A 16_9 aspect ratio image depicting the process of cleaning brass bullet casings. The image shows a variety of brass casings spread out on a surface

Reloading your own ammunition can be a rewarding and cost-effective hobby for gun enthusiasts. Not only does it allow for customizing your rounds, but it also saves money in the long run. However, one important aspect of reloading that many beginners overlook is the cleaning of brass before reloading. In this article, we will explore the various methods and materials for cleaning brass for reloading, as well as offer some helpful tips to ensure a safe and accurate reloading process.

What is Reloading?

Reloading is the process of creating your own ammunition by assembling the individual components of a round: primer, powder, and bullet. This process allows for customization of the load for specific firearms and shooting purposes.

Why Clean Brass for Reloading?

Brass is the most commonly used material for casings in ammunition. Over time, these casings can become dirty and corroded from repeated use. Cleaning brass before reloading is essential for removing any debris or residue that could affect the accuracy or safety of the rounds.

Methods for Cleaning Brass

There are several methods for cleaning brass, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. These include:

  1. Dry TumblingDry tumbling is a popular method for cleaning brass as it is quick and effective. It involves placing the brass casings in a tumbler with a media, such as crushed walnut shells or corn cob granules, and tumbling them until they are clean. However, dry tumbling does not remove any carbon build-up inside the casings.
  2. Wet TumblingWet tumbling is a more thorough method of cleaning brass as it removes carbon build-up inside the casings. It involves submerging the brass in a cleaning solution and tumbling them in a rotary tumbler. However, it is a longer process and requires more equipment.
  3. Ultrasonic CleaningUltrasonic cleaning uses high-frequency sound waves to agitate the cleaning solution and remove debris from the brass. This method is effective but can be time-consuming and expensive.
  4. Hand CleaningHand cleaning involves using a cleaning solution and a cloth to manually clean the brass. This method is time-consuming and not as effective as the other methods.

What Materials Do You Need for Cleaning Brass?

The materials needed for cleaning brass will depend on the method chosen. However, some essential items include:

  • TumblerA tumbler is a machine that rotates the brass casings with the media to clean them.
  • MediaMedia, such as crushed walnut shells or corn cob granules, is used to clean and polish the brass casings.
  • Cleaning SolutionA cleaning solution is necessary to dissolve any carbon build-up on the brass casings.
  • Brass PolishAfter cleaning, brass polish can be used to give the casings a shiny finish.
  • Drying RackA drying rack is essential for letting the brass casings dry thoroughly before reloading.

Tips for Cleaning Brass

Here are some tips to keep in mind when cleaning brass for reloading:

  1. Sort Brass by CaliberIt’s important to sort your brass by caliber before cleaning to ensure they all fit properly into the reloading dies.
  2. Remove Debris Before CleaningBefore cleaning, it’s important to remove any debris from the brass, such as dirt or rocks, to avoid damaging the tumbler.

Key Takeaways:


  • Cleaning brass is an essential step in reloading, ensuring safe and accurate ammunition.
  • There are various methods for cleaning brass, including dry tumbling, wet tumbling, ultrasonic cleaning, and hand cleaning.
  • To properly clean brass, you will need a tumbler, media, cleaning solution, brass polish, and a drying rack. It is also important to sort by caliber, remove debris, and dry thoroughly before reloading.


What is Reloading?

Reloading is the process of assembling ammunition by refilling spent cartridge cases with primer, powder, and bullet. This allows shooters to create custom ammunition tailored to their specific needs, resulting in improved accuracy and performance.

Fact: Reloading can lead to cost savings of up to 50% compared to purchasing factory-loaded ammunition.

Why Clean Brass for Reloading?

Properly cleaning brass before reloading is essential for several important reasons. Firstly, it effectively removes any dirt, grime, or residue that could potentially cause damage to the firearm. Secondly, it guarantees consistent performance and accuracy of the reloaded ammunition. Additionally, cleaning brass also promotes safety by eliminating any potential obstructions in the firearm’s chamber. Lastly, it fosters a sense of pride and responsibility in the reloading process, creating a deeper connection with the craft. Therefore, for anyone involved in reloading, maintaining clean brass is a crucial step that should not be overlooked.

