Ed's Red Bore Cleaner Formula

Discussion in 'Shooting - Reloading Forum' started by 10GAGENUT, Feb 6, 2017.

  1. 10GAGENUT

    10GAGENUT Elite Refuge Member Sponsor Flyway Manager

    Nov 23, 2003
    This is by C. E. Ed Harris, very good gun cleaner, from an old Military cleaner formula.

    'Ed's Red' Bore Cleaner

    ''Ed's Red'' Bore Cleaner... Home-Mix Really Works
    By C.E. ''Ed'' Harris
    Updated & Revised 9-29-95.

    Four years ago I mixed my first "Ed's Red" or "ER" bore cleaner and
    hundreds of users have told me that they think this home-mixed cleaner
    is more effective than commercial products. I urge you to mix some and
    give it a fair trial, compared to whatever you have been using.
    Competitive shooters, gun clubs and police departments who use a gallon
    or more of rifle bore cleaner annually can save by mixing their own, and
    they will give up nothing in safety or effectiveness.

    This cleaner has an action very similar to standard military issue rifle
    bore cleaner, such as Mil-C-372B. Users report it is more effective than
    Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or caked carbon
    fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols, or in removing leading in
    revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench Rest
    Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of heavy copper fouling in
    rifle bores. However, because "ER" is more effective in removing caked
    carbon and abrasive primer residues than other cleaners, metal fouling
    is greatly reduced when "ER" is used on a continuing basis.

    I originally came up with this mix because I am an active high power
    rifle competitive shooter and hand loading experimenter who uses a lot
    of rifle bore cleaner. I was not satisfied with the performance and high
    price of commercial products. I knew there was no technical reason why
    an effective firearm bore cleaner couldn't be mixed using common
    hardware store ingredients. The result is inexpensive, effective,
    provides good corrosion protection and adequate residual lubrication so
    that routine "oiling" after cleaning is rarely necessary, except for
    long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service environments, such as
    salt water exposure.

    This formula is based on proven principles and incorporates two polar
    and two nonpolar solvents. It is adapted from the one in Hatcher's
    Notebook for "Frankford Arsenal Cleaner No.18," but substituting
    equivalent modern materials. I had the help of an organic chemist in
    doing this and we knew there would be no "surprises." The original
    Hatcher formula called for equal parts of acetone, turpentine, Pratts
    Astral Oil and sperm oil, and optionally 200 grams of anhydrous lanolin
    added per liter. Some discussion of the ingredients is helpful to
    understand the properties of the cleaner and how it works.

    Pratts Astral oil was nothing more than acid free, deodorized kerosene.
    I recommend "K1" kerosene of the type normally sold for use in indoor
    space heaters. Some users have reported successful substitution of
    civilian aviation grade kerosene such as Turbo-A. I am reluctant to
    "recommend" substitution of aviation grade kerosene, because the effects
    upon firearm components of the additives required in aviation fuels are
    unknown. Some "jet- fuels" are gasoline/kerosene blends and absolutely
    should not be used, because of their increased flammability.

    An inexpensive, effective substitute for sperm oil is Dexron (II, IIe or
    III) automatic transmission fluid. Prior to about 1950 that most ATF's
    were sperm oil based, but during WWII a synthetic was developed for use
    in precision instruments. With the great demand for automatic
    transmission autos after WWII, sperm oil was no longer practical to
    produce ATF in the quantity demanded, so the synthetic material became
    the basis for the Dexron fluids we know today. The additives in ATFs
    which include organometallic antioxidants and surfactants, make it
    highly suitable for inclusion in an all-purpose

    Hatcher's original Frankford Arsenal No. 18 formula used gum spirits of
    turpentine. Because turpentine is expensive today, and is also an
    "aromatic" solvent, which is highly flammable, I chose not to use it.
    Safer and cheaper is "aliphatic mineral spirits," a petroleum based
    "safety solvent" used for thinning oil based paints and also widely used
    as an automotive parts cleaner. It is commonly sold under the names
    "odorless mineral spirits," "Stoddard Solvent" or "Varsol".

