. Yes, You can use the Cop Out Plus and Lead Out Plus with Foul Out I and Foul Out II units. Because these are more potent chemicals than regular Cop Out and Lead Out, the customer needs to be more cautious and check the chemical for changes more often. The new chemicals will clean faster than the old.

Military Copper Fouling Removal Solution (c.1917)

Described in the US Military publications for the 1903 and M1917 rifles was the following "heavy duty" copper removal formula.

1 oz Ammonium persulfate
200 grains Ammonium carbonate
6 oz 28% ammonia
4 oz water

Finely grind the persulfate and carbonate, dissolve in the water and then add the ammonia. Allow to stand for 1 hour before using. Plug the breech and slip a piece of rubber hose over the muzzle. Fill the cold barrel and the section of hose with the solution. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Dump the solution and clean the bore normally and oil.

Mac's Red
A modification of Ed's Red that is claimed to remove copper fouling was developed by Richard McQuisten and published in The Cast Bullet #113, Jan-Feb, '95.

1 part Dexron II, IIe or III Automatic Transmission Fluid
1 part K1 Kerosene
1 part Mineral Spirits or Stodard Solvent/Varsol
1 part Acetone
1 part GM Carburetor/Upper Cylinder Cleaner

Oxynate S
Brownells sells a product called Oxynate S (pn 082-029-016) which is used to remove copper from bluing tanks. It can be used straight or mixed into a bore cleaner, say about 5%, to remove copper bore fouling.

Thanks to Ken Mollohan for this tip.

Carbon Crud Cleaner

For cleaning carbon and dried grease in tight places try generic commercial aerosol automotive brake cleaner. Just as good, more readily available, and MUCH cheaper than the gun stuff. Carburetor cleaner like GumOut™ can also be used and in some cases may be superior. Note that brake cleaners remove any preservative oil or grease coatings on the metal sand may be preferer if you are goingto touch up the bluing. You should lightly coat things with your favorite oil or preservative when done cleaning. Carb cleaners are not quite as degreasing but you should still coat with preservative when done. Ed's Red is great in this role too but leaves an oily coat..

Dawn dishwashing detergent is a terrific grease cutter. Brushed on with a toothbrush and then immediately rinsed off with very hot water it will leave metal very clean. However, be careful with dishwashing liquid and steel as Dawn (as well as Joy and Ivory) will attack steel if left undiluted and with contact time measured in hours. The clear versions of all three of these detergents can pit even 316L, given enough time. (FYI, Dawn is the best grease cutting formula on the market. It is routinely shipped in by tank truck to clean oil spills. Just be aware of how corrosive it can be.)

Humpy's Bullet Cleaner

Soaking Method

Those of you who used surplus pulled M118 / M72 173 gr Match or other pulled GI bullets have probably been baffled about how to removed the asphaltic sealant from the bullets. The safest way is to get a bottle of Orange Clean Concentrate http://www.greatcleaners.com/ogi_retail/product.asp?catalog%5Fname=ogi&product%5Fid=17101 and mix it 1/100 with water. Drop bullets in a salsa jar, mayonnaise jar etc and allow to sit for 24 hours. The following day agitate the jar and the mouth lacquer will literally fall off in flakes leaving the bullets not only clean but nice smelling. Unlike lacquer thinner which actually doesn't work very well, this method is not flammable nor a breathing hazard.

Tumbling Method

You will need: a carton of BBs. (costs about five bucks from Walmart), a rock tumbler (flea markets, ebay, and commercial vendors), and a bottle of Ultra Ivory dishwashing detergent.

With a small rubber drum ( 1 1/2 lb size) tumbler add maybe 200 BBs, 100 pulled 173s, fill with hot water to just above bullet/BB level. Add about a tablespoon of ivory liquid and seal the drum with the screw lid on and put on tumbler and let it tumble for about an 45 minutes and check. (Mine come out looking better than new Sierra Matchkings) Take the bullets out with you fingers and dump in rinse water. Add another hundred bullets and tumble the next batch. Solution good for a number of cycles. When you finish dump the solution in a big jar and save it for washing your tires or something real greasy down the road. When you are not tumbling remove the BBs and dry them. If you have a bigger tumbler you can tumble more bullets.

Making up a Pre Tumble Dip with Ivory and letting the bullets soak a bit before putting them in tumbler might cut down the operation to less than thirty minutes.

Thanks to Mark Humphreville for these tips.

