View Full Version : Carb cleaner in stainless steel- is it safe??

January 2, 2010, 04:30 PM
I have read a number of posts about using carb cleaner for tough carbon deposit removal in a rifle bore, and everyone seems pretty happy with the results. However, I have not read whether these chemical cleaners are safe for modern stainless steel bores. I bought some Autozone carb cleaner but am hesitant to use it without further info.

Does anyone know if it is safe to use????

January 2, 2010, 04:57 PM
I can't see how it would be an issue. Carburetors have metal parts in them and modern stainless is pretty resilient.


January 2, 2010, 08:16 PM
It's perfectly safe for any firearm made of steel but it's very nasty stuff to come into contact with if you're a human being. It's also absolutely unnecessary to use anything that strong to clean a gun. Breakfree makes CLP and a carbon cutting bore solvent that will work better than carb cleaner. For years I have used nothing but CLP on guns with no prblems. Competition 1911 with 1000 rounds fired in one afternoon will come out squeaky clean just by swabbing the bore with CLP and letting it soak for 15 minutes or so. It helps if the metal is warm. (not hot) Try it before you start playing with carb cleaner. The stuff that builds up inside carbs is not the same thing you'll find inside a gun.

January 2, 2010, 09:29 PM
I get asked a lot if carb cleaner is safe for firearms. "After all, if you look at the ingredients it's the same stuff"! It's true that the ingredients may be the same but the percentages are not. Whether it's safe or not to use on a firearm, depends on the firearm.

Carb cleaner would be perfectly safe for the Stainless steel parts of a firearm. It's safe for the "regular steel" parts and even for Aluminum parts. Remember: Carbs are made of steel, brass, Aluminum and Stainless steel.

Now for the bad news. Although carb cleaner is perfectly safe for the metal, it can be destruction-in-a-can for the finish that's on the firearm. If it's just Stainless steel, you're fine. But if there's any paint anyplace on the firearm, you may see the paint dripping off the end! It's especially destructive to the kind of finishes found on wooden stocks.

And now for the really bad news! As plastic ages, it's gets brittle. Set a plastic bucket in your back yard for a few weeks in the sun and then give it a light tap. It'll shatter into pieces. The plastic used in firearms for frames (Glocks, XD's, etc) is "Stabilized"...meaning it will not get brittle like normal plastic. However, it can be affected by chemicals. Carb cleaner will change the color of plastics used in firearms because it melts the plastic. Depending on how strong the carb cleaner is, it can have a major effect on the "Stabilization" of the plastic.....making it brittle.

I once cleaned the trigger on an XD with carb cleaner. The little safety lever spring was filled with gunk so I sprayed it, soaked it and then air blew it clean. It worked great. I reassembled the pistol but when I did the function check, the danged little lever was so brittle that it broke off. (Did you know that you can not fire an XD if the little plastic &%#@! lever breaks off?) A close exam of the lever showed how it was discolored and crumbly brittle....caused by soaking in carb cleaner. No, I have never heard of a plastic pistol frame disintegrating because it was soaked in carb cleaner but I'm not going to be the first!

The bottom line is that if there is no plastic or any type of surface finish anyplace on your firearm, carb cleaner is ok to use. Use face protection because if you spray it into "this hole", it'll squirt out of "that hole" right into your eyeball or up your nose or into your mouth. It tastes bad, smells awful and burns your eye like it was liquid fire. (Hey, sometimes I'm a slow learner!) Keep yer powder dry, Mac.
Tuff-Gun Finishes. The Name Says It All.
Mac's Shootin' Irons

January 4, 2010, 03:28 AM
There are plastics in carbs too.

If your looking to get carbon out go to your GM parts store and buy some GMTEC (GM Top Engine Cleaner) It will take out the carbon and works great, it won't ruin blueing or discolor SS either.

January 4, 2010, 05:24 AM
Anyone who has ever used carb / throttle body cleaner and seen carbon built up from hundred of thousands of miles simply dissolve away to bare metal would not have any problems cleaning a firearm with it, apart from it not being cheap, it simply is the best solvent to remove any type of carbon fouling.

I doubt if put in a side by side test that the carb cleaner would come in second, no over priced gun product would be able to compete with it, simply plug the barrel with some rag or whatever fills the hole, fill it up and let soak for a minute, no trace of carbon will remain.

Great for semi auto gas tubes, bolts or anything suspect to carbon fouling etc,

The benefits of removing carbon in the throttle body venturies is brilliant, it will not hurt any firearm.

January 4, 2010, 07:59 AM
OK, I'm not a professional mechanic but why would there be carbon inside the fuel system? All the fuel systems I have cleaned seemed to be fouled with lacquer and varnish buildup, not carbon.