    Acetone is included in "ER" to provide an aggressive, fast-acting
    solvent for caked powder residues. Because acetone is an aromatic,
    organic solvent, it is recommended that users leave it out if the
    cleaner will be used in enclosed spaces lacking forced air ventilation.
    The acetone in ER will evaporate, liberating volatile organic compounds
    (VOCs) into the atmosphere unless containers are kept tightly closed
    when not in use. The cleaner is still effective without the acetone, but
    it is not as "fast-acting."

    There isn't anything in Ed's Red which chemically dissolves copper
    fouling in rifle bores, but it does a better job removing on carbon and
    primer residue than anything else which is safe and commonly available.
    Numerous users have told me, that exclusive use of "ER" reduces copper
    deposits, because it removes the old impacted powder fouling which is
    left by other cleaners, which reduces the abrasion and adhesion of
    jacket metal to the bore surface, leaving a cleaner surface condition
    which reduces subsequent fouling. Experience seems to indicate that "ER"
    will actually remove metal fouling it if you let it "soak," so the
    surfactants will do the job, though you have to be patient.

    Addition of the lanolin to ER bore cleaner mix is entirely optional. The
    cleaner works quite well and gives adequate corrosion protection and
    lubrication for most users without it. Incorporating the lanolin makes
    the cleaner easier on the hands, and increases lubricity and film
    strength, and improves corrosion protection if weapons will be routinely
    exposed to salt air, water spray, industrial or urban corrosive
    atmospheres, or if you intend to use the cleaner as a protectant for
    long term storage of over 1 year.

    If you use other protective films for adverse use or long term storage
    you can leave the lanolin out and save about $8 per gallon. At current
    retail prices you can buy all the ingredients to mix ER, without the
    lanolin for about $10 per gallon. I urge you to mix some yourself. I am
    confident it will work as well for you as it does for me and hundreds of
    users who got the "recipe" on the Fidonet Firearms Echo.

    CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner

    1 part Dexron II, IIe or III ATF, GM Spec. D-20265 or later.

    1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1

    1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F, CAS

    #64741-49-9, or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3, or
    equivalent, (aka "Varsol")

    1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.

    (Optional up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon, OK to

    substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


    Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal,

    chemical-resistant, heavy gage PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA
    approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also OK. Do NOT use
    HDPE, which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually evaporate.
    The acetone in ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to
    collapse, making a heck of a mess!

    Add the ATF first. Use the empty container to measure the other

    components, so that it is thoroughly rinsed. If you incorporate the
    lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking
    precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger
    container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and
    stirring until it is all dissolved.

    I recommend diverting a small quantity, up to 4 ozs. per quart of the

    50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil.
    This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the remaining




    1. Flammable mixture. Keep away from heat, sparks or flame.

    2. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician

    immediately. In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with
    water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.

    3. Use with adequate ventilation. Avoid breathing vapors or spray mist.

    It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner
    inconsistent with its labelling. Reports have associated repeated and
    prolonged occupational overexposure to solvents with permanent brain and
    nervous system damage. If using in closed armory vaults lacking forced
    air ventilation wear respiratory protection meeting NIOSH TC23C or
    equivalent. Keep container tightly closed when not in use.

    INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:

    1. Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is

    most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch
    from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale
    on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch
    should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it
    back into the bore.

    2. Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the

    breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes
    and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting
    approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its

    3. For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled "rattle battle" guns, leaded

    revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be
    used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth,
    target-grade barrels in routine use.

    4. Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out

    loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag
    without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing,
    leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under average

    5. If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the

    firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term storage I
    recommend use of Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmolene substitute. "ER" will
    readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmolene.

    6. Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun.

    While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it
    contains is harmful to most wood finishes).

    7. Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry

    the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag.
    First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if
    the bore is cleaned as described.

    8. I have determined to my satisfaction that when Ed's Red is used

    exclusively and thoroughly, that hot water cleaning is unnecessary after
    use of Pyrodex or military chlorate primers. However, if bores are not
    wiped between shots and shots and are heavily caked from black powder
    fouling, hot water cleaning is recommended first to break up heavy
    fouling deposits. Water cleaning should be followed by a thorough flush
    with Ed's Red to prevent after-rusting which could result from residual
    moisture. It is ALWAYS good practice to clean TWICE, TWO DAYS APART
    whenever using chlorate primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all
    the corrosive residue out.