Gun Oil Substitutes

Keep in mind that no matter what lubricant you use, you should use
the minimum amount of lube possible. You want it lubricated and not an oil field.

Synthetic Automotive Oils
Synthetic automotive oils (such as Quaker State High Performance Synthetic, Castrol, and Mobil 1) work well as general lubricants and because of their detergent capabilities they will help to remove "crud." (Synthetic oils handle low temperatures better than regular oils.) Just remember, as with any lubricant, not to over lube things. Valvoline Semi-Synthetic Power Steering Fluid has also been used with great success by many folks as their normal lubricant.

Slick Stuff
This very "oily", (i.e. slick, greasy) lubricant appears to adhere very well to metal, with little or no creep. Thus it does not appear to drain from slides and parts during extended storage. From the formula it appears that it might not be suitable at very low temperatures.

2 parts Dexron II or III automatic transmission fluid
1 Part Mobil-1 Synthetic Oil, 30 weight, or 10W-30
1 Part STP Oil Treatment (the stuff for "old" cars w/ over 30,000 mi.)

Thanks to John Nichols for this tip

Another excellent home brew lube is Amsoil Synthetic ATF with some lanolin added to make it even slicker. A synthetic grease from MS Moly called Arctic Grade 67 also makes a great lube especially for cold weather. It is a totally synthetic moly grease with the consistency of chocolate mousse. It does not run, weep or smell (very important for the SAF (spousal acceptance factor)). It is reported to work fine at -30 degrees.

Thanks to Roger Rothschild for this tip.

Slippery Stuff
Try 80 percent Marvel Mystery Oil mixed with 20 percent Slick 50 .

Thanks to Jim Conway for this tip.

Ed's Red
See the ER reciope for an ER compatible oil.

We've mentioned lanolin in several places as an ingredient, but liquid lanolin also makes a very good warm weather, lubricant for high pressure wear spots like sears and other wear point all by itself. It also is an excellent preservative/rust proofer (well known to marine users in that role). It has also been used as a bore conditioner for .22RF barrels by running a lanolin saoked patch through a clean bore, followed by dry patches until nothing remains on the patches.. An Australian company called Lanotec (www.lanotec.com.au) sells liquid lanolin in and aerosol can but I'm not sure if it's available in the US.

Thanks to Dave York for reminding me of lanolin as a lube.

NOTE: WD40 is NOT a satisfactory lubricant for firearms as it tends to become gummy as it dries.

Lead Removal

Liquid Solution
For really stubborn lead removal try a 50/50 mix of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (the common drug store variety) and white vinegar. Plug the bore, fill it up using a dropper or syringe and let it stand for 2 to 3 minutes. (Do not let it stand for too long.) You may get some foaming so protect the barrel's external finish as this solution is not kind to bluing. Drain and wipe out the black muck that used to be lead and then immediately clean well with bore cleaner.

Thanks to Joe Sledge for this recipe.

While most people have used this solution without a problem there have been reports of this solution pitting some mild steel barrels. The factors involved in this seem to be the type of steel, the presence of rust in the barrel, and excessively long soak times leading to chemical changes in the solution. I strongly recommend not letting this solution soak more than 2 to 3 minutes.

Pure turpentine has reportedly also been used as a lead remover.

Lead Removal Cloth
Lead deposits on the face of revolver cylinders and similar places can be removed with a lead wiping cloth prepared as follows.

Mix the following ingredients

500 gr - 400 grit or finer aluminum oxide powder
450 gr - kerosene or #2 fuel oil
4 gr - lemon oil(for a more pleasant smell)
5 gr - ammonium chloride

Evenly saturate a soft thick cotton cloth or flannel with the solution and allow to dry. (There is no reason it won't work wet though.)

Carefully remove any very heavy lead deposits with a scraper and then wipe the remainder with the cloth to remove.

Notes: The active ingredient in commercial liquid lead remover products is Ammonium Oleate (CAS 544-60-5). It is however difficult to get. Most of the formulas are basically ammonium oleate, ethanol, and some petroleum distillates as a carrier.

The copper dishwashing pads that are marketed under the brand name "Chore Boy" can be used like a Lewis Lead Remover. Simply cut a 2" x 3" square of this copper mesh, fold in half and roll it onto a .45 cal. bore brush. This works exceptionally well.

Thank to Terry Sanders for this tip.

