Cleaning Your Brass With Lyman: Pros and Cons of Different Techniques

lyman tumbler

Lyman Products pinged TTAG and mentioned that one of the most common customer questions they receive is what case cleaning technique is best. Well, there are pros and cons with each, all of which Lyman explains (though they sure can’t pronounce “pecan”) in the following video:


  1. avatar Bob says:

    50 lb bags of walnut from and a vibratory bowl from harbor freight works fine.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Walnut is a very good and ‘kind’ cleaning media, but ‘Black Beauty’ refractory ‘slag’ is hard to beat for raw speed… 🙂

    2. avatar ready,fire,aim says:

      and a drop of brasso in the media helps that shine

  2. avatar DesertDave says:

    .38 55 cases! Cool, have an old Marlin 1895 in .38 55.

  3. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    Northerners don’t know how to pronounce “pe-CAHN”. But that doesn’t make them bad people.

    Oh, on topic, I’m fairly happy with corncob in a Franklin or Dillon vibratory cleaner.

    1. avatar RocketScientist says:

      My family is a blend of old-south (mothers side) and yankee (fathers). One night around the dinner table there was a conversation about how you pronounce “cement”; whether its suh-MENT or SEE-ment. Much argument on both sides. Finally we turned to the patriarch, my maternal grandfather. He’s a man of few words, and what he says goes. After he turned on his hearing aid, we asked him (not wanting to bias his opinion one way or t’other): “Grandpa Boo, how do you pronounce the material that they make sidewalks out of?”. He thinks for a second, looks at us like we’re idiots, and says “Concrete” and turns off his hearing aid. And that settled that argument.

      1. avatar That One Guy says:

        He’s not wrong.

        Concrete is used to build things. Cement is used to build concrete.

  4. avatar little horn says:

    don’t buy treated. just tumble longer. i tumble in DRY corn cob for 6-8 hours (overnight or while at work) and its polished.
    don’t buy treated. you can just buy spray additive, like orange clean if you don’t have time for a long tumble.
    YOU CAN WASH CORN COB. i have been doing this for years and have never needed to buy more corn cob. just throw it in a pillow case, tie a knot in it and throw it in the washing machine. when it comes out, spread it on a cookie sheet and throw in the oven for about 20 mins on 375 or so.
    its RIDICULOUS how much they charge for treated media these days. i have been using the same bag of untreated corn cob that came with my tumbler, 5 years ago. once i figured out if i tumble over night or while at work it polishes, i quite buying the polish.
    saving money at every turn!

    1. avatar Swarf says:

      Good info, thanks.

      I only reload .38/357 and 9mm, so I don’t bother cleaning brass, but I I get in to necked cases, I might start to care more.

    2. avatar ready,fire,aim says:

      i hope your using someone else s washing machine….:)

  5. avatar Jake Rogers says:

    I use white rice that I bake in the oven. Throw that in my lyman vibratory cleaner and everything comes out shiny. Best of all rice is as cheap as dirt.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Same here. Cheap rice with some powder cleanser added.

  6. avatar Nick says:

    Rotary or nothing. I’ve become a convert. The stainless steel pins are reusable, seemingly forever unless you manage to lose them. A tiny dash of cleaner and a few hours run time. Empty the tumbler and you’ve got brass that could put some factory brass to shame. Primer pockets even get cleaned if you decapped (which you should to help get the water out).

    1. avatar Tom of Toms says:


      Although primarily I sonic clean everything, rinse in hot water and lay out on old beach towels to dry. Pick up the ends of the towels and run the brass back and forth a few times and repeat periodically while reloading. When the primer pockets start to look cruddy, tumbling with stainless pins is without a doubt the best way.

    2. avatar rocketscientist says:

      I have been wanting to convert from corncob/vibrating to stainless pins for a long time. My only concern was having to run “dirty” brass through the resizing/depriming die in order to get primer pockets cleaned. Is this an issue in reality? you don’t end up with gummed up decapping die over time?

      1. avatar Mike says:

        Just use a decapping die and resize after they’re clean.

      2. avatar AubreyB629 says:

        Universal decapping die by lee solves that problem. The biggest problem (if you want to call it that) with SS tumbling is drying the brass. Some people like the cookie sheet in the oven on it’s lowest temp to dry brass out. I just dump all mine in a towel and roll it around the get the surface water off and leave them out on the floor for a few days to dry. If you’re in a big hurry to use the brass up the oven is the way to go since it only take a few minutes but i tend to get really ugly water spots doing it that way. And everyone who reloads knows that ugly brass just isn’t as accurate!

        1. avatar Mark_PAV says:

          I just bought a cheap ($29) food dehydrates from a Dunham’s over Black Friday. Works great. Four trays hold several hundred rounds of 9mm and gets them perfectly dry in about 45-60 minutes or less. Temp settings can be kept very low. The low temp (can go down to 90F) and the circulating fan (convection process) is what makes it work so well.

          I didn’t get mine through Jet but this is the one…..only I paid $29 for it!

    3. avatar Scoutino says:

      Same here. I used walnut shells and corn cob in vibratory cleaner for years, but after I’ve tried rotary it’s collecting dust.
      Bit of Lemi-shine and some Dawn dish detergent and my brass is like new, inside and out including primer pockets.
      No lead compounds in airborn dust are another plus.