January 4, 2010, 11:46 AM
Yes, there are synthetics in carbs too but if you look at the ones that are inside the carb, you'll see that they're Teflons, stabilized rubbers and Vicons. No, there's very little carbon buildup inside a carb body unless the engine is doing a lot of backfiring. You're correct Drail: It's mostly varnishes and lacquers. I'm not even sure if there's carbon buildup in a firearm! Maybe one that uses black powder? Techically speaking, carb cleaner has very little or no effect on real carbon. Spray some inside the exhaust valve pocket on a car engine sometime and see how well it removes real carbon.

Carb cleaner will clean firearm parts pretty well. It's cheaper than comparable gun cleaners. It may discolor bluing, depending on how old the bluing is and how long it soaks. It will not harm Parkerizing but does take the oil out of it. It will do quite a bit of damage to the finish on wooden stocks. It will absolutely destroy most painted on finishes. (But it only slightly discolors our Tuff-Gun finishes!!) It will damage the plastic parts found on firearms. It won't harm Stainless steel at all.

I use it on carbs quite a bit but I don't use it on firearms. It's to risky for the gain. Keep yer powder dry, Mac.
Tuff-Gun Finishes. The Name Says It All.
Mac's Shootin' Irons

January 4, 2010, 09:58 PM
Carb cleaner will clean carbon, I have a few exhaust valves that I can send you that were cleaned for an hour soak in carb cleaner, not 100% clean but it did clean the carbon off. Nothing cleans carbon out of an engine better than water, ever seen how clean a cylinder is from a leaking head gasket? Viton seals are only seen on something running alcohol, and my Holley carb used to have plastic floats not teflon of any type, some quadrajets even had black foam type floats.

Carbon in barrels is very real, some small calibers like the 17 Remington will foul so bad that they will leave small rings just past the chamber and it will completely ruin accuracy and left alone it will cause other problems, such as chambering.

I recommend the GMTEC and then a good copper solvent to clean a barrel.

January 5, 2010, 11:31 AM
Its about all we use.
Foamy cleaner works great.
cuts the cleaning time in half.

As a chemical engineer I will say it will not hurt the barrel, if you use a name brand cleaner. But like stated above it will take the finish off your stock.
I spray a patch then using a jag, run it through the barrel.
I place a towel over the stock when cleaning any way to keep it clean.
A homemade cleaner a guy made had very high molar sulfuric acid. It cleaned his barrel very good. The problem is you could hear him scream, even with ear protection on, when he got some on his skin.

January 5, 2010, 11:45 AM
QUOTE...I have a few exhaust valves that I can send you that were cleaned for an hour soak in carb cleaner END QUOTE...If it was an hour soak, then it was most likely a dunk tank and not the spray...which is what was being discussed here. Yes, water/steam will do an excellent job of cleaning carbon. That's one of the advantages of a water injector on your car engine. Sorry, I forgot about the floats in the carb. But regardless of the material used in the carb; If it's plastic, it's stabilized for automotive fuels.

And I'm STILL not sure if there really is any carbon buildup in modern firearms! Powder fouling, lead fouling, burnt powder residue, assorted other types of fouling...sure, but not carbon.

The bottom line is that if you use carb cleaner spray on your firearm, make sure that there's no finish or synthetics that are going tp get sprayed. Keep yer powder dry, Mac.
Tuff-Gun Finishes. The Name Says It All.
Mac's Shootin' Irons

r.w. schrack
January 5, 2010, 06:17 PM
I know everyone is going to laugh, My grandfather may he rest in piece, always used ivory soap and hot water to clean his weapons, He said during WWI that is what he used all the time, then dried it off and oiled with 3 and1 Oil.

January 13, 2010, 07:56 AM
Think Ill stick with old #9

January 14, 2010, 12:59 AM
Great feedback! Thanks!

January 14, 2010, 09:29 AM
I know everyone is going to laugh, My grandfather may he rest in piece, always used ivory soap and hot water to clean his weapons, He said during WWI that is what he used all the time, then dried it off and oiled with 3 and1 Oil.

That is the best method for corrosive ammo and black powder clean up. Some times I shoot a half dozen black powder revolvers in a day. I break them down into major components and run them through the dishwasher. Spray with Ballistol and done.

Carb clean well not damage blued steel or stainless. It well attack painted finishes and discolor plastics.

January 14, 2010, 10:27 AM
Just watch out for chlorinated solvents in the carb cleaner, and remember that stainless is stain-less, not stain-none.

You should go back with some oil since the cleaner will strip everything off.

January 16, 2010, 09:31 AM
Carb cleaner is great for cleaning metal. It is distructive to plastics, rubber and teflon. It also removes paint quite well. If you are going to use it to clean firearms, my best advice it to make sure that all plastics and wood be removed from the firearm. Once cleaned, be sure all residue is rinsed off before bringing the parts in contact with the plastic or finished parts.

January 16, 2010, 02:19 PM
Get a Lead A-way cloth from birchwood and cut it into little patches to run through the bore. This works great!

Bud Helms
January 16, 2010, 03:03 PM
I thought carb floats were made from phenolic.

Anyway, I don't think I'd spray that carb cleaner out of a pressurized can even in the general direction of any pretty wood. ;)