Cleaning very well and very cheap

Discussion in 'Gunsmith shop' started by lklawson, Feb 23, 2016.

  1. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    As most of you may know by now, I'm a cheapskate. Look at my sig, m'kay? :rofl: But I'm also a bit of a tinkerer and I'm infinitely curious. Sometimes satisfying curiosity doesn't necessarily lend itself to cheapskatedness. When I did my tests on corrosion resistance, I ended up buying several products which I still haven't used up, almost a decade later.

    I've tried many different products for cleaning firearms and, honestly, most of them work very well, comparable to each other. One of my favorites is Ed's Red home-brew. Works well and is a fraction of the cost of "gun specific" products.

    However, I've also been curious about ways to reduce the time it takes to clean a firearm. This mostly breaks down into three different categories. First, the various cleaning solvents and oils usually make claims about how the regular use of their specific product reduces over all cleaning times over their competitors (because of the inclusion of pixie dust, most likely). Second, is the advice of certain "Tips & Tricks" from the firearms community and from personal experience (such as "spray part X and let it soak while performing some other task"). Third is the use of certain machines and mechanical aids (such as electrolysis rods for removing copper fouling from barrels). It is this third option which I want to focus on for this post.

    In particular, there is the common use of Ultrasonic cleaning baths. Naturally, there are numerous commercial products from gun specific manufactures along with their proprietary bath solutions. What I just wrote was "expensive stuff" and I'm cheap. :) Honestly, I did look into what it would take to DIY build an ultrasonic bath and, while doable, the end result simply wouldn't save the cheapskate any money unless he already had a bench full of parts as part of his hobby. So to satisfy my curiosity, last year I bought a cheap, small, unit from Harbor Freight, using a 20% off coupon. I have tried several different cleaning agents now, including water, Ed's Red, a Moose Milk recipe, and a Ballistol emulsion. Most home-brew ultrasonic cleaning fluid recipes include ammonia which I avoid for gun cleaning except for certain specific applications related to removing copper fouling from barrels.

    Because of the limited volume of this unit (1 Pint/600 ml), I can only put small parts in, up to roughly the size of a slide from CC handguns such as the Kel Tec PF9 but not a full sized slide such as from a 1911. What I have found through trial is that the Ballistol emulsion does the best job of cleaning and lubricating for me and my parts. Ballistol advertises on their web site many different applications for their product such as cleaning & lubing firearms, as a cutting oil, and for use in ultrasonic cleaners. For ultrasonic cleaners, they recommend a 10% emulsion of Ballistol in water. This is what I used. The cheap ultrasonic cleaner I chose from Harbor Freight has a warmer to heat the fluid, a common recommendation for best results in ultrasonic cleaning. Most charitably, I could say that the controls are "simple." But they consist of two buttons: "On" and "Off." When the unit is plugged it, it automatically runs the heater so make sure the unit is unplugged when not in use and has fluid in the bath when plugged in. The "on" button starts a single, 3-minute, cycle. If you want a longer cycle with this unit, you're out of luck. Wait for it to stop and push the button again.

    As I wrote, the Ballistol emulsion cleans the best of the various products I've tried in the ultrasonic bath. And, because it's a 10% emulsion, it's comparatively inexpensive. The fluid is hot so when parts are removed from the bath an wiped down, the water content of the remaining fluid on/in the part quickly evaporates leaving a film of pure Ballistol. When deposited this way, the Ballistol is amazingly slick. It works particularly well with the Beretta NEOS magazines which I chuck into the bath fully assembled. When completed through 2 or 3 cycles of the bath, the exterior surface is almost too slick. I give them an extra wipe down to make sure that the excess is off, but it still feels as if I'd "over-lubed" the exterior. The other small parts come out equally clean and well lubed. I admit that when I reassemble the parts, I do perform a judicious wipe using Breakfree CLP on the mating surfaces with a q-tip, though this probably isn't strictly necessary by that point. Old habits, I guess.

    When finished, I ladle out the bath fluid and into a jar for future use. Keep an eye on it because it will eventually become so contaminated with carbon and detritus from cleaning that the fluid will need replaced. Keeping the fluid stored in a jar between uses prevents spills and water evaporation from the fluid. It also allows me to pre-warm the fluid in the microwave prior to returning it to the ultrasonic bath.

    I have used the ultrasonic unit to clean brass from reloading, with varying home-brew brass case cleaning recipes. It performs this task acceptably well but, honestly, I prefer tumbling the brass in media because that gives the brass a slight polish which the ultrasonic cleaning can't.

