RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaner

Ultrasonic case cleaners are not new, but they have been rapidly becoming more prevalent in handloaders’ rooms. The process has been around for more than 60 years. In a nutshell, an ultrasonic cleaner works by using high-frequency sound—20 to 400 kHz—to induce cavitation bubbles in a solution to knock off any contamination on the parent object. Simple water can be effective, but for brass a cleaning solution based in citric acid has proven to be even more effective. For handloaders, ultrasonic cleaning provides a quicker and more thorough method of cleaning their cases than traditional tumbling.

Our friends at RCBS have come out with an ultrasonic cleaning device, and I have been playing with it recently. Called simply the Ultrasonic Cleaner it features a 3.2-quart capacity tank measuring 9.8 x 6.9 x 3.1 inches. For most hobbyist handloaders this is large enough to handle a day’s worth of shooting. The cleaning solution is citric acid based and operates best when used in a ratio of from 1/2 up to 1.4 ounces of cleaning solution per quart of water. Using distilled—actually deionized—water will extend the life of the solution and prevent water spots on the brass.

Not one to baby such things, my initial try at ultrasonic cleaning was on two-month supply of CAS match brass—some 80 .44-40 WCF and dozen-plus 12 gauge brass cases that had been fired with black powder. Normally I wash my cases within a day of the match, but I got a bit lazy and let these languish. As you can see from the “before” image, they were pretty grungy. I mixed 2 oz. of the cleaning solution into roughly two quarts of deionized water, set the thermostat at 140 degrees and the timer for 30 minutes. RCBS recommends that you stir or agitate the brass a bit during the cleaning cycle and I did so a couple of times. Because I had overloaded the brass a bit, it required additional 20 minutes of cleaning. When the second cycle was completed I rinsed the brass in cold water and set the cases on a towel on the tailgate of my truck to dry in the sun.

What looked as if it were irrecoverable turned out to be completely clean. Yes, my lazy abuse had stained some of the cases—something I can rectify in a traditional tumbler—but they were certainly clean enough for reloading. RCBS recommends that you decap the brass so that the solution can’t linger in between the primer and primer pocket. The added benefit is that those pockets are cleaned as well and therefore do not need to be cleaned separately.

Then I tried a more realistic test for most handloaders. I had about 100 .45 ACP cases on the bench and put them through the same 30-minute cleaning cycle with a fresh cleaning solution. They came out looking almost like virgin brass right down to the primer pockets.

I’m declaring the RCBS Ultrasonic Cleaner a winner for most handloaders. It is quicker and more thorough that tumblers—though I’ll keep my tumbler with a different media around for polishing cases to a mirror finish. The Ultrasonic Cleaner has an MSRP of $149; a quart of cleaning solution has an MSRP of $20. Check them out at RCBS.com.

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