How Well Do Pine Cleaners Clean Brass Cases?
by Kirk Lawson

Like many ammunition hand-loaders and reloaders, I got into the hobby in order to stretch my ammunition dollar a bit farther. Thus, I am always on the lookout for ways to stretch it just a bit farther. Are there any dime-store products which work just as well as, or better than, the purpose made products? Now, the fact is that brass just needs to be clean and free from defect in order to be reloaded. However, I like my brass to be nice and shiny. So, while "clean" is entirely adequate, "shiny" is preferable to me.

Recently the question came to me, "Do pine cleaners work well to clean brass cases?" They are a common household cleaning product known to do a pretty good job on floors and surfaces, plus they have some general disinfecting properties. I have a process which works really well for me, also based on commodity household cleansers and other items. I decided that I would test some generic brand pine cleaner against my standard process.

I dug out 50 pieces of range-pickup 5.56 brass, 25 for each of the cleaning mediums.

Dishware Gold Ingredient Cuisine Wood

[Two bowls of 5.56 range-pickup brass. 25 pieces in each.]

My usual cleaning method is to use a cheap single-drum tumbler from from Harbor Freight, steel BB's (I think they were Daisy brand and started off zinc plated, though that has long since worn away), a teaspoon of Lemi Shine, and a squirt of Dawn. Put the ingredients and brass in the tumbler, fill with water, then run for 15 minutes.

Liquid Drinkware Bottled water Solution Bottle

[Dawn, Lemi Shine, and steel BB's cleans and shines brass really well.]

The contender replaces the Lemi Shine and Dawn with pine cleaner.

Liquid Bottle Drinkware Fluid Plastic bottle

[Pine cleaner and steel BB's (not shown).]

Again, add the BB's, the brass cases, an a few teaspoons of pine cleaner, then run the tumbler for 15 minutes. After which, I rinse in cold water and separate the BB's from the brass. Then I roll the brass on a towel and air dry over night.

This is the results the next day.

Dishware Tableware Cuisine Rectangle Serveware

[The comparison. Which bowl was cleaned with Lemi Shine and Dawn?]

Brown Wood Body jewelry Rectangle Beige

[Does displaying them lined up on a towel make it easier to see which is more shiny?]

Looking at the above photos, does one set appear to be more shiny and polished? Can you tell which set reflects more light? Look at the taper at the necks, where the light is reflecting. It's obvious to me, and more obvious in person, that the set on the left is more shiny. The left set was cleaned with Lemi Shine and Dawn.

So how did the pine cleaner perform? Well, it obviously did not shine up as well, the brass was clean and usable. It could be safely decapped and resized, and prepared for reloading.

Could you use pine cleaner? The answer is pretty clearly yes. But I won't be using it. Lemi Shine and Dawn simply work better in my system but pine cleaner does get the brass clean.