how to clean bullets

Ultimate Guide on How to Clean Bullets in 2024

This guide covered every essential information you need to know on how to clean bullets properly, including the different materials to use as cleaning solutions.

In this guide on how to clean bullets, you can be a pro because you can see in great detail the different ways you can clean your bullets. 

Bullet cleaning is definitely as important as gun cleaning. One thing is for sure; you must know how to clean bullets properly to prevent any reloading issues. Of course, as there will be less risk when the bullets are sparkly clean, the chance of encountering an accident automatically becomes low. Lucky for you, you can’t go wrong learning in this guide on different ways how to clean bullets using a wide array of highly accessible materials. Let’s find out below. 

But before that, let’s take a quick tour of the preparation before cleaning bullets. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Preparation Before Cleaning Bullets 

Of course, preparation is vital before you start cleaning your bullets. A great way to ensure proper cleaning is to ensure that you prepare all the possible things you need and organize your environment so that you will not encounter any trouble while cleaning. First, you will need to be in a conducive environment, primarily because bullet cleaning is a process that requires great concentration. 

Additionally, your working environment should be well-lit and quiet so you can see what you are doing and won’t lose your concentration. Hence, you can have a more thorough cleaning without making any mistakes to save time. Since you might need several things for cleaning, it is much better to have a cleaning table with a suitable height. Definitely, you don’t have to struggle when you can actually have the best materials when cleaning bullets. 

You can also utilize a cleaning mat to avoid messing around the area. Plus, the mat can save you from losing any components. Ultimately, preparation is a must, so you will have nothing to feel bothered about when you are in the middle of cleaning bullets. 


How to Clean Bullets 101: Different Cleaning Materials

Let’s explore in greater detail the various materials you can use when cleaning bullets. Here you go, so have a look at the wide array of cleaning methods you can follow below. 

1. Vinegar, Salt, and Water Solution

One of the safest mixes of ingredients when cleaning bullets is the mix of vinegar, salt, and water solution. What makes this effective solution great to choose is the impressive availability of all the materials. Plus, they are all cheap to buy yet effective. More than that, this cleaning solution is harmless and useful for all types of bullets, including copper-plated ones.

Additionally, this solution also gives pretty fast results compared to other methods. Now, let’s discover the steps to follow on how to clean bullets using the vinegar, salt, and water solution below. 

  • Mix two tablespoons of salt and one cup of vinegar. Make sure that the salt is fully dissolved because the texture of the salt might cause damage if not mixed well. The mix of the two will result in an effective acidic solution that can eat away the corrosion on your brass. 
  • Soak the bullets in the vinegar-salt solution to clean them. Ideally, you should soak them for about a minute. Don’t just leave your dirty bullets soaking because you need them to stir up to agitate the solution, speeding up the cleaning process and effectiveness. 
  • When the minute is up, remove the bullets from the solution and rinse them off with clean water. Absolutely, cleaning the bullets with running water is a necessary step so that the acidic solution won’t harm your bullets in any way. 
  • After rinsing your bullets, dry them using a clean cloth or let them air dry. Once you are done with the cleaning process, you can see that your bullets are sparkly clean. 

2. Lemon Juice and Water

Unlike the first solution, which is ideal for cleaning all types of bullets, this one—the mix of lemon juice and water—is the most effective and safest method for cleaning brass bullets. If you want to try following this method, you will need to have a lemon or any product with citric acid, some water, and a clean cloth. 

In case you have brass bullets to clean, this method is the right one for you to follow, especially if you don’t want to spend much on your bullet cleaning materials. Here are the easy steps on how to clean brass bullets using lemon juice and water solution: 

gun cleaning
  • If you already have the raw materials, the very first thing you need to do is to mix some water together with lemon juice in a bowl to effectively create a cleaning solution suited for brass bullets. The amount of lemon juice should depend on how dirty your bullets are and how fast you want to achieve results. What’s more, you can use this solution to clean your cartridge cases and primers. 
  • Put the brass bullets in the solution you mixed and let them soak for a little while. The acidity in the lemon juice is powerful enough to quickly break down the dirt, grease, and other residues on the surfaces of your brass bullets. It is better to observe your bullets while they are soaked in the solution so they won’t be there for too long. 
  • After soaking the brass bullets, you need to rinse them with water to get off the solution because being drenched for a long time can cause damage. Once you are done rinsing them, use a clean cloth to dry them. 