If the bore is not so heavily leaded that you can barely see rifling, it does no harm to fire a cylinder full of full-power jacketed loads, and this will safely and effectively remove the leading without scrubbing. In the case of extremely heavy leading which might constitute a bore obstruction, use a bronze brush and bore cleaner to get out what you can. On very stubborn cases you may need to wrap a worn brush with 00 steel wool. This does no harm as long as you use the wrapped brush wet with lots of bore cleaner. The Ruger de-leads revolvers this way at the factory.

Bore Paste

An excellent bore polishing paste that works as well as JB's can be made from equal parts of BonAmi™, paste wax (like Johnson & Johnson or Butchers), and light oil. The BonAmi is the "doesn't scratch" product. Regular abrasive cleansers may be too harsh for use in a bore.

Another old standby is to use a hand type automobile rubbing compound and a larger than normal sized bore brush (say, one size larger--.25 in a .22 bore, .33 in a .30, etc.).

For both of these methods you will need a rod that allows the tip to rotate as it passes through the bore.

To use either of these solutions strip the action and clamp horizontally in padded vise jaws. Clean the barrel normally. Then, run the rod through the bore from the breech end, attach the oversized brush and coat with the compound. The pull it back through the bore to the chamber (don't allow it to clear the chamber, to help keep "stuff" out of the action) and repeat this 25 or 30 times. Then with the brush outside the muzzle remove the brush and then pull the rod out of the barrel. Then attach a proper sized jag and a clean patch to the rod and from the breech work the patch back and forth several times. Repeat this with clean patches until the patch comes out clean.

Thoroughly flush the chamber and action with solvent to remove any grit, and then reclean the bore and chamber with normal bore cleaner. Your bore will be noticeable cleaner and smoother.

I recently tested some MAAS Metal Polishing Creme made by MAAS International. While not designed as a bore paste it did a very nice job on smoothing out several barrels and left them very clean and shiny. First clean the barrel normally with both regular bore cleaner and a copper remover. Then coat a patch with the MAAS and using a tight fitting jag work it through the bore using a series of short strokes. Repeat several times with a new patch and polish and then final clean with bore cleaner to remove any residue. It is not as aggressive as JB or the above homemade stuff so it may not work as well on a really rough bore. The MAAS Polishing Creme is available at some Walmart, Home Depots, Walgreens, ACE, Tru-Serv, others in a 2 ounce size for about $4 in a 4 ounce size for about $12.

Case Tumbling Media

Many pet stores carry ground corncob media for small pet bedding. It is usually a little coarser than most normal tumbling media but it should still be perfect for tumbling cases (and not get stuck in flash holes). Prices at my local Petsmart were about 2/3 of the shooting stuff. For ground walnut shells many pet stores sell it in the same grit size as the shooting stuff as "lizard litter" or "bird cage litter." The local price seems to be about a 30 percent cheaper than the shooting product.

You can also try your phone book's yellow pages for an industrial abrasives dealer. While you'll have to buy the corn cob or walnut media in 50 pound bags from them the price is usually about half (or less) of the price from firearms related sources, and it should keep you in clean tumbling media for the next several years. For an extra high polish add a small amount of non-ammonia containing automotive rubbing compound to the corn cob media and run your tumbler for a few minutes before adding the cases.

A word to the wise. If you share your home with cats keep your tumbling media
covered or you may find some strange "cases" in it. Cats think its a dandy litter box filler.

Another case cleaning method that works well in rotary tumbler, like the 1-gallon Thumblers Tumblers, is to use the following media.

2 lb yellow or white corn meal
1 cup plain table salt
1/4 cup corn starch
5 or 6 pieces of scrap 2 x 2 or smaller wood cut into blocks

Add everything to the tumbler, close up the drum, and turn it on for a couple hours. Remove cases from tumbler, shake out the media from cases. You can blow them clean with an airgun or rinse them off if you like. The wooden blocks seem to knock the brass around and keeps media moving in and out of cases. They also seem to add a little extra friction to help polish and clean. Note that corn meal does not clog the flash holes, it's dirt cheap, and lasts for hundreds of rounds!

Thanks to Ron Martinsen for this tip.

Common table salt can also be used as an inexpensive tumbling media for small batches. From reports it seems to work best in a rotary type tumbler.

Thanks to Gary Gonzales for this tip.

Chemical Case Cleaning Solutions

While tumbling cases in an abrasive media provides the best finish, extremely dirty cases can be decapped first (using a non-sizing die) and then washed in one of the following solutions. The final rinse in soapy water helps prevent tarnishing. All of these methods were approved by Frankford Arsenal and will not weaken your brass.

