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Thread: Will Muriatic acid hurt cartridge brass?

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Will Muriatic acid hurt cartridge brass?

    I'm not sure where to post this. My nephew gave me an ammo can full of rainwater stained 7.62 NATO brass. I was wondering if a quick acid bath would get it clean enough for the tumbler. Thoughts? I'm familiar with the safety concerns; I've used it to clean copper for soldering for decades.

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    Aka HCl (hydrochloric acid) salt based may not be too good for the copper in the brass but if you dilute it it might work. Might look at citric acid and dawn dish soap too.
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    Read some other info and found that yes, if you clean for a short time it will do the job BUT kinda hazardous. Make sure you rinse well with baking soda (neutralizer) before polishing.
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    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Thanks, definitely an outdoor, upwind job. I’ve had it in my eyes and lungs before( teachable moments, indeed!)

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    Boolit Master

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    I only got 'C's in High School Chemistry, but I'm not comfortable using harsh chemicals on anything if I don't have to.

    Back in the 90's I got a super cut throat deal on several thousand 'black' .45ACP brass like that.

    I just washed & tumbled them like new once fired cases.
    Most of them are still black, and I don't know how many times some of them have been reloaded.

    Except for not being able to win a beauty contest--- they're still working fine.
    Last edited by Winger Ed.; 03-29-2020 at 01:14 AM.
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    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    These probably have more rust from the ammo can on them than anything else. Trust me, I don't demand surgically clean brass- just clean enough not to mess up my dies or chamber.

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    Boolit Master
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    I know for sure that muriatic acid just kind of vaporizes aluminum. I would expect it to do the same thing to brass. Best way to treat that water stained brass is to tumble it in the brass tumbler, load it up and shoot it. Next time you tumble it will get it even nicer.

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    Boolit Master
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    Dilute HCl will dissolve tarnish from brass ,but be very careful ,and do not store the acid anywhere near steel objects ,as even a closed container will promote extensive rusting of anything steel ,and just the fumes will strip blue from guns ,any trace on hands will leave finger prints on blue.....The acid is widely used in swimming pools and is cheap.

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    HCl will take the tarnish off the brass, but will dissolve the zinc out of the alloy at about the same rate. A quick bath in the stuff probably wonít hurt but if you wait for all the tarnish to go away, you might be etching some of the cases too much.

    Citric acid should get the tarnish off without attacking the metal itself. Thatís what Iíd use.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    The CLR type solution is probably safer ,but doubtless far more expensive.

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    Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, there was a product named "Case Bright". It came in a little metal can like a miniature paint can-you had to pry the lid off with a screwdriver or similar. Inside the can was a cellophane envelope with some yellowish crystals in it. You mixed it with warm water preferably in a 1 gal. glass jar, dumped in the brass, and shook the jar for awhile. The brass came out clean but yellowish, and I mean sort of half-ripe banana yellow, not shiny golden. One spread it out on a newspaper in the sun to dry. The liquid turned black, but was supposedly reusable, although I could never get it to work a second time. I think the crystals were some sort of acid. You could look into it and maybe find out what the substance was, and maybe it might have been HC. I've still got some 8mm Mauser brass that received that treatment back in the 70s and 80s, been tumbled in corn husk a couple of times since then, but the color is still yellow.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Any acid will have some effect on most metals. I love muriatic acid to quickly (hour or two) dissolve rust from things I want to salvage but I wouldn't use it on my cases, mostly because white vinegar is as strong as we need to remove the black oxide from the surface of brass and it's harmless as well as cheep. (I mean we eat the stuff in salad dressings and pickles!) I have left a lot of black range pick-up cases in vinegar overnight without harm to me or anything else; that's not been so with muriatic acid!

    Vinegar will turn the black to pink. Rinse the pink cases well and dry them until there is no trace of water inside; THEN tumble them normally and your black cases will look and work like new. And do it all in your shop with no hazard from corrosive acid fumes.

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    Boolit Buddy

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    I have been cleaning some really raunchy brass all this week, 5 gal buckets of of 223 and 9mm. I use the small ultra vibe tumblers full to the top with brass and fill with solution of Lemi Shine and Dawn dish soap. Teaspoon of Lemi crystals and run it till the cases look like you want them to. Rinse well and dry on a towel, viola, servicable brass ready to feed to the Dillon trimmer. Its safe to use bare handed and doesnt stink like the acids. You can just let the brass soak and agitate by hand now and then and get the same results, just takes abit longer

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    Boolit Master Drm50's Avatar
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    I use a concentrated cleaner that HVac guys use to clean AC coils. A gallon goes a long way. I let brass soak in it overnight then rinse in cold water. Birchwood Casey sells similar product in small bottle that makes a gallon. Works very well. Brass comes out of these solution dull but clean.

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    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice, everyone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Gebirgsjager View Post
    Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, there was a product named "Case Bright". It came in a little metal can like a miniature paint can-you had to pry the lid off with a screwdriver or similar. Inside the can was a cellophane envelope with some yellowish crystals in it. You mixed it with warm water preferably in a 1 gal. glass jar, dumped in the brass, and shook the jar for awhile. The brass came out clean but yellowish, and I mean sort of half-ripe banana yellow, not shiny golden. One spread it out on a newspaper in the sun to dry. The liquid turned black, but was supposedly reusable, although I could never get it to work a second time. I think the crystals were some sort of acid. You could look into it and maybe find out what the substance was, and maybe it might have been HC. I've still got some 8mm Mauser brass that received that treatment back in the 70s and 80s, been tumbled in corn husk a couple of times since then, but the color is still yellow.
    Probably sulfamic acid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfamic_acid I used it to clean photographic processing trays and tanks in the 70's an 80's. Home Depot carries it, among other places. I'd advise you to wear gloves, as it will stain your skin.

  17. #17
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    I know we're talking about "cleaning brass" and I'm sure OP has many more great ideas here than before, but I wanted to ask if it was feasible to actually powder coat your brass without interfering with tolerances? Probably a bad idea.
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  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    On thing I do know cleans brass is a mix of HCl and methylated spirits ....I used it years ago to clean pennies of tarnish ,it does that spectacularly well ,but as I have learned in the years since ,its hard to stop further corrosion with HCl.....In fact ,IMHO ,HCl and guns dont mix ,unless you re all black plastic and stainless....Even then I know HCl will rust stain 400 stainless.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dieselhorses View Post
    but I wanted to ask if it was feasible to actually powder coat your brass without interfering with tolerances?
    Case/chamber/cylinder dimensions aside-
    I figure they'd be sort of 'grippy' and not want to extract after they expanded from being fired.
    And, I don't think the PC would survive the resizing process without gumming up the die or falling off.

    Years ago, there were Wanda brand shotgun shells out there that didn't have any metal in them except the shot & primer.
    The entire hull was hard plastic, but they came and went from the market pretty fast,
    and not because they were so wonderful.
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    It was God, guns, and guts.


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  20. #20
    Boolit Man
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    Why dont you use vinegar or something less potent?

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