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Old November 3, 2010, 06:13 PM   #1
mitchell koster
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Location: Tasmania, Australia
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Cleaning brass.

Hi all.

I'm getting into the reloading now but i don't have a way of cleaning the brass easily at the moment. Money is tight so a tunmbler is outer to question for the moment.

Are there any quick and effective ways of cleaning your brass without a tumbler.

Thanks heaps.

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Old November 3, 2010, 06:19 PM   #2
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A few members here have mentioned placing the brass in a small cloth bag and running it through a load of laundry. They will be along shortly to share the details. Personally, my wife would kill me if she saw me washing brass in the front loader...
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Old November 3, 2010, 08:50 PM   #3
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Years ago when I first started reloading and couldn't afford a tumbler (because I spent all my money on all the other stuff) I used a large plastic screw top pretzel or cheese ball bottle (free) with some tumbler media (cheap) and some brand of brass polish (free) my parents had laying around. Loaded it up with with brass, media and a squirt of the polish, taped the lid on (they will unscrew if you don't - believe me) and put it into a dryer with some old towels (very noisy without the towels and/or the bottle will crack without them - another lesson learned) for an hour on fluff mode (no heat). Only fill the bottle about 1/2 to 2/3 rds full for best tumbling action. Used a pasta colander (cheap) to filter the brass from the media. Worked like a charm. Still use a colander to filter the cases form my Dillon tumbler today.

PS: If the wife doesn't let you use the dryer go to the local laundry. A lot weirder stuff is already being done there. Nobody will notice.
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Old November 3, 2010, 09:02 PM   #4
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i used to spray them will carburetor cleaner and work off the heavy fouling with a towel. it doesn't polish the brass but it takes off the built up carbon and fouling, and then reload them.
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Old November 3, 2010, 11:25 PM   #5
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For the outside you can rub the case with scotchbrite or fine steel wool
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Old November 6, 2010, 12:02 PM   #6
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I prefer to wash my brass. The number one way you'll get exposed to lead from reloading is through a tumbler, especially if you tumble with the primers in.

Buy some powdered citric acid, which is used as a food preservative. You may be able to find it at a grocery store or health food store that caters to home canners. If not you can get it online (Amazon, etc.).

1. Decap the brass with a universal decapper.
2. Wash the brass in hot water to remove large particles. (Optional)
3. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of powdered citric acid to your bucket of water.
4. Stir for 1 or 3 minutes. (It doesn't take long!)

You can also add salt to the mixture. The salt acts as an abrasive.

Don't leave it too long or you'll start to tarnish the brass by turning it pink. (Turns out this is likely some sort of copper oxide forming. It can be removed by polishing with steel wool.)

I dump the brass into another bucket of water and car washing soap afterward. It neutralizes the acid and it's easier to wash off than dish washing detergent. I also find that it reduces spotting when the cases dry.

A final rinse and I'm done.

Next, I spread the brass out on a small pan and place it in an old toaster oven set on 200 degrees until the primer pockets are dry. It takes a half an hour or so. You can also place the brass on a towel in the sun for a while.

I've been doing it for over a year with no adverse impact on the brass. Yes, you can ruin brass in an oven if you bake it at high temperatures. Just remember the thermostat in your oven is only an approximate, so start off low and figure out what works.

I did quite a bit of reading and the structure of brass doesn't even begin to change until around 400 degrees. Even the internal temperature of a car can easily reach 150 degrees on a hot summer day!

No need to worry about leaching anything out of the brass if it's placed in a low acidic solution for only a brief period of time.
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Old November 6, 2010, 01:23 PM   #7
Edward Horton
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I have a case tumbler/vibrator but for really dirty cases I used the home made mixture below and it works fine.

# A solution of 1 quart of water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup laundry or dishwashing detergent, 1/8 cup salt. Soak with some agitation for 15 to 20 minutes and follow with a rinse of soapy hot water and allow to dry. This may leave brass with a slight pinkish cast which will disappear with a short tumble in media.

Our local Swat Teams would practice at the range, and they would line up abreast at the 50 yard line and walk in mass to the target boards firing and reloading as they moved forward.

They would "miss" picking up a lot of brass in the dirt and grass and "some scrounger" with a brass magnet would pick up what they missed. (it was hard work but someone had to do it)

Below washed in the home made mix and tumbled bright and clean.
(just washing in the mix will get the brass clean, it just will not shine like tumbled brass)

Last edited by Edward Horton; November 6, 2010 at 01:28 PM.
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