A comment in another post got me to thinking about the ultrasonic cleaners...
I have an old Midway vibratory cleaner that must be 20 years old; keep the media clean, keep the lid tight, give it a few hours and... voila'... you get nice clean brass... for the most part. It's cheap to feed, reliable as the day is long.
Sooooooo.... what's all this about ultrasonic cleaners? Are they really that good? Are they expensive to run... i.e. does the media have to be replaced every so often? Are all ultrasonics created equal? Do they do a good job removing yuck from the brass, like case lube?
If you came from a vibratory cleaner and have gone to an ultrasonic, was it worth it?
I use one for gun parts. Does a great job of loosening most of the crud, although post-bath scrubbing is still required. Fouls out the solution fast, not sure how many cleaning cycles I get. For brass, I still use standard vibratory cleaners which do a great job. Recently started experimenting with washing out the media, and sun drying it in racks. Seems to rejuvenate it quite well, although I'll either need to increase drying time or give it 30min in the oven to remove the moisture.
I bought a small ultra-sonic cleaner in 1983 for cleaning drafting pen parts, and when I decided a couple of years ago to start reloading I remembered the old u-s cleaner and the 3/4 full container of "Higgins Pen Cleaner" granules I had stick back in a closet in 1993 when autocad had finally completely taken over from the pen/ink/table drafting. Mine is a really small tub that only holds around 35 or so .38/.357, about the same of .45 acp, or 25 at a time of .44 mag. Since it only takes about 20-30 minutes to get all the crud and residue out, I don't mind dipping one batch out and dropping another in ever so often while I'm doing other things. I generally don't let my dirty range brass sit for more than a couple of days before I resize and deprime, and it's not too long after that when it hits the ultra-sonic bath. I always have a few hundred pieces of brass for every caliber I load for in boxes already clean, resized, flared and primed - ready for powder and boolits, so letting the freshly washed brass sit out and air dry for a day or so isn't an issue.
As for the cleaning solution .... I really haven't found a lot of difference between my old "pen cleaning" solution and a mix of 50% white vinegar and 50% warm water. They both clean inside, outside, primer pocket and flash hole. If I want a little extra shine I'll drop them into a coffee can full of Birchwood Casey's Brass Case Cleaner (phosphoric acid is the active ingredient) for a couple of minutes, then strain them out of that solution. I've been using the same batch of the BC solution for 2000-3000 pieces of brass, and since the brass is clean going in, the solution itself hasn't even begun to discolor (although I know it's getting diluted with the rinse water off the brass when it's removed from the gunk in the U-S cleaner).
The way things have been for the last 4 years or so, I probably don't shoot much more than 200-300 rounds per month - especially since powder and primers are so scarce. At that rate, my little minimal brass cleaning set up is plenty, but when (if) things every get back to normal I WILL buy a "big boy" ultra-sonic tub.
I don't care about shiny as much as I care about clean.
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You can get citric acid at some grocers and homebrew supply.
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I've used vibratory tumblers and ultrasonic cleaners both.
If you want clean and shiny better-than-new brass then look here:
Stainless Steel Reloading Supplies | Tumblers, Separators, Media, Brass & More!
Nothing has worked as well as this. Nothing.
brass ends.jpgbrass shiny.jpg
I have tumblers and an ultrasonic cleaner, and I will tumble brass and then throw them into the ultrasonic cleaner using either citric acid or lemi shine and give the cases a 20 to 30 min spin in the bath. The ultrasonic cleans the carbon out of the inside of the cases and cleans the primer pockets. It doesn't clean quite as well as the SS media, but they come out nice. In addition you will find hundreds of uses for your ultrasonic cleaner, I use mine for cleaning my dies, swmbo's jewelry, brass filters for the Bunn Coffee makers at work, lawn mower carbs, gun parts, smaller pistols, AR-15 receivers and bolts, and many other items. Actually I dont use the cleaner for all my brass, but I do for my hard to get brass and my 220 Swift brass.