Wet tumbling with sanity

I’ve recently read someone asking about a wet tumbler and asking for advice on model (maybe on FB). And of course, there’s are ongoing questions about what washing solution to use, anything from a drop of endangered cobra semen to rare Himalayan yeti blood. This alchemy bullshit is not for me, I though, this is all too complicated and people are heard animals (read: stupid), so I am going to do my own research.

First the tumbler. I have both – vibratory (dry) tumbler (e.g. corn media) that I got for $60 (or maybe just over $100, I don’t remember) when I started reloading;

and rotary (wet) tumbler (e.g. stainless steel media), around $115.

(this is what I have)

Final straw was when I ran my dry tumbler for 6 hours and still didn’t get the results that I could have with some elbow grease and steel wool. It had to go, but I wasn’t about to spend astronomic amount of cash on one. Also, my time building one is worth more than buying one.

N.B. I use vibratory tumbler for powder coating now

Before the sandy-vagina brigade chimes in, yes, I like my equipment clean and pretty. I also like to see the damage, that you can miss under dirt. Brass gets filthy – and it does, last thing I chose to do is sit there for hours (consecutively or cumulatively) and rub the bloody things with steel wool. It keeps excessive dirt out of your gun, dies, hands, ammo storage, etc. So tumbler is a great solution for that. Anyway, moving on…


This is what I have (link above), I don’t recall what I paid exactly, but that’s the ball park. It’s been going strong for about 3 years. I run it pretty hard. Very happy. One issue I had was a leaky bucket, but I strongly suspect that it was my fault and it was replaced very quickly anyway.

So there’s that, no need to go with the grain, there are heaps of good cheap options. Bigger bucket would be great, but what I have is perfectly fine too.

The difference between wet and dry tumbling is huge!

Thing about this stuff is that it’s easy to say “comes out like new”, however with wet tumbling you can get it a lot better than new, if you are into it. I am not, I just want the dirt out and cases clean inside and out.

So here’s a practical example – 20 minutes tumbling to clean the cases, covered in carbon, dirt, lubricant, graphite and just general wear.

Cases are a lot filthier than what photo shows them as.

I pack the bucket, which you shouldn’t do… With a smaller quantity (few centimetres from the top not packet in) it would be a lot shiner. However, I just wanted them cleaned…

To get the same result will take around 4 hours in a vibratory/dry tumbler.

Cleaning solution

I am all out of cobra semen, so I decided on the following:

  • Citric Acid (if you’ve been watching US videos, this is active ingredient in Lemmi Shine) (about 2 x 22LR cases worth)
  • Dish washing detergent (about 44MAG case worth)
  • (stainless steel media obviously)
  • Hot water (just over half when bucket has all other materials in it, otherwise you’ll learn all about Archimedes principle and how it applies to your reloading bench)

As of writing this, I had the same stainless steel media, detergent and citric acid for about 3 years. A little goes a long way, There’s probably another 3-4 years in there.

So, pop all that business in the bucket, crank ye ole knob to 20 minutes and off it goes.

Every 20 minutes I’d add a tray to the dehydrator (more on that later).


After brass comes out of the bucket, it needs to be separated from the media and very well rinsed under cold running water to avoid oxidation and staining from citric acid when drying.

Again, no need for anything fancy (with caveat, if you are doing thousands of cases at a time, you probably do want a proper separator, but for me, this works).

I use this $2 cloth peg holder from Woolies and some plastic container I had laying around.

helps to have a magnet near by, in case some pins fall into the sink and they will


Now, here’s where it does get a little different. If you have grass to grow and want to watch that miracle of life in action, by all means, spread them out in the sun and wait.

Another alternative, is to preheat the oven to (google the temp, I don’t remember). Turn the oven off and pop the cases in as the oven is cooling. Make sure to leave the oven door cracked open for moisture to escape. This is certainly a solution.

Since I have a dehydrator - that’s what I use and it’s made for that. Personally, I recommend buying a dehydrator, because Jerky is delicious, then take up reloading, because now you already have a dehydrator.

That’s it. No need to get complicated or expensive.

Pro tip

To get them really shiny, I mean, burn retina kind of shiny that new cases could never be… Fill bucket half way with cases. Add water (also half way) and let it run for 2 hours, changing water and detergent after the first hour.

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Very good write up JS.
Another thing to do is run your stainless steel pins through a cycle just on their own with water and detergent to give them a good clean.
It would depend on the amount of times you use the tumbler but I think once every 6 months for a regular user.

PS: love the brand of detergent that you have chosen.

There was a reason I chose this one, actually. I remember reading about it and there was something in it that got me to pick it. However, now, I have expanded my ray of shine attitude and think that too was just load of BS. Next one will be some $2 no-brand, don’t think it makes a lot of difference.

I have read all sorts including Comfy fabric softener.
I think that you are right and as long as it is a detergent all should be good.

I do the same except top up the tumbler completely with water after adding brass. I have the 5kg one so I rinse and seperate pins out in the tumbler. I can fit my small hands in there tip the cases upside down under water and give them a shake. They then go into an ice cream container for final rinse and single removal with a few taps on the side of the ice cream container to make sure no pins are still in there.
I check the flash holes for pins on some brass the 223 esp as pins seem to get stuck in these. Quick dry with towel and then into cartridge box for drying time or outside on towel on summer.

Same formula dishwashing soap and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid. I used to add Vinigar found not needed and may overdo the acid.

Just today I read in an old Lyman manual they recommend,
1 liter water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (tartaric acid)
1 or 2 teaspoon of liquid detergent.

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Sooo, I tried that recipe. After 30 minutes just in a plastic container getting a shake every 5 minutes. This is the result. I’m impressed.

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Can imagine how good they would have turned out if they were in a tumbler.

Where is the ‘before’ pic?

Also, if that’s your approach, google for vinegar dilution. Apparently that works well without a tumbler. Just dont remember the ratios.

So, regret no before pic. Grubby but I would say they were about average. I’ve used the salt, vinegar and soap in the past and this looks significanty better. Reckon it would be great in a tumbler.
I’ll see if I have some more brass tomorrow and do it again including a before pic. I’ll include a bit of rice too. Should speed up the process in theory.

…you should get a pet cobra.

I will get one if you volunteer to collect the seamen…:rofl:



Whats the idea with the rice? To have sushi afterwards?

I helped collect brolga seamen when I was younger, so I’m probably the most qualified, lol!

Righto jobs yours :sunglasses::innocent:

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3006 cases. Not particularly dirty but this is the before and after about 40 minutes. The idea of the rice is that it acts an a mild abrasive.


G’day juststarting mate I was just reading that little bit at the top of the page about the vibrating brass cleaner I also have one and don’t like it I’ve tried everything in it to get a better job of cleaning out of it but can’t so I have been tossing up whether to buy a tumbler but they were too dear for the amount I use one but as I said I have just read your run down on the tumbler and liked it also the price so I will now be a proud owner of a tumbler as well and its ordered and paid for hope I receive it without any hickups one thing worries me is the electrical plug does it have to be changed to suit the Australian system? Thanks for your write up it was a big help in deciding what I was going to do so now all done

You may have to. In my case, I got an American plug. But I just have a cheap travel adapter that I use. Sometime I have stupid moments. Like right now. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me, to change the plug lol. I’ll be doing that!