Methods for Cleaning Brass

In the world of reloading, clean brass is crucial for optimal performance and safety. There are various methods for cleaning brass, each with its own unique benefits and drawbacks. In this section, we will discuss the four main methods for cleaning brass: dry tumbling, wet tumbling, ultrasonic cleaning, and hand cleaning. By understanding the differences between these methods, you can determine the best approach for your specific reloading needs.

1. Dry Tumbling

  1. Examine the brass: Before beginning the dry tumbling process, make sure the brass is clear of any debris or dirt particles.
  2. Add media: Place the brass inside the tumbler and add the appropriate dry tumbling media.
  3. Tumble the brass: Close the tumbler and run it for the recommended amount of time to achieve the desired level of cleanliness.
  4. Examine and store: After tumbling, inspect the brass to ensure it is clean, then store it properly for future reloading.

2. Wet Tumbling

  • Inspect brass: Check for any cracks, dents, or deformities.
  • Add media: Place brass and stainless steel pins in the tumbler.
  • Add cleaning solution: Pour in water and a cleaning solution to cover the brass.
  • Tumble: Run the tumbler for 1-4 hours to clean the brass thoroughly.
  • Rinse and dry: After wet tumbling, rinse the brass and let it dry completely.

When wet tumbling, ensure proper ventilation and use appropriate safety gear to avoid inhaling dust particles.

3. Ultrasonic Cleaning

  • Disassemble: Break down the brass into its components.
  • Prepare Solution: Mix water with a solvent suitable for ultrasonic cleaners.
  • Ultrasonic Cleaning: Submerge brass in the ultrasonic cleaning solution and run the ultrasonic cleaner.
  • Rinse and Dry: Thoroughly rinse the brass to remove any remaining solvent and then air dry.

Did you know? Ultrasonic cleaning uses sound waves to agitate a liquid, effectively removing contaminants from surfaces.

4. Hand Cleaning

  • Inspect brass for any signs of damage or defects.
  • Soak the brass in a cleaning solution to loosen dirt and residue.
  • Scrub the brass using a brass brush to remove stubborn dirt and stains.
  • Rinse the brass thoroughly with clean water.
  • Dry the brass completely to prevent corrosion.

Pro-tip: Invest in a brass tumbler to streamline and enhance the hand cleaning process.

What Materials Do You Need for Cleaning Brass?

Before you can start reloading your own ammunition, it is important to properly clean and prepare your brass casings. In this section, we will discuss the necessary materials for cleaning brass, including a tumbler, media, cleaning solution, brass polish, and a drying rack. Each of these materials plays a crucial role in achieving clean and polished brass casings, ready for the reloading process. So, let’s dive into the essential equipment needed for cleaning brass and how they contribute to the overall results.

1. Tumbler

A tumbler is a necessary tool for cleaning brass. To use a tumbler, follow these steps:

  1. Gather the brass cartridges that need cleaning.
  2. Place the brass and cleaning media into the tumbler.
  3. Close the tumbler and turn it on to begin the cleaning process.
  4. Let the tumbler run for the recommended amount of time.
  5. When the process is finished, open the tumbler and take out the now-cleaned brass.

For best results, make sure to use the tumbler in a well-ventilated area and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

2. Media

  • Porcelain Media: Ideal for polishing and burnishing, providing a bright finish to the brass.
  • Corn Cob Media: Effective at removing dirt and grime, offering a smooth finish to the brass.
  • Walnut Shell Media: Suitable for cleaning heavily tarnished brass, ensuring a polished appearance.

When selecting media for cleaning brass, consider the level of tarnish and the desired finish to achieve optimal reloading results.

3. Cleaning Solution

  1. Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing water and a specialized brass cleaning agent in a container.
  2. Immerse the brass cases into the cleaning solution and let them soak for the recommended period of time.
  3. Agitate the cases in the solution to dislodge dirt and grime, ensuring thorough cleaning.
  4. Rinse the brass thoroughly with clean water to remove any remaining cleaning solution.
  5. Dry the brass completely before storing or reloading.

When using a cleaning solution, be sure to use one specifically designed for brass to avoid damage and achieve optimal cleaning results.

4. Brass Polish

  1. Inspect the brass: Before using the brass polish, check for any dirt, debris, or oxidation on the brass surface.
  2. Clean the brass: Use a brass cleaning solution and a soft cloth to remove any residue and create a clean surface for polishing.
  3. Apply the brass polish: Using a clean cloth, gently apply a small amount of brass polish to the surface of the brass and rub it in a circular motion.
  4. Buff the brass: Once the polish is applied, use a separate clean cloth to buff the brass until it shines.