Overall, this lemon juice and water solution is the best method to use, primarily if you have brass bullets to clean and you don’t have other cleaning supplies on hand. More than that, it is safe and natural, so you don’t have to feel bothered about any damaging consequences. Simply put, it is a much better option compared to harmful chemicals, even if it can be quite slow to take effect in cleaning. 

Being natural already makes it a go-to option for cleaning brass bullets. 

3. Baking Soda Solution

This cleaning solution is highly popular for having a gentle effect on cleaning brass bullets. With that said, it is ideal for people who are worried about damaging their shells when cleaning. To make this bullet-cleaning solution, you will need the following: 

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • A cleaning brush or an old toothbrush
  • A cleaning cloth 

Surely, the required supplies are easily available, right? Hence, it is easy to get them. If you already have them, you can start cleaning by following the steps below on how to clean bullets using the baking soda solution. 

  • Start by mixing water and baking soda in a bowl. Stir the baking soda, and don’t stop until it is fully dissolved. 
  • Once the cleaning solution is ready, it is time to soak your dirty brass bullets. Ideally, you can leave them inside the bowl for about 10 minutes. Since it is a gentle cleaning solution, you don’t have to feel bothered when soaking them. The stuck dirt and debris on the bullets will start to loosen, making them easy to remove. 
  • When 10 minutes is up, you can take out your brass bullets from the bowl. Use a soft cloth to wipe your bullets clean. If you notice that there is still some stubborn dirt left on your bullets, you can use a cleaning brush or just your old toothbrush to get rid of the dirt on the tight spots. 
  • If you already see that your brass bullets are sparkly clean, rinse them in cold water. Then, dry your bullets using a clean cloth. 

Definitely, the best thing that you will like about this baking soda cleaning solution is its gentle effect. Because of that, you can’t go wrong with this one for easy cleaning of your brass bullets in your home. 

4. Steel Wool

Using steel wool for bullet cleaning is considered the quickest method of cleaning brass bullets. One thing that is hard to deny about using steel wool is that you need to be extra wary when using it because it is most abrasive. Really, the risk of damaging your shells is there. That sounds like a disadvantage, right? Well, it is still great to try it because it is pretty effective. 

  • Get steel wool and a cleaning cloth. Once you already have the cleaning materials on hand, you can start cleaning your bullets by polishing them until you see that the tarnish has disappeared. Don’t feel too impatient in the process because it is not a quick procedure, as being careful is a must.  
  • When you are done cleaning your bullets with steel wool, you can wipe them using a clean cloth to get rid of the metallic residues and dirt. After wiping them, you need to rinse them off using running water to get them sparkly clean. 

One thing is for sure; using steel wool when cleaning bullets from residue and tarnish is quite a time-consuming process, but it can be rewarding if done right. What you will see in the end are sparkly clean bullets that are great to use. 

bullet cleaning

5. Car Polish

Car polish shares a distinct similarity to steel wool, and that is, they are both labor-intensive methods. While there is a catch to using both methods, it is an undeniable fact that both are very effective if you really want to clean your bullets without leaving any dirt behind. If you have an available car polish, you can just pair it with a clean cloth, and you are good to clean your dirty brass bullets. 

The steps are easy and simple. Here’s how to go through the bullet cleaning process using a car polish: 

  • Apply a sufficient amount of car polish to the surface of your bullets. You can use a cloth or your hands to apply the car polish to the entire surface. Like any other material, car polish is quite effective in terms of loosening grime and dirt. 
  • If you see that the dirt is already easy to remove without much effort, you can proceed with cleaning what you see. Use a clean cloth to wipe off the polish to ensure no dirt will be transferred to the bullets. 
  • Make sure to get rid of all the car polish so you will only be left with clean bullets. 

6. Aluminum Polish

Searching for a material that will make it easy to clean a lot of brass bullets at once? If that’s the case, you will find it useful to opt for cleaning bullets using aluminum polish. Here are the steps to follow with using this method: 

  • Start by applying an adequate amount of aluminum polish to the surface of your bullets. You can either use your hand or a clean cloth when spreading the polish. Whichever you choose, it is up to you because the ultimate point is to cover the entire surface of the bullets. 
  • After application, let the aluminum polish sit on the bullets for a few minutes. Give the polish enough time for you to see how it works its magic in terms of cleaning bullets. 
  • Utilize a clean cloth to buff the bullets until they shine. Keep going until you reach your expected results.
  • Rinse the bullets using cold water to remove the polish. 
  • Dry off the bullets using a clean cloth. 

