Guns need to be cleaned regularly to avoid fouling and prevent rust. This is generally done by cleaning the gun with a gun cleaning solvent and then oiling it. Yet these solutions may not be on hand when you’re in the field or just ran out. Here are a few options for those who want to know how to clean a gun with household items.
Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide
Most of us have these chemicals around the house. You can spray a surface with vinegar and then hit it with a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution. The chemical reaction that results will kill bacteria as effectively as bleach. A 50/50 solution can be used to clean stains and metal deposits inside of the gun, though you still have to scrub it with a bore brush. You can leave the residue inside the gun to break up copper. And this recipe can help break up the lead particles left behind in your revolver.
Note that you’ll need to use cotton patches to remove the solvent. You’ll be able to tell it was effective because it is picking up tiny pieces of lead and copper in the patch. Keep scrubbing until the patches are nearly clean. Don’t forget to use gun oil to oil the inside of the bore.
Note that if you clean a gun with a vinegar solution, it shouldn’t come in contact with a cleaning solution containing ammonia for a few days.
Homemade Gun Cleaning Solvent Number 1
You can make your own gun cleaning solvent from transmission oil, kerosene, and mineral spirits. This recipe mixes all three substances in equal measure, so if you have eight ounces of transmission oil, you’ll want eight ounces of kerosene and eight ounces of mineral spirits. The mineral spirits are necessary to dissolve the oils. What type of mineral spirits should you get? It may be called aliphatic spirit or white spirit, and it is available at many hardware stores.
The transmission oil is designed to keep the gearbox in your car lubricated, so it provides essential lubrication when you use it to clean the gun. It also contains solvents that will clear away carbonization and metal particles. We recommend using transmission fluids labeled Dexron 2, Dexron 2e, or Dexron 3. They must meet be GM Spec GM6137M, GM6417M, or GMN1055. But the brand doesn’t matter. Just don’t use oil that is intended for other applications. For example, hair oil may be called oil but it should never be put inside of your gun. Cooking oil is not a viable lubricating oil, either.
We’d recommend using 1K heater fuel (kerosene), though 2K kerosene could be used. We advise against 2K kerosene due to the amount of sulfur it contains. Do not use kerosene that has been dyed red. You don’t want that residue in your gun.
Mix these chemicals in a metal bucket somewhere with good ventilation and away from any sparks. That’s because these chemicals can emit caustic fumes, and all of it is volatile. Wear protective gloves and goggles, and we’d recommend wearing a face mask. Once you mix it up, put a metal lid on it and secure it so that kids can’t reach it. But once you’ve made it, you have a good general-purpose solvent that can remove carbon fouling.
Nail Polish Remover
You can use nail polish remover to remove carbon and oil from shotguns in a pinch, though pure acetone is better. If you already have a supply of acetone, mix in one part acetone to the home-made gun cleaning solvent number 1 to create a decent shotgun cleaning solution.
Murphy Oil Soap
Do you shoot with black powder? Murphy oil soap can be used to get power residue out of your gun. You will need to use other gun cleaners and oils for the rest of your maintenance. In theory, Ivory bar soap could be used to clean black powder guns, too. Some people have successfully used dish soap to clean their magazines, too. We’d recommend using a mix of Murphy oil soap mixed with water instead.
Cutting oil is designed to make it easier to cut sheet metal and other metal pieces. You can use it to remove copper particles. Clean the gun with another solvent to remove carbon fouling.
A possible replacement for cutting oil is WD-40. This is available in most homes, and there are people who recommend it in place of cutting oil. Just don’t let the WD-40 penetrate unprotected wood.
Homemade Gun Cleaning Solvent Number 2
This gun cleaning solvent recipe calls for one ounce of Murphy oil soap, two ounces of ammonia, two ounces of cutting oil and eleven ounces of basic solvent. The “basic solvent” could be gun cleaning solvent number one. If you don’t have pure ammonia, you could use Windex or another ammonia solution.
Safety warning: do not substitute vinegar for ammonia or use this mix if you’ve cleaned the gun with ammonia. You’ll create even more toxic fumes than this solution would already put off.
This recipe is second on our list due to the greater complexity. The first step is mixing oil soap and ammonia in one bowl. You can add the gun cleaning solvent and cutting oil in another container. Then add the mixture of ammonia and Murphy oil soap to the second container. Mix thoroughly.
This mix gets points for breaking down copper fouling. Just soak a cotton patch in it, and then pull it through the gun barrel. Let it sit on the inside of the barrel for twenty minutes. It will be easy to push the bore brush through the gun and remove the stubborn copper deposits.
Brake cleaner could be used to clean the gun. It isn’t as effective as a bore/lead cleaner, but it will help break down carbon residue. Know that you will have to lubricate the gun after using this and wipe everything down. And make sure you don’t over-oil the gun. That’s often the reason why your action is gumming up and the gun itself attracts dirt.
Homemade Gun Cleaning Solvent Number 3
Did you know that some of the green commercial cleaning solutions have d-Limonene and mineral spirits? The citrus scent comes from the d-Limonene. Mix this cleaner in equal proportions with kerosene to get a good general solvent. However, it doesn’t include lubricant, so you’ll need to apply gun oil after you’ve wiped away this gun cleaning solvent. Wear gloves when you’re using these solvents, and wash it off your skin if it comes into contact with it.
The ideal way to clean the inside of the gun is with a dedicated cleaning cloth. This may not be available. You can use paper towels in place of the cleaning cloth, though you run the risk of pieces of paper towel getting stuck inside the gun. A bore brush can be used to get it out. You’ll want to take some additional passes with the bore brush and gun cleaning rope, if you’re going to use paper towels in place of cleaning cloths. A better choice for gun cleaning patches would be cotton makeup wipes, since they’re thicker and will fit on your gun cleaning tools better.
Note that you can use cotton swabs to clean things like the magazines and along the rails instead of special purpose brushes. We recommend against using paper towels to clean the outside of the gun once it has been cleaned internally and lubricated. If you decide to use household products, use cotton cloth impregnated with lubricant. Microfiber cloths and other cloth that won’t leave lint behind can be used. But you really should pick up gun cloths pre-treated with silicone lubricant.
A better use of the paper towels is as a de facto gun cleaning mat. Gun cleaning mats excel at keeping grease and oil off the table. Several layers of paper towels can absorb the oil, grease and gritty particles, and you can pick it all up and throw it out. Just don’t lay the paper towels down on the dining room table to clean your gun, since you’re still introducing metal particles and chemical fumes into the area where you eat.
Household Substances We Recommend Against
There are people who say you can use lighter fluid to clean the gun, flush out the trigger and lubricate the gun. We advise against this. We don’t even recommend cleaning a gun with just kerosene in those recipes where it is called for.
Don’t use the average kitchen liquid cleaner. De-greasers may remove carbon fouling, but ones like Simply Green may damage the gun, its finish or both. We’ll recommend buying official gun cleaning solutions before we would suggest testing cleaning chemicals on a non-visible part of the gun before you apply it to the whole gun.
You may need to know how to clean a gun with household items so that you can prevent it from jamming or rusting while in the field. However, you should only do this intermittently in between cleanings with proper materials.