Pro-tip: To prevent tarnishing, store the brass in airtight containers after polishing.

5. Drying Rack

  • After wet tumbling, carefully place the brass on the drying rack to allow it to air dry completely.
  • It is important to ensure that the drying rack is positioned in a well-ventilated area to speed up the drying process.
  • Before reloading, always inspect the brass to confirm that it is completely dry to avoid any potential issues caused by moisture.

Fun Fact: Properly drying brass is crucial in maintaining consistent performance of your ammunition.

Tips for Cleaning Brass

When it comes to reloading, having clean and polished brass is crucial for achieving accurate and consistent results. In this section, we will discuss some essential tips for cleaning brass that will help you get the most out of your reloading process. From properly sorting your brass by caliber to using the right amount of cleaning solution, these tips will ensure that your brass is free of debris and ready to be reloaded. So, let’s dive in and learn how to effectively clean brass for reloading.

1. Sort Brass by Caliber

  • Sort brass by caliber to prevent mixing and ensure the right size for reloading equipment.

When separating brass by caliber, make sure to organize them into clearly labeled containers for easy identification and access during the reloading process.

2. Remove Debris Before Cleaning

  • Inspect brass for dirt, grime, and other debris.
  • Use a small brush or pick to remove any visible debris from the primer pocket and case mouth.
  • Utilize a decapping die to remove the spent primer before cleaning.
  • Consider using a brass tumbler to further remove dirt and residue before cleaning.

3. Use the Right Amount of Cleaning Solution

  • Measure: Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the correct amount of cleaning solution based on the type and quantity of brass being cleaned.
  • Dilute if Necessary: If the solution is too strong, dilute it with water to achieve the recommended concentration.
  • Test: Always test a small batch first to ensure the cleaning solution effectively removes dirt and grime without damaging the brass.

Remember, it is crucial to use the right amount of cleaning solution in order to maintain the quality and integrity of the brass during the cleaning process.

4. Dry Brass Thoroughly Before Reloading

To ensure safe and accurate reloading, follow these steps to dry brass thoroughly:

  1. After cleaning, inspect each piece of brass for any remaining moisture.
  2. Use a lint-free cloth to pat dry the brass, ensuring all surfaces are moisture-free.
  3. Allow the brass to air dry in a well-ventilated area for at least 24 hours.
  4. Alternatively, use a dedicated brass drying rack to facilitate thorough drying.

Cleaning Brass is Essential for Safe and Accurate Reloading

Cleaning brass is crucial for ensuring safe and precise reloading. Follow these steps for effective brass cleaning:

  1. Sort brass by caliber.
  2. Remove debris before cleaning.
  3. Use the appropriate amount of cleaning solution.
  4. Dry brass thoroughly before reloading.

The practice of cleaning brass for reloading dates back to the early days of firearm use, when shooters recognized the significance of maintaining the quality of their ammunition for safe and accurate shooting.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best method for cleaning brass for reloading?

The most common and easiest method is using a vibratory tumbler. This method is also commonly used by reloaders because it is easy to use and does not require any special equipment.

2. Can a brass catcher be used to collect fired cartridges?

Yes, a brass catcher can be attached to the ejection port of your firearm to collect fired cartridges. This is a great way to save time and make the cleaning process easier.

3. How can I remove oil from my brass cases before cleaning?

A quick and effective way to remove oil from your brass cases is by using carb cleaner. Simply spray the carb cleaner onto a soft rag and wipe down the cases before placing them in the tumbler.

4. Can I use conventional brass cleaning media in a vibratory tumbler?

Yes, you can use conventional brass cleaning media, such as crushed walnut shells or crushed corn cobs, in a vibratory tumbler. This will help to remove dirt and grime from your brass cases.

5. Is a semi-auto rifle more likely to cause damage to reloading dies?

Not necessarily. Any firearm can potentially cause damage to reloading dies if the cases are not properly sized or if the brass is not cleaned enough before reloading. It is important to follow proper reloading techniques and maintain clean brass to avoid damage to your dies.

6. How can I dry brass cases thoroughly before reloading?

After cleaning, it is important to dry brass cases completely before reloading. A simple and effective method is to spread the cases out on a towel and let them air dry. For faster drying, you can use a hair dryer on its lowest setting or place the cases in a 5-gallon bucket with a fan blowing on them.

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