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Thread: Citric acid brass cleaner

  1. #41
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    Better/Best, sounds like.

    Tried some on some black range brass tonight. Oh, man! 30 minute soak and it's brass again.

    Well, almost.

    Still need to tumble to remove come copper looking residue (which it did). I'm wondering what that copper color means.

  2. #42
    Boolit Master cheese1566's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sagacious View Post
    Citric acid is good.

    Carry on.

    Many thanks!!

  3. #43
    Boolit Master sagacious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Smith View Post
    Thanks, Sagatious. Now another question - what, if any, effect does polishing have on the passivation of the brass?
    Wayne,
    Polishing/tumbling undoubtedly removes a certain amount of the passivated surface layer, but to a limited extent, polishing itself helps passivate metal. Depending on circumstances, some of the passivated layer probably remains after tumbling, so you're still on the plus side if you tumble after the citric acid wash. Of course, one should be sure to use a brass polish on the tumbling media that does not contain ammonia.

    For those who do not polish/tumble their brass, the citric acid wash should be especially beneficial.

    Citric acid passivation also helps prevent stress corrosion cracking in brass-- so if one reloads/stores OLD brass for obsolete calibers, the citric acid wash could be beneficial there too.

  4. #44
    See, THIS is why this forum is so great! Although, when I just went into the kitchen while my wife was doing the dishes and started mixing lemon juice, vinegar, and dishsoap and ran downstairs to get some brass, she was not so fond of this forum! Hahahaha! Once she saw the magical transformation of the brass though, she was cool with it...

  5. #45
    Boolit Master

    MtGun44's Avatar
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    Cheese1566,

    Citric acid is very good. It takes the thin outer layer of oxidized brass (same process as
    rusting in iron based alloys) and reverses it, putting the brass back as metal. At the same
    time it modifies the surface by removing microimpurities and electrochemically stabilizing
    the surface to minimize future corrosion (tarnish is mild corrosion) - this is called passivation.

    Very good. Use it.

    I'll try the goo gone, I have a bottle of it for a hand cleaner. I have tried gas and mineral
    spirts without much success - it softens the darned asphalt, but not quickly and treating a
    couple thousand cases with a Qtip for a minute or two is not my idea of a good time.

    Bill
    Last edited by MtGun44; 05-11-2010 at 09:38 PM.
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  6. #46
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    So, is that copper color redeposition of metal?

  7. #47
    Boolit Master sagacious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WallyM3 View Post
    ...
    Still need to tumble to remove come copper looking residue (which it did). I'm wondering what that copper color means.
    Wally,
    In brass that has been subject to heavy tarnishing, some of the zinc component of the brass is actually phsically removed from the brass. The zinc can oxidize and the oxide will brush off with wear/tear and handling, or it can be dissolved/leached from the brass by certain acids, such as acids present in sweat and fingerprint oil, combustion products, soil acids, etc. Once that zinc is gone, it's essentially been physically removed, and it's not comin' back.

    When the tarnish is gone after the citric acid wash, you'll see those zinc-depleted areas as copper-colored spots. The brass will be weaker in the area of the copper spot.

    Relatively new brass that has not been subject to severe weathering or chemical attack is probably OK if it has a few small copper spots. Older brass with larger copper spots may not be OK, and may suffer cracking in the zinc-depleted areas upon resizing/crimping/firing. Treat such brass with suspicion.

    Good luck.

  8. #48
    Boolit Master sagacious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtGun44 View Post
    I'll try the goo gone...
    treating a couple thousand cases with a Qtip for a minute or two is not my idea of a good time.

    Bill
    Pour 1/2" of Goo-Gone in a deli container or glass jar, and stand a few dozen rifle cases neck-down in the solvent. They can soak that way without having to submerge the cases entirely. Goo-Gone really goes to work on tar. Good luck.

  9. #49
    Boolit Master

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    The copper color likely means a corrosive environment locally removed the zinc in the
    alloy preferentially, leaving a local area of higher copper content. Probably not a plus,
    altho it may not go very deep. Possibly actually removed all the zinc locally - oh, yeah --
    cartridge brass is an alloy of 70% copper and 30% zinc.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  10. #50
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    Is the actual depth of loss visible in a cross section under, say, 40x magnification, do you think?

    I mean, could I slice a cross section and inspect for deterioration visually?

    Desperate times call for desperate measures (LOL).