Cases which have been fired several times and which show signs of carbon build up internally can be rinsed in straight paint & varnish makers (P&VM) naphtha available at any paint store. Decap, soak for 5 - 10 minutes, drain, allow to air dry and then tumble as usual. Cases will be sparkling clean inside and out but not any shinier.

An interesting idea is to use an "air stone" and a small air pump from a fish aquarium tank to agitate the liquid cleaning solutions.

Thanks to Randy Wood for this tip.

Another case cleaning method is the use of an ultrasonic cleaning unit. These units are available from several online sources and the biggest problem is finding a reasonably priced unit with about a 2 liter capacity. While you can only clean small quantities of cases at a time this way they will be clean as new, inside and out. Once you've acquired the unit you'll need to also acquire a glass beaker of sufficient size for your use and make a cover and beaker holder.

Cut a piece of Plexiglas to cover the tank and cut a hole the size of your beaker (use a fly cutter and a drill press or jigsaw it out). Make a collar for the beaker out of plastic foam that fits very snugly so the beaker can be raised or lowered. You want the beaker to not sit on the pan of the cleaner.

Fill the cleaner tank with water and by adjusting the level of water in the tank, the 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. This has a major effect on how long it takes to clean the cases.

For cleaning you can use either of these procedures but the second one leaves the cases the shiniest.

24 minutes - 50-50 Vinegar and water + 1 drop dish soap per
8 ounces water Use cool water. Do not use hot water!!!
8 minutes - Baking Soda & water (1 grain BS per ounce of
8 minutes - Hot Water
8 minutes - Distilled Water
24 minutes - 50-50 Vinegar and water + 1 Drop Dish Soap per
8 ounces water Use cool water. Do not use hot water!!!
6 minutes - Birchwood Casey Case Cleaner*
6 minutes - Hot Water
6 minutes - Distilled Water
* The Birchwood Casey case cleaner is listed as their "Brass Cartridge Case Cleaner # 33845"

This idea was originally presented on the 6 mm Benchrest site at http://www.6mmbr.com/ultrasonic.html by Jason Baney, and more info and test results are published there.

Case Sizing Lubricants

One of the advantages of using sprayed on lanolin as a case lube is that, in the quantities used, any residual lube has no effect on powder or primers.

Spray Lube
The spray-on case lubes are probably the best thing to happen to reloading in years. You can make your own spray case sizing lube in bulk by mixing liquid lanolin and 99% isopropyl alcohol. (While you can (kind of) use 91% isopropyl alcohol, its higher water content causes the lanolin to settle out and it must be shaken frequently during use. The more common 70% isopropyl "rubbing alcohol" will not work at all as its water content is much to high.)

Liquid lanolin, which is a refined lanolin oil with the solid fats removed (the reason why solid anhydrous lanolin doesn't work well in this application) is available from health food stores and sources specializing in ingredients for cosmetics. You want to get pure liquid lanolin without additives. Online sources include VitaGlo (http://www.vitaglo.com/7730.html) or try "Amazon.com" for other suppliers.

I just recently discovered that my local Safeway store carries 99 percent isopropyl in their drug/cosmetic isle for $0.99 for a 16 ounce bottle. Ninety-nine percent isopropyl alcohol is also available from many large paint stores (used for some finishes), some electronics stores (it's used for cleaning electronics) or local industrial chemical suppliers.

A solution of 1 part liquid lanolin and 4 to 5 parts parts 99 percent isopropyl alcohol (4 oz of liquid lanolin to16 - 20 oz of isopropyl) works well. When mixing you may find that the lanolin mixes better if you warm both the alcohol and lanolin in a bath of warm water to about 105 - 110 degrees F before mixing. DO NOT WARM EITHER OF THEM OVER AN OPEN FLAME! Once the solutions are warm, pour together, mix thoroughly, allow the mix to cool (mix occasionally as it cools) and store in an air tight container to prevent water from being absorbed by the isopropyl.

For a spray bottle you can use an old commercial spray lube bottle or an old pump hair spray bottle that has been thoroughly cleaned. To apply the lube, spread the cases in a single layer on a clean surface like an oven tray (those disposable aluminum oven liner trays are great and prevent the wrath of your chef when it is discovered that the cookie trays were used) and lightly and evenly spray the cases. Allow the cases to sit for a couple of minutes, roll the cases around and lightly spray again. Wait until the alcohol has evaporated (about 5 minutes) and start sizing. Properly lubed cases will have a slightly greasy feel to them without feeling slimy.