Aside from brass bullets, aluminum polish is also useful in cleaning primers and cartridge cases. Therefore, even if it is a time-consuming cleaning method, it is still great to try it as it is very effective. 

Different Approaches to Cleaning Bullets

In this part of this how-to-clean bullets guide, you will learn the different approaches to cleaning bullets. Explore them below. 

1. Tumbling

Tumbling is an ideal approach to cleaning bullets if you have several casings. With this kind of approach, all you need to do is to check the location of the cuvette inside. Greatly, the tumbling movement can effectively loosen up dirty particles, promoting a thorough cleansing that you will like. 

2. By Hand Cleaning

Cleaning bullets by hand is the most common approach to the process. Of course, it is quite easy to realize why it is the most popular approach due to its simple execution. One of the best advantages of cleaning by hand is that you may look into each casing for harm. Regarding materials, you can see a wide array of cleaning brushes for bullets with the use of a strength drill, steel wool, and cloth. 

3. Chemical Cleaning

Chemical cleaning is an ideal alternative for cleansing bullets. In this approach, the bullets are inserted in a mesh bag and soaked in the cleansing solution at a predetermined time. Once done with soaking, rinsing off the bullets using running water, and the drying process follows. Overall, this approach is a straightforward process that works nicely. 

4. Ultrasonic Cleaning 

Ultrasonic cleaning is an approach that is great for cleaning and smoothens bullets. In this way, it is vital for bullets to be air-dried, which takes some time. Nonetheless, it is great because the result can be very rewarding. 


Is it Safe to Fire Old Yet Clean Ammo? 

Besides searching about how to clean live ammo, you might also be curious if it is safe to use old yet clean ammo. Well, there’s a reason why you are exerting effort in cleaning even old ammo, and that is because it is still usable. While there are some doubts, using old ammo is safe as long as they are not corroded and clean enough. Shooting corroded ammo should not be done, even with any excuse, since that kind of ammo can only cause damage to firearms and potential safety hazards. 

At the same time, you must also beware of split case necks since they are a clear sign that signifies unusable ammo that should not be utilized for any reason at all. Now, if the ammo is old yet clean enough, you don’t have to doubt that quality—you can go ahead and fire them. You just need to ensure that you are using the right and suitable ammo for your firearm. In fact, it is especially crucial if you are working with an antique gun. 

In general, old firearms are not built and designed to handle the high pressures of modern ammo. With that said, it is important to check ammo before you go shooting or hunting. That crucial preparation will save you from experiencing trouble or any safety risk. Ultimately, you need to check for signs that signify the quality of ammo because even if they are new, they can be unusable. It is quite similar to old ammo; they can still be usable, especially if they are well stored. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Bullets 

Some things could go wrong when cleaning your bullets, especially if you are not confident working on the cleaning process. Because of that, here are some of the common rookie mistakes that you can avoid when cleaning your bullets or even after that. 

  • Not following the correct method of cleaning bullets. 

Unsurprisingly, using the wrong cleaning technique can inevitably cause damage to the bullet. Yet, following the wrong process is not always intentional because no one wants to commit mistakes, right? Well, the most common reason for that is the lack of knowledge on how to clean bullets properly. That’s the primary reason why this guide exists. With this, you can ensure that you follow the appropriate cleaning of bullets, limiting any damage risks. 

  • Leaving abrasive cleaners or cleaning solutions on bullets for a long time. 

Soaking bullets in abrasive cleaners or cleaning solutions are ideal. Yet, there should just be a predefined time or limit. Soaking for a long time can cause great damage to the bullet’s surface while causing significant discoloration in brass when the topcoat corrodes. The same thing will happen no matter what cleaning solution you will use because all of them are powerful enough to loosen dirt and residue but can be harmful. Therefore, paying attention is a must while cleaning. 

  • Not storing bullets properly after cleaning. 

There is no use in regularly cleaning your bullets if you don’t store them properly. That will be a useless process if you will not do proper storage. You must know that improperly stored bullets can inevitably rust and degrade over time because of exposure to moisture. Ultimately, the best storage for bullets is after they are cleaned in a place that is cool and dry, away from direct sunlight. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more helpful information on how to clean bullets properly and other relevant topics below. So, feel free to explore the compiled frequently asked questions below. 

