RCBS ultrasonic case cleaner: The Crock-Pot of cleaners

The RCBS in its unnatural habitat

The RCBS in its unnatural habitat (Photo by James Grant)

The RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaner saves shooters countless hours of manual cleaning on a myriad of products from pistol slides to engagement rings (For your wife’s sake, change the solution) by letting you set and forget. Instead of applying solvents, scrubbing for 30 mins, wiping down, and re-oiling, you simply toss whatever you want cleaned into the RCBS and come back an hour later.  

The ultrasonic cleaner works by vibrating at a high enough frequency to create a legion of tiny air bubbles that burst on the surface of the submerged items, which, in turn, shakes off the excess debris to reveal a clean surface. You can use either distilled or tap water in your ultrasonic cleaner, but if you live in an area that has a high concentration of minerals in the water, tap water might cause spots on the surface of whatever you are cleaning. Not a big deal for the inner parts of a firearm, and easily remedied by some light polishing with a clean rag.

The RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaner in action

The manual states that the longest items that can fit inside the unit is 10.47 inches, which was not an issue for me. The first tests were run on an AK muzzle brake, because it’s a pain to clean and I’m lazy. And if I procrastinate too long the corrosive salts and carbon can to bind to the muzzle brake and will eventually rust through.

Start by wiping any excess oil or debris off of the items you plan to clean. Then, make sure the drain valve on the back of the ultrasonic cleaner is closed and the machine is unplugged. With the basket outside of the reservoir, fill it with the items you want to clean and make sure the items do not go over the max fill fine of the basket.

Next, pour the cleaning solution into the reservoir, making sure the fluid level does not exceed the max fill line indicated. Keep in mind that the items in the basket will displace the water in the reservoir. I filled my reservoir between the max and min full line and this seemed to work for me.

The unsuspecting victim

The unsuspecting victim (Photo by: James Grant)

Then, insert the power cord into the back of the cleaner and into the wall and click the on/off switch on the back of the machine to the on position. Select your desired temperature and wait. If you are using a cleaning solution it will let you know the optimal temperature to use.

When the fluid reaches the desired temperature, place the loaded basket into the cleaning unit and place the lid onto the cleaning unit. Finally, choose your settings, such as time and degassing, press the on/off button on the top of the machine and you are good to go. The unit will automatically shut off when the unit finishes cleaning. It does not beep to let you know it’s done cleaning, but while it’s cleaning it makes a high pitched whining noise that works as a great dog deterrent. Once that noise stops, the cleaning is complete.

Now that the unit is done cleaning, switch the on/off switch in the back of the unit to the off position and unplug the power cord from the wall and the unit.

Remove the lid and the basket from the cleaner and place the basket into a bucket containing your “rinse water”… or take whatever you are cleaning and run it under the sink until all of the cleaning solution comes off.

This AK mag was much dirtier than it appeared

This AK mag was much dirtier than it appeared (Photo by James Grant)

If you are going to clean another gun part, keep in mind the following:

  • If the device was in operation for 45 minutes you would need to turn it off for 10 minutes before the next use.
  •  Cleaning effectiveness of the solution degrades after each use, so if the water is dark or murky, you might want to replace the cleaning solution.

If you are only cleaning one part; wipe it down with a clean cloth/paper towel and leave it out to dry fully. Vualá you are done! Sort of…

When you are done using the cleaning unit, you have to prepare it for storage. Namely, drain the unit. You can use the drain hose or place the unit over a container to drain the solution. Rotate the drain valve to commence the draining. Dispose of the cleaning solution in accordance with your federal/state/local regulations; I’m not touching that one.

When the tank is drained, rinse it with clean water, and wipe it down. Once it’s dry it’s ready for storage.

A couple of things to note:

  • The amount of time required to clean is dependent on the number of objects. More items in the basket means more time required to clean.
  • You want the bubbles to reach as much of the surface of what you are cleaning, so if you were cleaning spent cartridges, you might want to agitate the items halfway through the cleaning process.
Clean and ready to be reassembled

Clean and ready to be reassembled (Photo by James Grant)


This is a dream come true for lazy guys like myself. Do the basic wipe-down job and let the machine do the tough stuff. Great for glasses, guns, and brass with appropriate solution. I figure if it saves me 2 hours a week of cleaning it, the sonic cleaner will pay back it’s paltry 139.99 in no time.

I’m finding that the RCBS is akin to the dremel in my house. Before I bought it I couldn’t think of any use for it. Now that I own it, I can’t imagine life without it.

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