      1. avatar Tom of Toms says:

        This was my biggest problem with other media. With a Little Person occupying my abode I couldn’t justify throwing those particulates in the air.

  7. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Next batch of tumbling I do will probably be with lizard litter which is supposedly cheap and works well.

    I do want an ultrasonic for gun cleaning though as well.

    1. avatar ColoradoKid says:

      I use both. Lizard litter is better than cob IMO.

  8. avatar Kendahl says:

    Walnut media pre-treated with brass polish in a rotary tumbler. When the media stops working, you can refresh it with more polish. However, the stuff lasts so long that I just replace it with new media. Tumbling for an hour or two is adequate.

  9. avatar Jackass Jim says:

    Quote the Yankee: though they sure can’t pronounce “pecan”

    Every traditional pecan grower I’ve ever heard pronounced it just like in the video. Carpetbaggers under the age of 60 – not so much.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      A “pee-can” is what you use on a road trip so you don’t have to stop.

      1. avatar Joe in NC says:

        My Great Grandmother said it was what you kept under the bed so you didn’t have to hike to the outhouse in the middle of the night. hehe

  10. avatar RCC says:

    Brown rice and a tiny bit of brass polish works well in a tumbler.

    If you just want to soak brass overnight and have somewhere to air dry it a teaspoon of Cream of Tartar powder in 2 pints of water in old fruit juice bottle does 200 by .233 or 500 by 9 mm. You can dry in oven at low temperature if needed. Summer here averages 110 so I just put outside for a few hours.

  11. avatar Craig in IA says:

    I squirt in a bit of Brasso with my corncob media. Frankfurt vibrator, works great. I also have a sonic cleaner from Harbor Frieght that has to be the same unit as Hornady’s in grey. Works fine but don’t like having to dry out the brass afterward.

    1. avatar Kenneth says:

      Brasso is not a good idea. Brasso contains ammonia, which causes brass to harden, which promotes cracking and reduces the life of the casings. Its fine for brassware that isn’t required to stretch out and size back down every time you load it. OFC, the working hardens the brass anyway, and it cracks eventually anyway. One could anneal the cases to remove the hardening, but that’s another operation… it’s all a trade off. If the cases were annealed every time they get loaded they might last almost forever, but who wants to do that every time?

  12. avatar Joe R. says:

    Sometimes you use all methods during processing before a final polish before loading.

    Wish we could post pics of finished product. Spoiler alert, you’d be jealous.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Shiny brass is an affront to God. Chocolate brass, all day long.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        I should send you some brass, or finished rounds (Class 6 / ITAR registered / insured / all legal-like). Everything but the Israeli Supermodels “Hey G.I., you likey some subsonics?” (still not sure where to get those [the Supermodels, not the subsonics]).

        I believe you’d find very quickly, that you’ve developed a strong chocolate allergy (way more than watery eyes, we’re talking anaphylactic). And you’d shoot better.

        I would send you some just to get a behind-the-scenes review. I think you’d stop making / buying elsewhere, and I know that’s saying a lot.

        You got my email addy, through TTAG.

  13. avatar The Dotted Line says:

    Don’t forget that vibratory tumblers create a fine lead-containing dust that gets everywhere. The lead is from the primers, not just the bullets. I have small kids so I use a rotary tumbler.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      Nu Finish wax can really knock the dust down, as can a paper towel or dryer sheet. The trouble (with any possible air born contaminants / health hazards) is that you usually need to use a tumbling ‘separator’ afterwards.

      Even a rotary tumbler leaves you with environmental issues. Gotta dump the rinsate somewhere. Good to pump it through a good micron whole-house filter and then properly dispose of the filter.

  14. avatar Wood says:

    I quit caring about polish a long time ago. I want the cases clean, not shiny. Walnut media for about 20min, throw in a couple used dryer sheets to collect the dust. For BPCR, decap At the range and drop spent cases in a jug of vinegar and water or just soapy water. Clean in the sink at home with a nylon bore brush and hot soapy water. Dry on glass stove top.

  15. avatar Blake says:

    I’ve tried a bit of everything. Corn cob, ultrasonic, now stainless pins. I preferred corn cob to ultrasonic because IMO ultrasonic is vastly overrated.

    Then I switched to stainless when I found the Franklin armory tumbler on sale on amazon. Best decision ever. Decap with a universal decapping due to save wear and tear, dump in tumbler, add a squirt of dawn. Best brass ever. Then I dry it off in a food dehydrator I repurposed.

    No more extra primer pocket cleaning, just spotless brass. If you’re on the fence just do it, you’ll love it especially if you reload in bulk like I do. Takes a tedious job and makes it bearable.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Cheap-O food dehydrators work fantastic…

  16. avatar Alex in Oregon says:

    I use a Thumbler tumbler, corn cob and some polish. About two hours and it’s looking pretty good. If I want a high shine I’ll run it for about four hours. Pour it all in a gold pan like media separator and swish it around to knock the cob out of the brass. Best thing about the Thumbler is it’s pretty quiet. Rubber lined as it’s meant to be used as a rock tumbler. The model I have will hold 15 pounds of brass and media at a time.

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