New Guy again what do use to clean old shells for display

Ok what do you guys and gals use to clean these with out causing damage


I just wipe with an oily rag. No need to make them too clean, or remove any patina or markings.

Morgans–If you click on “IAA Home” at the top right of this page, it will take you to our homepage where you will find a wealth of information about cartridge collecting. Specific to your question about cleaning cartridges go here:

Hello Ron And Johnny
many thanks for the info, I did check out that collectors link, and will spend time search site
Have a good day and thanks

It may be heresy to some, but I have found that immersing cases or cartridges in a weak solution of citric acid (maybe 1 Tblsp/quart) does a pretty good job of cleaning stained, dirty, and corroded cases while leaving a relatively natural appearance that is not too shiny (as you would get with a copper cleaner, like Brasso). I usually degrease cases with some solvent first, usually mineral spirits. It’s gentle and does not etch the brass. Time in the solution is not critical, I usually let them stand an hour or so. Citric acid is available in many supermarkets as a product called Lemi-Shine, sold for use in dishwashers. It is mainly Citric acid plus an anti-caking agent. I buy Citric acid in bulk from eBay, as my wife uses it instead of Lemi-Shine in her dishwasher. She goes through 3-4 pounds a year for the dishwasher and other cleaning purposes, such as cleaning showerheads and coffee makers, or anything with a mineral deposit. I use only a few ounces, as the solution can be used over and over until it turns a dark green. Is much cheaper to buy Citric acid in bulk instead of using Lemi-Shine. I understand this treatment has a passivating effect that keeps the brass cases from oxidizing further.

It won’t do much on brass cases that have stained to a near-black color.

I use a vinegar and water mix

White vinegar and a dash of salt. Really.

Yes I have heard of that one Ray. I would like to point out that after cleaning the brass may look a bit too clean but the brass returns to a more normal finish after a while.
These processes are OK for run of the mill cases but never clean anything really old or valuable.

[quote=“VinceGreen”]Yes I have heard of that one Ray. I would like to point out that after cleaning the brass may look a bit too clean but the brass returns to a more normal finish after a while.
These processes are OK for run of the mill cases but never clean anything really old or valuable.[/quote]

One exception; always clean green corrosion off to arrest further decay, even on old rounds.


I’ve found that a bath in CLR will take all of the green corrosion away and not harm the rest of the case or destroy the patina. It will leave a colored spot where the corrosion was and you’ll have to deal with that by rubbing with brass wool or something similar.

I’m not sure what CLR is called in England. Here, it means Calcium, Lime, Rust and is used to clean shower heads, faucets, and even the coffee pot.

Ray, Cillit Bang, the one for lime and grime is a good brand in Britain. They do another for ovens, don’t use that. Useful for all sorts of jobs. I use it for cleaning the wheels on my van.

I think generically, CLR is classified as a “Descaler?”


What is the active ingredient/s in CLR?
I have always assumed it is no magical product and that it just has an ingredient that works in a scientifically predictable way. Something like Citric acid maybe?
By buying the actual ingredient that makes it work you cut out the marketing hype that adds extra $$$

water, lactic acid, lauryldimethyl hydroxysultaine, and propylene gylcol normal butyl ether

The full MSDS for CLR is here, which lists the ingredients: … leaner.pdf

Most of these cleaning products contain weak organic acids (citric, oxalic, lactic, acetic, gluconic, lauric, etc.) They are much gentler in their action than strong acids such as hydrochloric, sulfuric, and nitric acids because they do not ionize as readily. Also they are not nearly as hazardous. The other ingredients in CLR act mainly as detergents.

As to the relative brass cleaning effectiveness of any of these acids, or combinations thereof, you’d have to do some comparitive testing.

I think I’d rather buy a bottle of CLR than buy the ingredients and mix my own. If I gave that list to my Pharmicist and asked him to give me some of each, he’d probably call the Homeland Security SWAT Team!

I save mine and re-use it over and over, so a bottle goes a long way.


Citric acid is available in bulk here in Aus. It is actually food grade and is used locally for cleaning stainless wine vats. Available from rural/stock feed supply stores. I use it for cleaning rust from old traps. In twenty kilogram bags it actually works out at a couple of dollars per kg.
It is also available in small containers of around 50grams from the baking section of the grocery store. Just a couple of dollars but would go quite a way if only used occasionally.

I recently had an artillery case that I took into work for a friend so that I could undo the primer. The case appeared to have been in the sea and then cleaned with acid. It hade come up very well. Not unnaturaly shiny like it had been polished, but it looked like a new case. I would like to know what was used to clean that case.

Something else intereting about the case was that I believe the primer had acted as a sacrificial anode. The primer was very corroded but the case much less so.

It might be this stuff … oducts/002

It works very well

Thanks vince, I will have to try that.