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Thread: Cleaning brass with muratic acid or concrete etch solutions?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy

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    Cleaning brass with muratic acid or concrete etch solutions?

    Has anyone tried cleaning their brass with diluted acid solutions? If so, how did they turn out? seems it would be quick and effective.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    It would work but it cleans by removing a layer of surface brass. The amount removed will vary with the duration of contact and strength of the acid. Then too itís really difficult to remove all the acid from the pores of the brass, so over time the brass would get weaker. Iím all for a better way to clean brass as I process a lot. Think Iíd take a mulligan on the acid method.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Think it was Birchwood Casey who used to sell a product Zinc Chromate to clean brass. Left a flat brass color to the cases. Lowe's sells a Phosphouric acid that is used to clean off rust from iron and steel. Forget what they called it. Blue liquid in a gallon jug. Used it very diluted to clean brass. Worked good but don't dump it in the sink drain as it will sit there in the trap and older houses had brass plumbing off the sink. And would eat the brass. If and when tumbling brass Flitz does sell a brass cleaner that comes in a 8oz bottle. Dump in a soup spoon's worth and run the tumbler for about 30 minutes to distribute the polish. Then add your brass and tumble for however you normally do. Never tried the citric acid and stainless steel pins. Frank

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I tried it with muriatic acid, back in the day. It works, but you have to be careful.

    Muriatic acid is a lot stronger than vinegar or citric acid solutions: adding an unmeasured splash or two in a bucket of brass is likely going to give you pink brass in minutes like you'd get from a day long soak in diluted vinegar or citric acid. I calculated that an eye dropper or two is all you'd need for two to four gallons of water, and even then I didn't leave the brass in the solution for long (less than hour IIRC).

    It also eats holes in clothes, can burn wet human tissues (eyes, nose and the rest of the respiratory tract) from the fumes, and is great for instantly rusting any nearby unprotected steel tools.

    No, I don't use it now. I didn't try it but the one time because I was out of white vinegar, and didn't know back then about citric acid.

    ETA: I have a reference (an NRA publication on ammunition production) that states that cartridge case manufacturers use acid wash "pickling" to clean the brass of the surface oxides that form from the repeated heating of the metal needed in the various drawing and annealing steps. "Diluted sulfuric acid" was used.
    Last edited by kevin c; 03-04-2020 at 01:41 AM.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    Lemishine works just fine.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Burnt Fingers's Avatar
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    Why?

    There are plenty of ways to clean brass without involving strong acid.
    NRA Benefactor.

  7. #7
    Moderator Emeritus / Trusted loob groove dealer

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    I personally wouldn't do it. I use it to strip bluing from guns, and need to wash the metal immediately to prevent micro pitting.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I would stay away from the stronger acids. Citric acid works well as do several of the different polishes and waxes.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I use Birchwood Casey brass cleaner mixed by instructions. It is very fast, usually 15 to 30 seconds and can be reused for years depending on how much brass you clean. Takes a bit longer as the solution gets more used or you can add a bit more cleaner to stiffen it up.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master fredj338's Avatar
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    This is one of those why? Citric acid is pretty cheap & economical to use & wont hurt brass used properly.
    EVERY GOOD SHOOTER NEEDS TO BE A HANDLOADER.
    NRA Cert. Inst. Met. Reloading & Basic Pistol

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    get a gallon of orange juice at the grocery store

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silvercreek Farmer View Post
    Lemishine works just fine.
    It sure does. Its all I use anymore, no more tumbling or polishing.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master WRideout's Avatar
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    Strong mineral acids, HCl, H2SO4, etc, are likely to attack the brass and weaken it if not neutralized immediately. Organic acids such as citric or acetic (lemon juice and vinegar) do just fine, and give you a lot more leeway for how long the cases can be left in. I am planning to experiment with malic acid; it is the stuff that makes green apples sour, and is also found abundantly in the red berries of staghorn sumac, which grows everywhere around here.

    Wayne
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  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy


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    I have a product made by Birchwood Casey that has Phosphoric and Sulfuric acid in it. You mix a small amount with water and soak the brass in it for a short time. I don't recall the exact amounts or time frame but it works very well. You do have to rinse very well with cold water after soaking thee brass.

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy mehavey's Avatar
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    Why?
    ^^^^ THIS ^^^^

    There is absolutely NO reason to subject smokeless brass to anything more stressful than walnut shells and a teaspoon of autopolish cream. None.

    In stretch, steel pins and a coupla drops of dishsoap/water in a rotary tumbler

    BP ... plain old soap and water.






    (other than the above, I have no strong opinion)

  16. #16
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    A word of caution on using muriatic acid - many years ago, I had a job come through my custom woodworking shop which, after much study and talking with paint oroduct manufactures required the use of muriatic acid in order to bleach and try and remove stains from the finish stripping process on some very old church pews. The church was to have them stripped and I was reproducing new ones to match and refinishing the old ones for their sanitary expansion. Even using the acid outside and letting the pews dry out - in nice sunny warm weather - I put them in the shop overnight. The next morning when I got to work and walked into the shop, any steel tool laying out on the bench had a fine layer of rust - and this was just off of the residue of the acid in the wood of the pews. I ended up having to neutralize the wood - long story short - muriatic acid or similar could raise holy heck with dies, etc. if any is left on the brass where it would be in the area of your reloading tools.

    I just recently finally purchased a brass tumbler - andI swear by either citric acid or lemishine. Strong enough to do the job but mild enough not to do harm to other things.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master



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    I use citric acid. I just bought five pounds of it from the internet. It was cheap in that quality and will probably last me for the rest of my life. I wash brass with dish detergent, rinse and then put it in the acid, agitating for three minutes, then a good rinse. If the acid is not completely removed, It will leave streaks.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master RKJ's Avatar
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    Someone here (I don't recall who) posted that they use lemon use from the Dollar stores, it comes in 1 quart bottles, (just a buck) and works like a charm in a HF tumbler with pins.

  19. #19
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    Citric acid has worked for so long and with safe and proven results, I’d see no reason to change that now. If you want super shiny brass, get a wet tumbler, use the Lyman case cleaning solution with a capful of whatever wash and wax product you have and it’ll be blindingly shiny

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy catboat's Avatar
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    Keep it safe, simple and cheap.

    Use vinegar (acetic acid), and a squirt of dish detergent (Dawn) as a surfactant (removes/separates small particles).


    you don't even have to use vinegar full strength. 25/75 to 50/50 vinegar/Hot water with a squirt of Dawn to a bowl the size you need for your batch of brass. Put the detergent in first, then liquids-to get good mixing.

    I have an old plastic coffee "can" with lid I use. Hold < 2 quarts total. I also use a used/cleaned (duh) large peanut butter jar with lid for different batch sizes of brass. Brass in. detergent in. Liquids in. Screw on top. Shake a bit. Let soak a couple of hours. Dump out liquid (save it , if you have another brass load to clean), then rinse the brass well in hot water. Let dry. (stand brass upright on paper towel). I've read that some people use thinks like finish nails in a board to place the cleaned brass, and allow them to dry. I'm sure it works great. I just haven't done that. "standing them upright" works fine for me. I let them dry overnight. No need to heat them (may alter brass hardness).

    "K.I.S.S" ( it had me in mind)., safe, cheap and effective.

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