Another neat idea for spraying the cases is to put them in a plastic bag, spray, and then mix the cases, dump out on some newspaper, and let dry. Less messy than putting the cases on an oven tray and less likely to get you in trouble with the head chef.

Thanks to Steve Dzupin for this tip.

If you have a hard time finding liquid lanolin you can mix a small tub of Hornady Unique case lube and 16 ounces of 91% or 99% isopropyl. If you use the 91% isopropyl you'll need to shake the mix to keep it suspended.

Thanks to Daniel Cocanour for this tip.

Solid "Wipe On" Lubes
You can also use plain anhydrous lanolin straight from the can (but not as conveniently) for sizing by putting a little bit on your fingers (just lightly rub your fingers across the lanolin) and then rubbing the cases. "Mink Oil," a refined lanolin leather preservative also works well as a case lube.

Many large drug stores have bulk anhydrous lanolin or they will order it for you, or you can order in it 4, 8, or 16 ounce containers, from Majestic Mountain Sage, 881 West 700 North Ste 107, Logan, Utah 84321, Phone: 435-755-0863, or online at: http://www.thesage.com/catalog/FixedOil.html#Lanolin.

Many people have reported that they have used a little bit of STP oil treatment on their fingers or commercial water based silicone cable pulling lube as a sizing lube.

If you are still using pads to roll your cases on for resizing you can simply use regular undyed dishwashing liquid. Reports are that it works as well as some commercial liquid case lubes. Simply put a very small amount on your pad and rub it in with your fingers. Roll your cases across the pad and resize.

Thanks to Denis Allen for this soap tip.

Rust Removal

Brake Fluid
For rust removal, try automotive brake fluid. For light rust rub it on liberally with a patch, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes and wipe off. For heavily rusted items swab liberally with brake fluid and allow to sit over night. Burnish the finish with a wool pad or #0000 steel or bronze wool. Brake fluid may be damaging to some wood finishes so make sure you keep it on the metal.

Electrolysis Rust Removal
You can remove rust from metal using electrolysis, and it will not harm the bluing. The main advantage to this method is it gets all the rust in hard to reach places. You will need

Cautions: Wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with this solution is very alkaline and can cause irritation. The electrolysis process breaks down water into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, which can be explosive. Work outside or in a very well ventilated area. Be sure your battery charger/power supply is unplugged before attaching or touching the leads.

In the container, mix 1 tablespoon of washing soda for each gallon of water to make up your solution. Be sure the washing soda is thoroughly dissolved. Place a steel rod either through the part to be cleaned (use o-rings to prevent the part from touching the rod), or numerous rods around the inside of your container. Connect these rods with wire; these will be the anode. You must be sure that the part to be cleaned is not touching the rod(s). Suspend the part in the solution with steel cable or wire so that it makes a good electrical contact with the part; this will become the cathode. Connect the negative lead (black) to the part being cleaned, connect the positive (red) lead to the rod(s), then plug in the charger. You will immediately begin to see bubbles; this is hydrogen and oxygen as the water breaks down. Allow the part to "cook" for 3-4 hours. The time is dependent on the size of the part, amount of rust, and the current of the power supply. After you remove the part, immediately clean and dry it off, then coat it with a good quality gun oil or rust preventative oil.

Thanks to Roy Seifert for this tip

Roy reports that he used this process on a 1911 frame that had a lot of surface rust all throughout the inside. He set the frame upside down on wooden blocks in the electrolysis solution and placed a rod with o-rings through the magazine well. He used a 1.5 amp trickle charger and left it for about 4 hours. When finished, the frame was completely free of rust, and the bluing was intact.

Bon Ami
For light rust on stuff including mold blocks, soak with Ed's Red and then make a paste of Ed's Red and Bon Ami (see the bore paste section) and rub until rust is removed. Clean with Ed's red or whatever cleaner you like and relube. For mold blocks, degrease before using.

Stock Finish Repair

This tip isn't quite a cleaner/lube but it is worth while. To repair scratches on varnished or epoxy finished stocks try automotive "clear coat" touch up paint available at auto parts stores in little bottles with a brush in the touch up paint section.

