How To Clean Bullet Casings

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When you call them casings, ammo, cartridges, or rounds, they are all the same things. The bullet casings can be reused but, before that, needs cleaning to ensure they won’t cause damage while reloading. Here is an article that goes through every tiny detail on how to clean bullet casings.

How To Clean Bullet Casings

The bullet casing of ammo is brass; it is durable and doesn’t get rust or get corroded. The bullet casings can be reused after cleaning them well. However, they get dirty when it gets into the soil or with firing.

Materials Required

Materials required for cleaning in tumblers are:

  • Rotating Tumbler
  • A separator
  • Lubricant
  • Crushed walnut shell/ceramic/corn hob
Empty bullet casings

Materials required for cleaning without tumblers:

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Warm water
  • Driller 
  • Steel wool

Step 1: Clean The Soiled Bullets

While shooting in the wilderness, bullet casings get dirty if they land in the dirt.

  1. Start by washing off the dirt from the ammo. The bullet does not need to be in the casing as you clean it, so you can use a bullet puller to remove the bullet from the cartridge.
  2. Use a little bit of soap and water and submerge the casings in it.
  3. The soil and dirt break off; rinse it well in clean water.
  4. Leave the casings for several hours to get dry. When it dries off, then proceed to the next step.

Tip: You can put the bullets in the oven for 2-5 minutes to dry them. It accentuates the drying speed. Hence you won’t have to wait for hours to proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Prepare The Tumbler

Tumbler is the simplest and most convenient cleaning option. Use a rotary tumbler, these polish and clean the bullet casings.

  1. Take a vibratory tumbler; cleaning can take up to 3 hours depending on the size and model you choose.
  2. Take any cleaning agent which is available at a nearby store. Take any product that cleans, removes fouling residue, dirt, and discoloration.
  3. Take a media for the tumbler, which plays a critical role in cleaning the brass casings.
  4. If you are looking for light cleaning, then take corn hob. If the casings are too dirty, then take the walnut shell, take treated walnut instead of untreated walnut. 
  5. The other media that you can consider which provides effective results is ceramic. Take a good amount of crushed ceramic to clean the brass bullet casings.
  6. Alternatively, you can use stainless pins, mix them with a bit of detergent.
  7. After you select the media, the tumbler is prepared for cleaning the bullet casings.
Hand holding a clean bullet casing

Step 3: Cleaning The Casings

  1. Before you put the casing into the tumbler, sort the casing according to size. If you put without sorting, it would get lost in the tumbler with big casings or get damaged by big casings.
  2. Put the media of your choice into the tumbler; refer to the tumbler manual to know the quantity of media you can put.
  3. After you check all the necessary detail from the manual about the quantity of media and casings you can put, add everything into the tumbler.
  4. Add a polishing agent in the tumbler and mix it well with media.
  5. Shut the tumbler properly, fix the valves and the screws properly so it won’t come off while rotating.
  6. Plug into the connection, and run the machine for 8 hours. Check the casings once, after 3-4 hours, and then add time accordingly.

This is a time-consuming process; it cleans the casings thoroughly and even polishes and lubricates them for next use. Here is a video guide you can follow in cleaning the bullet casings.

Step 4: Clean It In Water

After running it in the rotatory tumbler, wash it in running water to clean any debris from the media.

  1. Pour the bullet casing along with the media in a big bucket. 
  2. Take a strainer and put the media and bullet casings in it. Wash it off under running water.
  3. This separates the media from the bullet, along with cleaning the debris from the media.
  4. Next, take a towel and put the casings on it. Soak the extra water from the casings. Put it under the sun for a couple of days to ensure it is completely dry for next use.

It is advisable to use a big strainer that acts as a separator between media and casings.

You can also use a machine separator to throw it all and run it for a couple of minutes, and the debris gets separated from the casings.

Step 5: Cleaning With Vinegar

It is an alternate method to the tumbler; if you want to save money and time while cleaning bullet casings, then follow these steps:

  1. At first, take an ice cream tub or a small bucket. 
  2. Fill the bucket quarter half with warm water, add some drops of dishwashing liquid, salt, and one cup vinegar.
  3. Add the ammo or casings into the solution and cover it with a lid.
  4. Leave it for 10-15 minutes and then agitate it occasionally. Agitate the solution, so it does not sit on the brass and harm the bullet casings.
  5. After 30 mins open the lid and take out the bullet casings, rinse it well with water.
  6. Use a small handy primer to remove any debris in between the casings. Clean it well, and then keep it in a towel.

Let the casings dry under the sun, leave them for a couple of days before reloading them into the bullet. 

You can save the mixture if you have too many casings that need to be cleaned. Instead, put the casings in the same mixture and repeat the procedure.

Step 6: Polish The Bullet Casings

When you clean the casings in a tumbler, you don’t need this extra step. However, if you are cleaning them with kitchen products, then you need polishing of the casings.

Empty bullet casings
  1. Take a power-operated drill to polish the casings. Secure a small amount of steel wool in the driller. 
  2. Take a nylon or steel bolt that fits with the casing, hold the casing with the bolt and then run it with the drill. Make sure the steel wool cleans every side of the casing evenly.
  3. Replace the steel wool attachment with a cloth polish wheel, run the casings along with the drill.
  4. This polishes the casings and makes them shine like new. 

How To Reload Bullet Casings

If you shoot regularly, then you can save money by reloading the used bullet casings. Then, after you clean it thoroughly, reload the bullet casings to the bullets.

Before reloading, makes sure it is properly clean, use a soft cloth to remove any residue in the casings. You can also check for defects and keep the deformed casings in a separate container.

Apply lubricant to the casings, thin-coat the lubricant with a lube pad on the casings.

  1. After cleaning the bullet casing that does not contain any primer, use a loading press to install the primer.
  2. Reload the casing with powder that has the caliber you want to load.
  3. Next, seat the bullet with the help of the loading press. Once the bullet is seated, put some gun oil on it.
  4. Keep it stored in a box and use it when required.

To follow step-by-step rules on how to reload a bullet casing, follow this article. It talks in-depth about reloading bullet casings. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do One Time Used Casing Needs Cleaning?

You don’t need to clean the casing after every use, although it is a good practice to clean the casing after every use. When you clean it after every use, you increase the loading time of the bullet.

The casing burns out, gets dirty, or soiled; cleaning it after every use enhances its longevity.

Should I Remove Primer Before Cleaning?

Yes, remove the primer from the casing before cleaning. The dirt and debris can get stuck in the hole of the casing. Also, removing the primer before cleaning in the tumbler ensures it gets cleaned thoroughly.

How Long Does It Take To Clean The Brass In Tumbler?

4-6 hours approximately. Depending upon the structure of the tumbler and its mechanism, the tumbler takes time to clean brass. A rotator tumbler takes more time than a sonic tumbler. Another factor that influences the cleaning time is the media that you put inside the tumbler. Corn hog takes lesser time in comparison to walnut shells.

Is Cleaning Brass Casings Expensive?

Yes, brass casings require equipment like a rotator tumbler or ultrasonic tumbler, which are expensive tools. However, there is an inexpensive method like using a vinegar mixture to clean the brass casings. This procedure is less effective than a tumbler.


If you like hunting or shooting, then you must have too many unwashed bullet casings. Instead of throwing them away, you can reuse the casings by cleaning them properly. In addition, cleaning them improves the durability of the casing, which profits your pocket; you don’t have to invest too much money on buying casings again and again.