Cleaning Brass with the RCBS Ultrasonic Cleaner

Brass prep is a critical part of the reloading process, but it can be a huge pain to deal with. I’ve traditionally been a dry tumbler, but I’ve been curious to try some new processes including ultrasonic case cleaning, and stainless media wet tumbling. In this article I’ll give you the low-down on my experience cleaning 7.62x51mm (military 308 Winchester) brass with the RCBS Ultrasonic Cleaner.

A while back, I bought a huge lot of military once-fired 7.52x51mm brass (fired in a machine gun) that I’ve been slowly prepping for my DPMS LR-308B AR-10 style rifle. Some of this brass was fully prepped (sized/de-primed, trimmed, case mouths chamfered, primer pockets reamed) but was gunked up with lube and looking dingy. Time to try out the RCBS Ultrasonic Cleaner!

Here’s the brass before ultrasonic cleaning:

dirty-cases

In my ultrasonic die cleaning video, I showed the RCBS Weapons Cleaning Solution in action. This time I’ll use a totally different solution, the RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaning Solution (RCBS #87058). It’s *very* important that you use the proper cleaning solution for your application- if you use case cleaning solution on guns or other parts, you’ll likely compromise or ruin certain finishes (like blueing). With that in mind, I mixed up a batch of ~2 liters of case cleaning solution at a 30 parts water to 1 part solution ratio.

RCBS-Case-Cleaning-Solution

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  • Drain and clean ultrasonic cleaner (I saved the solution I cleaned dies in because it was still rather clean)
  • Fill the ultrasonic cleaner with solution (I just pour in water and solution and mix in the stainless tub)
  • Turn on the ultrasonic cleaner, activate the heater, wait for it to come up to temperature
  • Set the appropriate time interval for your cleaning (I used 30 minutes)
  • Activate the cleaning cycle
  • Wait until cleaning cycle is done
  • Lift out basket, lightly shake/tip to remove excess solution
  • Dry cases (I put them in a tub in the sun, you can also use your oven at low temp)

And here’s a video that walks you through the process from start to finish:

After cleaning, the solution looked pretty dirty, so I threw it out. This solution is biodegradable, which makes disposal much more convenient!

dirty-solution

And here’s what the cleaned cases looked like all steamy after being lifted out of the murky solution:

clean-cases

But perhaps this picture tells the story best, before (left) and after (right). What you don’t see here is that the insides are cleaned better than when you dry tumble.

brass-side-by-side

It’s great to have another way to clean cases. Each method has its pros and cons, so having multiple methods gives you great flexibility. Do you have a favorite way to clean cases? Have you home-brewed your own ultrasonic case cleaning solution? Please leave a comment!

Thanks,
Gavin

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10 thoughts on “Cleaning Brass with the RCBS Ultrasonic Cleaner”

  1. The RCBS Ultrasonic Cleaner looks great. I too have been a tumbler cleaner. Your video suggests there may be a better, or at least another way to get the job done. Thanks for the video info.

  2. I use Ultrasonic cleaner and tumbling to get very shiny shells. In the Ultrasonic cleaner, there is a solution of 2.5% of citric acid with a little bit of soap. The shell stay there for half an hour at 55°C, after I rinse twice with tap water, let them dry for the night. Next night, they go in the tumbler, with corncob green, for 5 to 6 hours.

  3. Gavin: Nice review series on the RCBS Ultrasonic cleaner. I’ve been using a Hornady tumbler and dry media, but I’m ready to add a new brass cleaning system, so your review was timely. Three questions: Have you made a “cost per batch” estimate, based on the cost of the consumables? Are the two types of cleaning solution easily available? How does brass cleaned in the RCBS Ultrasonic compare to brass cleaned in one of the “rock tumbler” type machines using water, soap, and stainless steel media?
    Thanks,
    Greg

  4. Well after years of the dry media tumbler, then ultrasonic, I tried wet tumbler with stainless steel pins and have never turned back 🙂 Quicker, cleaner, easier for me, wish I did it years ago. But your mileage may vary.

    Can thoroughly recommend ! Would love to see you give it a try and see the video of the results 🙂

  5. I use both a tubler and an Ultrasonic, My Ultrasonic is a Lyman Turbosonic 6000. I must say that I prefer to use just the tumbler unless I want to get picky about the inside of the case. Drying the cases after multiple rinsing is just more headache than its worth.

  6. Gavin,

    I am just getting back into reloading after a ~20 year break. It seams that work got in the way!? I have purchased the RCBS Ultrasonic cleaner and appreciate your two vids. Are there any recommendations on temp and time to operate the unit to get the best results? I have also purchased a Pro Chucker 7 and really appreciate your vids on unboxing and set up.

  7. I have just recently purchased a RCBS ultrasonic case cleaner. After seeing Gavin’s video, I used it for the first time on 09-21-16. I do not know if I have a defective unit. It took over 2 hours for the unit to heat the solution to the first pre-set temperature (104 Deg F), i.e., all solid lights indicating that the water temp is at the set temp. The water was initially at room temp. I could not wait any longer for the max pre-set temp (140 Deg F). Does it take 2 to 4 hours or longer to heat solution to max pre-set temp??? Has any one had similar problems?
    My brass were once fired brass and came out clean, inside and outside at the first pre-set temp for 30 minutes. So, a thumbs up for first time use, except for the long excessive wait time for heating!!

    1. The wait time for your unit is definitely not normal. Within a few minutes, mine is noticeably warm and up to full temp in about twenty minutes.

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