    Just so I'm in the same communication ball park, we're talking about CA260?

  11. #51
    Boolit Master
    a.squibload's Avatar
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    I found some 44 brass in the basement, in a cardboard box, no telling how long it had been there.
    Had some green stuff growing on it, like the stuff on battery terminals, only green.
    Found a good way to handle it: threw it out.
    Don't look at me in that tone of voice, it was only a few cases.

  12. #52
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    I resemble that remark.

    I'm only talking about 3,000 cases. ♫

  13. #53
    Boolit Master sagacious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WallyM3 View Post
    Is the actual depth of loss visible in a cross section under, say, 40x magnification, do you think?

    I mean, could I slice a cross section and inspect for deterioration visually?

    Desperate times call for desperate measures (LOL).

    Just so I'm in the same communication ball park, we're talking about CA260?
    Yes, SAE #260 is Cu70/Zn30 aka yellow brass aka cartridge brass.

    Yes, it should be visible under 40X. A 30X compact microscope works for me for most metal-surface inspection, but I'd hate to suggest that microscopy is needed in this case.

    I just ignore any tiny copper spots-- they often disappear with tumbling. Large spots (say, 1/8"+ across) attract my attention. Usually scraping very lightly with a very sharp pocket knife will reveal the depth of the corrosion. Usually it's just surface corrosion that hasn't penetrated, and scraping reveals yellow brass, and that case is OK. This test works fairly well, and is easy.

    If the corrosion has penetrated, the scraping usually reveals a 'gritty' material before passivation, or spongy metal after passivation, and that case gets scrapped. By the time the corrosion has penetrated to any important depth, the spot is usually well past normal tarnishing, and you'll see real corrosion-- usually white, black, green, or red-colored.
    Last edited by sagacious; 05-11-2010 at 10:21 PM. Reason: clarification

  14. #54
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    Not to beat this horse deader than necessary, but would it then be reasonable to say that if the copper blotches polished off in a tumbler, then the deterioration is superficial?

  15. #55
    Boolit Master sagacious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WallyM3 View Post
    Not to beat this horse deader than necessary, but would it then be reasonable to say that if the copper blotches polished off in a tumbler, then the deterioration is superficial?
    Yes, exactly right.

  16. #56
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    Yahoo!!!

    Thank you.

    This has been a great thread for me.

  17. #57
    Boolit Master

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    I'll report back on the goo-gone asphalt sealant removal. I am well aware of the
    wonderful capabilities of limonene (sp?) and related new water based citrus cleaners.
    We have replace some really nasty stuff at work cleaning critical electronic assys
    during processing with various versions of the limonene and other citrus extracts.
    Great stuff, so I have some high hopes for the goo-gone.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  18. #58
    Boolit Master jmsj's Avatar
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    Thanks guys for the information. I've got three 5 gallon pails of 30/06 brass to clean, I was not looking foward to tumbling all of those.
    jmsj

  19. #59
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    citric acid

    I have been using Lemon juice with Murphy oil soap (or Dawn or any dish soap) with water in a a rubber rock tumbler that I bought at Harbor Freight for 20.00 bucks on sale. I mix the solution and pour it over the 2/3rds full cans, seal them and start the tumbler. I then make some lemonade, drink it and go to bed or play on the computer ( like coming here). when I sleep, the sound of the tumbler is a lulling one--sort of like waves. Next morning, when I wake up, I rinse the tumbled brass in Hot water (my apartment has scalding hot water) and shake dry, place on a cookie sheet (just used for reloading) in the oven @125 degrees. make Breakfast and eat same and then take out the brass. Drink cup of coffee, smoke 2 cigs and harass the cat. by then the brass is very dry, very shiny and ready for priming and reloading. The only problem people seem to find with this is 1) I smoke too much, 2) I'm being mean to the cat. hell, I've been smoking too much for 58 years and am still here, and the cat starts it. she's evil but loves me and If I don't reciprocate she starts to worry. end of story is ---- Brass very clean and Shiny.

    ETA: cat is happy, too.
    Last edited by goofyoldfart; 05-12-2010 at 03:41 PM. Reason: can't forget the cat. she's my wife, now
    A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America " for an amount of "up to and including my life."

  20. #60
    Boolit Master

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    My guess is that with enough lemon juice you could be done in about 10-15 minutes.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

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BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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GC Gas Check