How often should bullets be cleaned?

Frankly, it is a good rule of thumb to get bullets cleaned every time you handle them. It is not good to have your bullets dirty from fingerprints. Regular bullet cleaning is an ideal way to keep your bullets safe from the build-up of dirt and grime on the surface. By cleaning, you are not just merely maintaining a nice appearance but also preserving the quality to prevent any damage and accident. That’s why you should never skip your responsibility of cleaning your bullets, especially if you regularly clean your gun. 

Is any type of soap ideal for bullet cleaning?

Unfortunately, any type of soap is not ideal to use for bullet cleaning. Soap is not on the list of qualified materials that are harmless and useful for cleaning bullets. In fact, any type of soap is bad for bullets because they have the tendency to leave a thick residue on the surface, which can inevitably attract grime and dirt that can cause harsh damage. Therefore, it is best to avoid soaps and just use other harmless materials, like baking soda solution and a mix of vinegar, salt, and water solution. 

What is the best way to store bullets after cleaning?

When it comes to storing bullets, it is important to observe safety. So, it makes sense to store them away from firearms to lower the risk of any accident. Besides that, the best way is to store them in a cool, dry place or an airtight container that can prevent moisture build-up. Don’t take bullet storage as an important task because it is equally important as the cleaning tasks. 

What will happen if there are left fingerprint marks on bullets?

Sometimes, there are special instances when fingerprint marks will be left on your bullets, no matter how hard you clean them. Good news; there’s nothing to feel bothered about even if you failed to get all of the fingerprints off of your bullet. Everything will be fine as long as you remove the majority of the fingerprint marks, together with the dirt and residue.  

Is it bad to soak ammunition in water? 

If ammunition gets submerged in water for a minute or less, there is still nothing to worry about the consequence. Yet, if it gets soaked in the water for more than a few minutes to long hours up to 24 hours or more, it won’t be a surprise that you can see the ammunition starting to deteriorate in terms of performance. Simply put, it won’t be good to soak ammunition in water. 

Does ammunition expire?

Technically speaking, ammunition does not expire, but you must know that it can degrade over time. It quickly degrades than expected if not stored properly since moisture is the primary cause of degradation. Long and excessive exposure to moisture can cause ammunition to rust, rendering the ammunition to become useless. For that reason, it makes it crucial to store the ammunition properly in a cool, dry place. 

What’s more, consider keeping your ammunition in dark storage because direct sunlight can also cause degradation. If you are residing in a place with a humid climate, it is helpful to use a humidifier to keep the humidity levels down and effectively preserve your ammunition quality. 

How much ammunition should you stockpile?

The amount of ammunition you should stockpile strictly depends on how much shooting you will do, the size of your collection, and your budget. Yet, having a stockpile of at least 50 rounds on hand is ideal since the amount will give you plenty of shooting time and prepare you for emergencies as well. As the popular saying goes, you can never have too much ammunition. That’s why it will never be bad to stock up if you have the budget and space. In fact, you will be glad that you have a stockpile when you encounter an emergency. 

Where to buy ammunition online? 

What’s great about buying ammunition online is that there are several stores you can buy from. Amazingly, you can also have the chance to get some big discounts. You must watch out for those suspicious sites that will just cost you money but will not give you what you need. Some of the best places to buy ammo online include Cabela’s, Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, Sportsman’s Guide, Lucky Gunner, and Optics Planet

Final Thoughts 

Indeed, this guide covered every essential information you need to know on how to clean bullets properly, including the different materials to use as cleaning solutions. Definitely, you should treat cleaning bullets as important as gun cleaning so that your firearm will never be a dangerous tool you can use for yourself. Regular bullet and gun cleaning and maintenance can give you confidence in terms of safe usage of them. This ensures confidence in possession of firearms. 

Cleaning bullets can be a tedious process since it requires special care and attention. Needless to say, it is important to do the cleaning process correctly because you need to get rid of the wear and tear of time and imposed layers of dirt on the bullets. Proper cleaning will produce very rewarding results, having your bullets shined like new. Ultimately, the most important thing you should remember about this guide is that you need to make sure that you will only use clean bullets to avoid accidents.

Hopefully, this how-to-clean bullets guide can help to know what you must know when cleaning bullets, as it is the very purpose of this guide. If you need more guides like this, you can explore the Survival Gear Shack website. Interestingly, you can also see shooting gear and more, so don’t hesitate to visit it. 

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