Black Powder Stuff

Patch Lube
An excellent patch lube for black powder can be made with 1 part anhydrous lanolin or saddle soap, 2 parts "rust inhibiting water soluble oil,"* and 1 part Murphy's Oil Soap. Shake well and apply to patches before loading. Cleaning is much easier when using this lube.

*Arco Emulsiplex or NAPA Soluble Cutting and Gring Oil (765-1525), Trimsol, Lyondell Satisol, or Tooltex cutting fluid can be used.

Thanks to George Stantis for this tip.

Bore Cleaners
Many black powder shooters swear by Simple Green™ and of all things Windex™ "glass cleaner with vinegar."


If you will be using Ed's Red mostly for black powder and old chlorate primed military ammo, there is a modification to ER that may be of interest. Substitute a "fire retardant hydraulic fluid concentrate," or "rust inhibiting water soluble oil" suited for water hydraulics for four fluid oz. of the ATF in a gallon mix of ER. The resulting mix will form a stable emulsion when mixed in a 50-50 ratio with distilled water (NOT tap water). The resulting mix is very similar to "Moose Milk", though it may actually be better. To do this, mix the ER as usual, substituting the water soluble oil for 1/8 of the ATF in the mix, or 4 oz. if you are adding a quart of ATF to mix a gallon of ER. Once the ER is mixed, heat the distilled water just short of the boiling point, steaming with bubbles just beginning to form, and pour this SLOWLY into the Ed's Red while stirring. It should form a pink, soapy looking liquid like Pepto Bismol. Arco Emulsiplex or Trimsol, Lyondell Satisol, or Tooltex cutting fluid concentrate, or other water soluble cutting oils are suitable, as long as they DO NOT contain any chlorine or sulfur. That's also why you should use distilled water instead of tap water.

Another black powder cleaner that is being used by Civil War re-enactors is composed of 1 part rubbing alcohol (70% or 91%) 1 part hydrogen peroxide (typical 3 percent drugstore kind), and 1 part Murphy's Oil Soap or a generic equivalent. It cuts Black Powder (even caked on residue that has been left from one event to the next) very quickly. Because of the alcohol, it does tend to eliminate most of the oil it comes into contact with, so be sure to lightly oil everything unless you are going to be firing immediately.

Thanks to Warren Harrison for this recipe

Here's another BP cleaner

4 -6 Oz. of Murphy's Oil Soap
4 drops of regular Dawn dish washing soap
2-4 caps full (about 3/4 ounce) of drug store hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Distilled water to make 1 quart.

You can use more Murphy's Oil Soap for really dirty barrels.

Thanks to Darrell Vibbert for this one

Plastic Wad Fouling

While many commercial cleaning products claim to "dissolve" plastic wad fouling, the plastic used in most wads, HDPE (high density polyethylene), isn't easily dissolved with common or safe chemicals. (Xylene at temperatures above 75 deg C/167 deg F and THF (Tetrahydrofuran) are typically mentioned solvents.)Remington claims their wads are a "polymer material" and claims that their "Action Cleaner" (which is nothing more the naphtha, CAS #64742-48-9, according to the MSDS sheet) will dissolve their wad fouling.

Try soaking a wad in your cleaner and see what happens. What does help to remove plastic fouling are solvents that have great penetrating abilities and which get under the plastic fouling allowing it to be removed. Acetone, Kroils, Ed's Red, and even WD40 have been reported as good plastic removers when coupled with a tight new brush or fine steel wool.

If you have read this far, here's a non-gun related formula that wearers of glasses will appreciate.

Tired of paying those ridiculous prices for a small bottle of eye glasses cleaning solution? Make your own! This is the "Ed's Red" of eye glasses cleaners.

3 oz - water (tap is ok, distilled is preferred)
1.5 oz - 91% or 99% Isopropyl alcohol
1/4 oz - (or 4 - 6 drops - start with the lesser amount) from a pump dispenser of liquid "softsoap." I happen to use the "Softsoap" brand "antibacterial"
clear liquid hand soap. I have been told that you can also use 4 to 5 drops of Dawn dish detergent which will give your solution a little color and really cut lens

Shake well and fill your old spray bottle. Allow to sit till the foam dissipates before using . To clean your glasses, rinse them with warm water to remove heavy grit and dust, spray with the cleaner and wipe with a clean, soft cloth.

NOTE: While you can use this solution on camera and scope lenses DO NOT spray directly on the lenses.
Spray the solution on a soft lint free or microfiber cloth and then clean.

Thanks to Dr. John for this tip.