clean stubborn buildup with steel wool?

clean stubborn buildup with steel wool?

This is a discussion on clean stubborn buildup with steel wool? within the Firearm Cleaning & Maintenance forums, part of the General Firearm Discussion category; Hello all. My S&W 642 has a dull silver finish and after a range visit I have dark bulidup that doesn't come off with hoppies9 ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array jimtem's Avatar
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    clean stubborn buildup with steel wool?

    Hello all. My S&W 642 has a dull silver finish and after a range visit I have dark bulidup that doesn't come off with hoppies9 & a toothbrush. My father says to use break free and fine steel wool. Is that really the best way to go?


  2. #2
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimtem View Post
    Hello all. My S&W 642 has a dull silver finish and after a range visit I have dark builidup that doesn't come off with hoppies9 & a toothbrush. My father says to use break free and fine steel wool. Is that really the best way to go?
    Where is your dark buildup? Front of the cylinder? Typical with revolvers. I had a nickel plated Colt Trooper MKIV in .357. Forget about cleaning the front of the cylinder other than what you've already done....just get the carbon/powder buildup off so when you look across the face of the cylinder, there's nothing obvious above the plane. The inherent burn marks will not affect your pistol's function. Carbon and powder buildup might. If you want the face of your cylinder to look pristine, then by all means. go to work with fine steel wool and an oil like tap magic or a machinists oil that won't leave scratches on the surface of the cylinder face. If you leave scratches, this will inherently welcome new buildup of powder fouling and compound your problem from discoloration to actual buildup. Build up rises above the surface....discoloration from the burn isn't necessarily "build up". It's more of a stain. Hope this helps.

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    VIP Member Array Guantes's Avatar
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    I think that I would use Scotch Brite rather than steel wool. I use it on my revolvers and autos. It tends to scratch less.

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    Brownells sells a chemically treated cloth that removes powder burns from the front of the cylinder and it won't damage the guns finish. You can also use Flitz or Simichrome on an old piece of Levis.
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    I don't like to use steel wool. I have used it before and might have to use it again. My concern is with the small particles of steel wool finding it's way into the gun internals and rusting. I have found that a brass gun brush takes care of stains at the front of the cylinders does a decent job. Most of the time I just brush the front of the cylinder with the bore brush.
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    Try a pencil eraser first; if that doesn't work, you have several excellent suggestions above!
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    Member Array jimtem's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the good advice. I tried a few of the suggestions and got more of it off. I agree with staying away from the steel wool. I don't care if it looks pristine so I decided to leave the dark areas that wouldn't come off. Thanks again.

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    I've read that steel wool is harsh on blueing.....I've heard you're better off using an eraser, scotch-brite pads or brass wool (in progressive order) for cleaning stubborn buildup....
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimtem View Post
    ... a dull silver finish ... break free and fine steel wool. Is that really the best way to go?
    The appropriate chemical is the way to go, yes.

    As for the steel wool, I'd be cautious. Think scratches. You risk that, when you use abrasives with a surface (glass, wood, paint, metal, a plated metal, whatever). Caution is due.

    With the right chemical that eats away at the blemishes but leaves alone the metal and its surface finish, you should avoid any damage to the metal. What you don't want is a chemical or abrasive that attacks the coating, plating or finish that your gun might have.

    The trick is to find the right chemical. Depends on what the blemish is made of. Copper, lead, carbon, general gunge, whatever. I'm not well-versed in the different chemicals available. As I haven't yet had situations of tough build-up to deal with, I don't have any further suggestions than to try some different products based on what you think the blemish might be. Break Free CLP is a good place to start, though as more of a maintenance product it's not nearly so aggressive on certain types of build-up as other products.

    What I would do, with unknown build-up:

    • Try a product that is known to be good on carbon, powder and general fouling.
    • Try products that are known to be good for removing various metal deposits (copper, lead).
    • As another has suggested, try the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, a great product for mildly removing some stains and build-up that don't come clean with anything else.
    • Avoid chemicals that are known to eat into plating, anodizing, paint coatings.
    • Avoid scrubbing with abrasives that can mar the surface with scratches, unless the metal is supposed to be highly polished anyway.


    Hopefully, others will have some good suggestions, based on the build-up you've got.
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