    This "Recipe" is placed in the public domain, and may be freely
    distributed provided that it is done so in its entirely with all current
    revisions, instructions and safety warnings included herein, and that
    proper attribution is given to the author.

    In Home Mix We Trust, Regards, Ed
  2. skywatcher1

    skywatcher1 Elite Refuge Member

    Feb 2, 2002
    Could you substitute acetone with mek or vice versa ?
  3. 10GAGENUT

    10GAGENUT Elite Refuge Member Sponsor Flyway Manager

    Nov 23, 2003
    I don't know, if you can figure it out from the original Springfield Armory used then go for.
    Here's the original formula
    From Hatcher's Notebook.
    6 parts amyl acetate
    19 parts acetone
    19 parts spirits of turpentine
    58 parts sperm whale oil ( ATF fluid)
    26 Parts Pratt's Astral Oil
  4. 43x

    43x Elite Refuge Member

    May 9, 2003
    Yes, there are a lot of modifications to this formula.
    1 part ATF
    1 part MEK
    1 part Xylene
  5. skywatcher1

    skywatcher1 Elite Refuge Member

    Feb 2, 2002
    Thats great News 43x. Thanks for posting that info!!
  6. smashdn

    smashdn Elite Refuge Member

    Aug 13, 2004
    Palmyra, KY
    Be careful with that MEK and Xylene. Both flammable and both have some health considerations to be mindful of.
  7. 43x

    43x Elite Refuge Member

    May 9, 2003
    This amended recipe came from John Taffin's Campfire discussion board 13 April 2001 as submitted by Glen, a self proclaimed chemical guru on that board.

    Let me pass along a simpler (and better) recipe for this cleaning solvent. The mineral spirits that Ed used actually contribute relatively little to the solvent properties of Ed's Red, and in fact just dilute the desireable properties of some of the other components, so I left them out. He talks about avoiding certain solvents because of their flammability, but then uses acetone as a primary ingredient (which has a high vapor pressure, evaporates very quickly and has a Class 1A flammability rating). This makes no sense to me, so (being an organic chemist by trade) I added a carbon, and replaced the acetone with methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). MEK has a much lower vapor pressure and doesn't evaporate as quickly and, while still flammable, it is nearly not as "bad" as acetone. The carbon deposits are handled nicely by the xylene component, and the key to Ed's Red is the Dexron III automatic transmission fluid (ATF), which is an excellent lubricant/preservative (and it was very clever of Ed to recognize this and build his cleaning solvent around this cheap, easy to find component).

    So, without further ado, my simplified version of Ed's Red cleaning solvent is (mixed in a 1 gallon glass jug with a tight fitting cap):

    • 1 quart Dexron III ATF
    • 1 quart MEK
    • 1 quart xylene
    Remember, this stuff is flammable. Store and handle properly.

    The MEK and xylene are available through the larger hardware stores, and the ATF can be bought at pretty much any grocery or automotive store. This recipe ends up costing about $8-9 a gallon. I mix it in a gallon jug and dispense it as needed into a small bottle and apply it with an old toothbrush and/or flannel patch. A gallon goes a LONG ways applied in this manner.

    I also use Ed's Red to clean/preserve my bullet moulds.
  8. 10GAGENUT

    10GAGENUT Elite Refuge Member Sponsor Flyway Manager

    Nov 23, 2003
    Sounds like it would work well, I'd just be afraid to use or store it in the house being that flammable.
  9. baltz526

    baltz526 Senior Refuge Member

    Nov 6, 2007
    Lapine oregon
    I store qt cans of hotter solvents out in the shop. xylene (goof off) etc. The cans they come in are fairly safe. I would like a better idea on a container to use for this new mix. I would never mix a whole gallon. A 1 pint bottle with a cap that can also dispense it. Like a Goof off can or similar. Any Ideas?
  10. 10GAGENUT

    10GAGENUT Elite Refuge Member Sponsor Flyway Manager

    Nov 23, 2003
    You could use an oil squirt can or something like this which is a safety flammable liquid dispenser

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice