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Decided to get an ultrasonic case cleaner

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Kevatc, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I went in with the thought I was going to do a Hornady but after doing a lot of reading on various forums decided that the smallest (cheapest model) wasn't all that great compared to its peers. I ended up getting a Lyman because for only $20 more than the Hornady it could heat the solution. Since I have no experience with ultrasonic cleaners (until now) I have no idea if heating the solution makes that big of a difference in the case cleaning capabilities. However, I tend to think it must help because if this is anything like dishwashing hot water always helps.

    Here's a pic of the unit with solution that has cleaned about 25 .45 cases, 50 .5.56 cases, and 300(+/-) 9mm cases in three different soaks. Initially that water was crystal clear and the stainless steel tank was clearly visible. Obviously, there is some cleaning goin' on!

    DSCN3816.jpg

    Here's about 300 9mm cases in the basket. I decided to try two 10 minute cycles although I am not sure if a second cycle was needed.

    DSCN3817.jpg

    ... and a close up ....

    DSCN3818.jpg

    This is a close up of a .40 case that got mixed in by accident. I can attest it was your basic dirty case. Darned thing looks brand new!

    DSCN3819.jpg

    After eye-balling ultrasonic cleaners now for two years I am really happy that I finally got one. I will probably still tumble cases to get that little extra shine on them but I anticipate that the tumble time will be dramatically reduced.
     
  2. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    I bought the same one you did. I have not cleaned any brass in it yet, but did a couple of handguns (torn down). I was very pleased with the results.
     
  3. FORKLIFT252

    FORKLIFT252 Oregon Active Member

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    That Lyman looks exactly like my harbor freight special. ..
    It heats as well. I just got mine a few weeks ago. ..used
    I'm using the Lyman soap. 2 shots (oz.) And I fill to where your pic. shows.
    It seems to do a very good job on my AR parts.
    I first used it to clean .223 after deprime....to see how well it cleaned the pockets.
    It took like 10 cycles of 480 sec. and fishing out clean ones in-between.

    Now I will say mine did not come with a basket.
    I think I'll get one and see if it fits.

    What type of cleaning fluid are you using?
    And how much water to soap?
     
  4. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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    No basket??? My instructions state never to put anything directly into contact with the tank.

    I am using the brass cleaner that came with the unit ... it's a Lyman product but it doesn't say what it is on the bottle. When this gets used up I am going to try the Hornady product which is citric acid I think.
     
  5. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    I have the HF model as well. It comes with a plastic tray that covers the bottom and a small lip going up the side; this is the weakest part of the HF version of the cleaner. I use a couple old aluminum wire tent stakes and grab the "tray" to avoid burnt fingers. I'll likely buy a full basket as well.

    My brass cleans very well with Hornady cleaning solution diluted as directed with a couple squirts of liquid clothes detergent. I found a tip on another forum: Put the wet cases in an old athletic sock, put in the clothes dryer with a bunch of towels and tumble for 5-10 minutes and they dry really fast and shiney.
     
  6. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I'll have try it!
     
  7. MarkAd

    MarkAd Port Orchard Well-Known Member

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    I have been looking for a while and think i may just get one.
    Do you have to deprime before cleaning the cases?
     
  8. FORKLIFT252

    FORKLIFT252 Oregon Active Member

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    No. ......but for my. 223 I do
     
  9. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    You have to do it sooner or later. I run the cases through a Lee universal deprimer die I got for $6 at a pawn shop and then clean. They come out from the ultrasonic bath looking pretty good. Not as good as the SS pictures I've seen, but good. If I'm into a zen moment and want to stay away from the domestic terrorist (wife -- kidding dear) I swipe the primer pockets with a primer pocket cleaner after depriming and before puting in the cleaner. THEN the pockets look new on most brass when it finishes. After a while it becomes an assembly line.
     
  10. MarkAd

    MarkAd Port Orchard Well-Known Member

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    i usually deprime after tumbling.
    "the domestic terrorist (wife -" ) :laugh::laugh:
    Dude you either have big steel ones or she has removed them already and you have nothing to lose.
     
  11. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    She removed them and now I have steel replacements. It's OK except when it gets cold outside. haha
    As for ultrasonic cleaning, you don't have to worry about cleaning material in the primer pockets, so most deprime before cleaning.
     
  12. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    The SS pins burnish the brass while the Ultrasonic method just removes the dirt. Some like real shiny brass and some just shoot what they made. Either way clean is a good point to start from.

    As for removing primers prior to cleaning, it's a good idea regardless of the method. It's especially a good practice if using any "wet" process as teh cases drain quicker and dry faster as a result.
     
    Gunner3456 and (deleted member) like this.
  13. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    Deadshot, I haven't seen anything other than pictures from the SS pin method, and the brass certainly looks wonderful in the pictures. But have you ever seen actual brass from a good ultrasonic cleaning in commercial cleaning solution? It is more than clean, it is pretty darn shiny. Maybe I need to see the two side-by-side in my hand to tell a major difference. I do think the brass I process is better looking than the pictures I've seen floating around on the 'net. I don't have an explanation for that. Maybe it is the shots of clothes detergent (surfactant) I add to the solution, or maybe I run it through more cycles, or maybe the tumbling in the dryer for 10 minutes does the trick, but mine looks really good. The primer pockets are not as uniformly clean as SS media gets them I think though.

    Not that I care all that much about clean versus new-bright, but not having to do anything but drain water and throw the brass in the clothes dryer is really convenient compared to other methods, and people I've shown the brass to are generally amazed at the brightness of the brass. The cost is relatively low as well. all the cleaning methods have their pluses and minuses. The worst part of ultrasonic cleaning is the relatively small loads. If you are cleaning 500-1000 pieces of handgun brass often, then I'd go another method. But the ultrasonic, IMHO, is a good compromise in terms of cost, time, results and effort expended for many handloaders.

    Just my observations from admittedly limited experience.
     
  14. rumblebee1967

    rumblebee1967 Bellingham Active Member

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    Been experimenting with the sonic cleaner and have found the 2 tsp of citric acid in a quart hot water (my sonic cleaner heats also but starting with hot helps) for 15 minutes produces very clean and shiny brass. I also use an old food dehydrator for drying the brass. Some cases have a small amount of black left in the primer pocket but this comes out really easy. You can run this solution too strong or too long and it will give the brass a patina look and a short polish in corn cob media with a few drops of Flitz will eliminate that to very shiny brass. Citric acid is the same stuff found in Koolaid so when it gets too dirty or weak, simply pour it down the drain and start a new batch
     
  15. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I have seen what a good ultrasonic cleaner can do. No question they produce a good product. And you are correct, the affordable units have limited capacities.

    The difference in my estimation is the difference between "Bright" and "Shiny". Bright can occur with absolute clean but shiny requires some polish or burnishing.

    If the case has minor scratches or blemishes from shooting, handling, etc. the pins take a lot of this away.

    The only reason I don't use an ultrasonic cleaner is the limited capacity. Both methods get us to the same goal, totally clean brass. The old fashioned ground up "Iowa Toilet Paper" or walnut shell methods that have been used for years only get the brass half clean, even though it can really shine.
     
  16. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    That makes sense. Thanks for the expanded explanation.
     
  17. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Powder, liquid??? While doing my research I read Simple Green as well.

    The bottle of stuff that came with my Lyman doesn't say what it is but I suspect it's probably citric acid. I am pretty sure the Hornady product is citric acid. I've been re-using the same solution over and over to experiment with effectiveness or lack of. So far so good.
     
  18. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    Kevatc: I use liquid (Tide if you care). I didn't actually measure, but I'd guess a tablespoon to one batch of diluted Hornady's per instructions. After multiple batches the exact amount didn't seem to matter. I did try one batch without it and results were not as good.
     
  19. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Did you do this in addition to a case cleaner like citric acid? BTW, I still need to try your idea about drying brass in a sock in the dryer.

    Does anyone do a new solution with every batch of brass?
     
  20. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    I use the Hornady commercial cleaner and add the detergent as a surfactant. I run 2-4 batches in the same solution, depending on how dirty the brass is. Each batch gets 4 cycles. When I can't see the brass in the water and it is disgusting I drain it and put in more solution. I can't prove it, but I think the cleaning action degrades after some batches. I don't use tap water either. After I take them out of the dirty water, I rinse and dry in the dryer. I don't think it is the only way to do it, and maybe not the best, but it works very well for me.