Until It Shines: Using Brass Case Cleaner

Until It Shines: Using Brass Case Cleaner

How to clean your brass the easy way using brass case cleaner.

My gun club ranges have sand and silt floors. There’s also a carpet of brass on top of the sand. When I’m done shooting, I have this habit of picking up my brass, plus whatever is there that’s a caliber I might need, find useful or gotta have. A lot of that other brass is pretty grubby—some of it’s even chocolate colored.

So, I sort the brass and separate it, by caliber and cleanliness, and I end up with boxes (even buckets) of brass that’ll need more than just a run through the tumbler. The muddy stuff gets rinsed in hot water, dried and tossed in with the chocolate brass. And, once a year or so, I’ll set aside a brass-cleaning day (usually a hot summer day) to do the dirty work.

For that, I use Shooter’s Choice Brass Case Cleaner, a solution requiring a certain level of dilution (I tend to not dilute as much as the instructions call for) and then soaking or using an ultrasonic cleaner.


Once your brass is clean, drain and strain, rinse in hot water (the hotter the better) and then dry. That’s why I tend to do this in the summer. I can pour the hot, wet brass onto an old bath or beach towel and let the sunlight do the drying for me. In the midday sun, it isn’t unusual for the brass to get so hot after a couple of hours so I don’t dare touch it with my bare hands. I’ll pour them from one towel to a new, dry towel and give them another hour or so, until I’m certain they’re fully dry.

Some of you might wonder if the discolored brass is weakened. No, not if the discoloration is just a uniform brown color. If you get green crustiness and patches of it, then the corrosion has advanced to the point that the brass might be weaker. Just brown isn’t a problem.

For most brass, going into the tumbler will be enough to clean it.

Take It Easy

Can you overdo this? Yes. You’re using an acidic solution to react to the corrosion and strip it off. If you let your brass soak too long (the instructions specifically say to not do this overnight, so that’s a clue), the acidic solution could’ve worked at a scratch or gouge in the case that wouldn’t have otherwise been a problem, but now you’ve weakened it.

During the decades I’ve cleaned brass this way, I’ve never had a problem, but my idea of a “long soak” is half an hour. In an ultrasonic cleaner, you might need five minutes, or you might need more depending on the level of patina of your brass.

To get your “chocolate” brass this clean, go to chemistry … not tumbling.

Can you use this method with nickeled brass? Yes. Although, I have to wonder how you go about neglecting nickeled brass to the point where it gains a patina. The whole point of nickel is that it doesn’t do that. But if you miss a nickel case in your sorting and it ends up getting a bath, you aren’t going to ruin the case nor spoil the mix of your cleaner.

Can you clean your regular brass this way? Yes, but unless you have to etch off the patina, why go through the extra trouble? Just toss it in the tumbler. If it’s muddy, a hot water rinse, a dry and then into the tumbler is all it needs.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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  1. Citric acid used for canning gives the same results. Walley world marks it down at the end of canning season. I dry it using a dehydrator from a second hand store, $5 bucks. Then I polish it in the tumbler with corn cob litter with polish added. I then size prime and store it according to caliber.


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