How to Clean Bullet Casings

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Casings, ammo, cartridges, and rounds are all synonyms for the same thing. The bullet casings can be reused, but they must first be cleaned to ensure that they do not cause damage while reloading. Here’s an article that goes over every detail of cleaning bullet casings.

How to Clean Bullet Casings

Ammo bullet casings are made of brass. It is long-lasting and will not rust or corrode. After thoroughly cleaning the bullet casings, they can be reused. However, they become filthy when exposed to soil or when fired.

Materials Required

Materials required for cleaning with tumblers:

  • 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. Wash the ammo to remove dirt. If the bullet is still in the cartridge, remove it with a bullet puller.
  2. Soak the casing in water with a little soap.
  3. Rinse it thoroughly in clean water to remove the soil and dirt.
  4. Allow the casings to dry for several hours. Proceed to the next step once it has dried.

Tip: You can dry the bullets in the oven for 2-5 minutes. It accelerates drying time. As a result, you won’t have to wait for hours to move on 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. Consider a vibrating tumbler. Depending on the size and model, cleaning can take up to 3 hours.
  2. Take any cleaning agent you can find in a nearby store. Take any product that cleans and removes fouling residue, dirt, and discoloration.
  3. Take a media for the tumbler, which plays a critical role in cleaning the brass casings.
  4. Use corn hob for light cleaning and treated walnut shell for the dirty casing.
  5. Ceramic is another alternative. To clean the brass bullet casings, use a generous amount of crushed ceramic.
  6. Alternatively, you can use stainless pins, and 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 it 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 to the tumbler and mix it well with the media.
  5. Shut the tumbler properly, and 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 the 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 the 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, and add some drops of dishwashing liquid, salt, and one cup of 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, and 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, and 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.

Lubricant should be applied to the casings. Thinly coat the casings with lubricant using a lube pad.

  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?

Although it is a good practice to clean the casing after each use, it is not required. Cleaning it after each use increases the loading time of the bullet. The casing wears out, becomes dirty, or soiled; cleaning it after each use extends its life.

Should I Remove Primer Before Cleaning?

Yes, before cleaning, remove the primer from the casing. Dirt and debris can become lodged in the casing’s hole. Also, removing the primer before cleaning in the tumbler ensures that it is thoroughly cleaned.

How Long Does It Take to Clean the Brass in Tumbler?

4-6 hours, on average. The tumbler takes time to clean brass depending on the structure and mechanism of the tumbler. A rotator tumbler is slower than a sonic tumbler. Another factor that influences cleaning time is the media used in the tumbler. Corn hog requires less time than walnut shells.

Is Cleaning Brass Casings Expensive?

Yes, brass casings necessitate the use of expensive tools such as a rotator tumbler or ultrasonic tumbler. However, there is an inexpensive method for cleaning the brass casings, such as using a vinegar mixture. This method is less effective than using a tumbler.


If you enjoy hunting or shooting, you must have a surplus of unwashed bullet casings. Instead of throwing them away, clean them thoroughly and reuse the casings. Furthermore, cleaning them increases the durability of the casing, which benefits your pocket; you won’t have to spend as much money buying casings over and over.