    I am satisfied with the way the combination of an ultrasonic cleaning unit and a Ballistol emulsion works and am planning on buying the larger, 2.5 Liter, unit eventually. It still won't let me pop whole rifle barrels in but will easily accommodate full sized pistol frames, slides, and barrels. Storage of the fluid between uses may be a bit more challenging. Maybe I could use a clean milk jug.

    On a side note, Ballistol is friendly to wood and should be accommodating to wood grips should you choose to run those through a cycle in the ultrasonic bath as well, where as most other ultrasonic cleaning solutions, and gun cleaning/oil products in general, are not friendly and may damage or discolor the wood. I generally prefer lemon oil or rose oil for wood, but my experience is that Ballistol works well enough.

    Peace favor your sword,
    GrumpyOlMan and Rerun like this.
  2. moona11

    moona11 King of you Monkeys Lifetime Supporter

    Nice Kirk.
    But your not that cheap. You won't let Mole near you ??????

  3. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    Well, cheap enough. She Who Must Be Obeyed tells me that I'm expensive. ;)

    My family already has a pet. :rofl:

    Peace favor your sword,
  4. undeRGRound

    undeRGRound ROLL wif Da MOLE! Supporting Member

    So does mine, Named MOLE :D
    Frikkin' m00ny :p
  5. moona11

    moona11 King of you Monkeys Lifetime Supporter

    Kirks pet hand puppet Da Mole.
  6. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    I'm married, remember? :rofl:

    Peace favor your sword,
  7. undeRGRound

    undeRGRound ROLL wif Da MOLE! Supporting Member

  8. Ultrasonic cleaning has lots of appeal to me. The initial outlay for the machine is prohibitive for me because I'd use it for full size pistols. The solution you've discovered sounds great and do-able.
  9. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    Yeah, that's the trouble with the small unit. Only has 1 Pint of volume. The 2.5 L model is $80 and a 20% coupon would bring that down to $65.

    FWIW, I used this configuration to clean all the steel parts for my Taurus TCP 739. Slide, barrel, recoil spring, guide rod, slide retaining pin. Didn't use it on the frame, but I probably could have. I probably could have placed the frame in, butt up, and ran it with no issues.

    On a side note, I've painted the tiny, black, fixed sights of my TCP (front blaze orange, rear yellow) with Testors brand enamel model paint. The process did not cause the paint to flake off. least not yet, anyhow.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2016
  10. Yeah, I didn't even think of painted sights. I do the same thing with my sights when needed. That's good news...that the paint stays on with the solution that you discovered.
  11. undeRGRound

    undeRGRound ROLL wif Da MOLE! Supporting Member

    KLAWSON's Klaws are too big... :(
  12. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    It may come off over time, just as it may wear off from holster wear. But reapplication is cheap and easy. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
  13. I have tried lots of gun cleaning chemicals and lubes. I'm hooked on Ballistol:)
    Plus, It does not irritate my skin and sinuses. This stuff has tons of applications around the gun room, shop, fishing gear/ camp.
  14. ratchowmein

    ratchowmein Member

    I've used the larger tank cleaner, and tried diesel fuel, Simple Green, and Balistol. I tend to like the smell of Balistol (and Hoppys ) the best, and also the way they work.
    Diesel and kerosene are cheap but they stink.
  15. 12vman

    12vman Member

    What he said^^^^^^^^

    I keep a can on my workbench and one in the gun safe to quickly spray down my guns before I put them up in the safe....good stuff

    I like how it dries but still leaves a protective layer.........better than the Vaseline my dad used to slather on every safe gun he owned
  16. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    "Poor mans cosmoline."

    Peace favor your sword (mobile)
  17. Browning 9 Guy

    Browning 9 Guy Premium Supporter Member

    I've been cleaning and lubing all of the steel parts of my handguns and rifles with automatic transmission fluid. Leaves a protective film that seems to resist evaporating. Wooden stocks I rub down with a silicon cloth.
  18. SWAGA

    SWAGA No longer broke... Lifetime Supporter

    I use AT-fluid to clean the barrels on every gun I own.
    4 long guns are kept in 'silicone' gun socks.
  19. OldOutlaw

    OldOutlaw Supporting Member

    I have used for years the old GI Military bore cleaner. Made in 1972-1974.
    Same stuff today under a commercial names is way too expensive. Can't remember what that name is right now. Better than any thing I have found on the market in the last 50+ years. I just check various surplus stores and sooner or later they have it. Less than $2 per 8oz can. Some times it is found in qt and gallon tins. Cheaper still per ounce.
  20. sc487

    sc487 Member