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Pickle for Cartridge Brass

How to clean Cartridge Brass

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Speedy Builder501/10/2018 18:20:52
1882 forum posts
131 photos

I have a pair of very dirty WW1 German (fired) 150mm mortar cartridges. If I use sulphuric acid pickle which has been used for pickling copper boilers, it will leave a pink deposit behind. Should I use another type of pickle which would not leave the copper deposit.

I am expecting to buff them up using buffing soap etc after pickle.


John Rudd01/10/2018 18:26:00
1367 forum posts
58 photos

Fresh acid would be my choice... Sulphuric or citric..whatever comes your way..

fizzy01/10/2018 18:31:34
1665 forum posts
114 photos

Even new sulphuric acid does this, it removes the zinc leaving the copper in place and is a real pain to get back to brass. I never put brass in any pickle. Some say use citric acid but it has ecactly the same effect, just takes longer. Wipe them down with a solvent then clean them up with a fillament abraisive wheel, then a scotchbrite wheel then polishing mop and paste - i use this method several times a week so I know it works.

Mick B101/10/2018 18:43:55
1335 forum posts
74 photos

I've used vinegar to remove oxide coating from phosphor bronze, and I think it'd work for brass. It hadn't occcurred to me that it'd preferentially react with one component of the alloy, but I think the effect would be minor unless you left it in for days.

I'd think it depends on the depth of the corrosion and how much metal's going to be sacrificed. It's usually important to preserve manufacturing and inspection stampings - abrasive polishes can be very destructive to those.

John Smith 1301/10/2018 18:48:35
4 forum posts

I've used Coca-Cola to clean very dirty brass items very quickly with no apparent damage. Try putting a dirty penny in a little Coke and it'll be clean in 10 minutes.


Dick H01/10/2018 20:17:53
69 forum posts
1 photos

Have you considered clock cleaning solution recipes? Ammonia, oleic acid (liquid soap) and a pinch of acetone diluted down with water. But don´t leave it in too long.

larry phelan 101/10/2018 20:24:54
574 forum posts
11 photos

Hate to think what Coca-Cola does to your insides !!

I have known it to make short work of a 6" nail. !

Mike E.01/10/2018 21:44:29
196 forum posts
1 photos

Not sure how it would work on copper, but Apple Cider Vinegar will dissolve the worst corrosion imaginable on brass and leave it looking like new.

Phil H102/10/2018 09:34:34
205 forum posts
33 photos

I have a locomotive tender body that has a fair amount of oxide. It has brass beading soft soldered to it round the edges. Apart from elbow grease and emery/ wire wool - anything that might work?

Phil H

Ian S C02/10/2018 10:20:13
7466 forum posts
230 photos

Apple Cider, Coca Cola, or any fruit drink will work, but citric acid is probably the best and safest method. The fruit drinks may leave the item a bit sticky, but that will wash off with hot water.

Ian S C

Phil H102/10/2018 10:22:19
205 forum posts
33 photos


Are you also answering my concern regarding the lead solder i.e., will citric work for the tender with soft soldered beading?

Phil H

Martin Kyte02/10/2018 10:42:10
1564 forum posts
24 photos

If you don't want to atack the brass use an alkali. As has already been mooted Horolene is designed to clean old and dirty brass clocks without damage so why not use the right product for the job.

regards Martin

Alan Johnson 702/10/2018 11:26:55
79 forum posts
13 photos

De-zincification is common in old cartridge cases. Worse if they have been on the ocean. I have some Imperial Japanese Navy case, and a few British and Australian from WWI onwards.

De-zincification comes from exposure to the atmospheric oxygen - I guess. Not so good either if the case has been buried.

You can re-introduce the zinc again by electrolysis - think.

Western Australian Maritime Museum (in Fremantle) have had success in stabilising bronze cannons from Dutch wrecks recovered from shallow water on the coast. These ships ran aground in the 1600's. The Museum used a process of a controlled atmosphere rich in fuming zinc (so it was hot) and under pressure to force the zinc back into the metal structure.

About 30 years ago I attended a lecture by one of the Museum's curators. The lecture was about such things. They, the Museum, as world leaders in the process were also stabilsing a canon jetisoned (jetsum) from the First Fleet ship HMS Syrius after it ran aground on Norfolk Island - just after the First Fleet had landed at Botany Bay, N.S.W.

Not much help for your problem, but you may have to be satisfied with a "copper" finish - as they are very old.

Richard S202/10/2018 12:57:47
172 forum posts
106 photos

Not knowing how much they have oxidised or the condition,

I had good results from using combinations of mixtures of washing liquid, clean pea shingle, stainless steel cream cleaner and white wine vinegar to remove the inside corrosion/staining of my Avon Jet engine starter cartridges-


More to do though.

The exterior, I used the old formula T cut and elbow grease-


These need more internal cleaning for when I'm ready to convert their use as fuel tanks, but the worst is sorted.

the artfull-codger02/10/2018 14:37:56
245 forum posts

I use phosphoric acid on brass, it's also good as a flux when soft soldering stainless steel,the annual "yarm fair" is in soon & I usually repair stainless water carriers for some showman friends.

Neil Wyatt02/10/2018 17:46:36
17045 forum posts
690 photos
76 articles

There's another option.

You could clean it, then put a thin layer off brass plate on top. Zinc and copper have the unusual property of being able to be plated simultaneously.

Take a look at this kit:


Speedy Builder511/10/2018 14:59:56
1882 forum posts
131 photos

OK, so its some time since you all gave me your recommendations. I went with 1/2 cup of vinegar, teaspoon of salt and flour to stiffen into a paste. I have to admit, my wife was both sceptical and wondered as to where all this was leading. Anyway, a couple of coats of the paste, leaving each on for about 1/2 an hour and taking off with a fine ScotchBrite. A final polish with some Duraglit (other brands are available) and a final buffing up. The picture tells the story. (150mm german WW1 Howitzer 'cartridge).

Thanks for your help ladies and Gents


howitzer cartridge.jpg

Mick B111/10/2018 17:31:28
1335 forum posts
74 photos

Has the process damaged the headstamps? I know Duraglit can, and I'd expect Scotchbrite could too - though it might be possible to minimise both.

Speedy Builder511/10/2018 22:08:05
1882 forum posts
131 photos

No, they look good, even see the turning marks on the end of the cartridge.

Mick B111/10/2018 22:30:05
1335 forum posts
74 photos
Looks like Polte of Magdeburg from Feb 1917.

I have a 10,5 cm case by them from May 1916 - currently full of Swiss files.😁

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