The following article is a re-post of the now-famous "Ed's Red"
Bore Cleaner, which is an inexpensive, effective firearms cleaning agent.
I've had very good luck with Ed's Red.
You must to use it in a well ventilated area, preferably outside! If you use
it inside, you really should use an appropriate respirator and exhaust fan to
remove the volatile and potentially explosive fumes. In other words, don't
use near a heater in the Winter! This could be some dangerous stuff if you
don't follow the safety rules and use common sense!
I've had really good luck using it with and without the Acetone, so you may
want to consider this approach. Also, do yourself a favor and get some
good chemical-resistant gloves like painters use from Lowe's or Home Depot, a
good respirator like you'd use for painting, and eye protection!
I have also had good luck making it "non-red" (Ed's White?) by omitting the
transmission fluid. My main reason for removing ATF from the cleaning
solution is the "auto mechanic smell" that lingers on the guns, your clothes,
your skin, the gun safe, the garage, and about anything else in the area.
Reminds me of too many bad evenings spent busting knuckles on stubborn bolts!
:( Note the additives in the ATF are of primary importance to the recipe
(for their antioxidant and surfactant properties).
I've also been told that ATF will dissolve copper fouling which seems to
agree with the explanation in the original recipe.
The short-short version:
Mix equal parts Kerosene (or white gas, aka Coleman's camping fuel), Mineral Spirits,
Acetone, and Dextron ATF. There are two mixing options:
1) The Acetone is optional
2) Lanolin can be added to the mix. Lanolin (oil) provides lubrication
properties but can be cost-prohibitive. The ATF by itself provides some
I use painters cans from Home Depot to store in convenient gallon sizes.
You will make about 2.5-3 gallons' worth if you buy the ingredients in their
normal-sized containers. The mix will dissolve some plastics, so storage
in the original containers is not advised, nor is storage in 5-gallon buckets!
Here's the original article:
Mix Your Own "Ed's Red" Bore Cleaner
... It Really Works!
By Ed Harris Rev. 12-27-94
Three years ago I mixed my first "Ed's Red" and I still think the
"recipe" is a great idea. If you have never tried it, or maybe lost
the recipe, I urge you save this and mix your own. My followers on the
FIREARMS Echo think it's the best thing since smokeless powder! Therefore,
I'll summarize the story again for the passing parade that didn't get it the
I originally did this because I used a lot of rifle bore cleaner and was
deterred by the high price of commercial products. I knew there was no technical
reason why you could not mix an effective bore cleaner using common hardware
store ingredients which would be inexpensive, effective, and provide reasonable
corrosion protection and adequate lubrication.
The "recipe" is based on proven principles and incorporates two polar
and two nonpolar ingredients. It is adapted from a formula in Hatcher's
Notebook, 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 recipe
called for equal parts of acetone, turpentine, Pratts Astral Oil and sperm oil,
and optionally 200 grams of lanolin added per liter.
Pratts Astral oil was nothing more than acid free, deodorized kerosene. We
use K-1 kerosene of the type normally sold for indoor space heaters. 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 our
Hatcher's original formula used gum spirits of turpentine, but turpentine is
expensive and highly flammable. Cheaper and safer is aliphatic mineral spirits,
which is a petroleum based "safety solvent" used for thinning oil
based paints and as automotive parts cleaner. It is commonly sold under the
names "odorless mineral spirits," "Stoddard Solvent" or
There isn't anything in Ed's Red which will chemically remove copper fouling,
but it does a better job on carbon residue than anything out there. Several
users have told me, that with exclusive use of "ER" does reduce the
buildup of copper fouling, because it removes old impacted fouling which is left
by other cleaners, reducing the adhesion of abraded metal to the surface, and
leaving a cleaner surface which reduces subsequent fouling. It appears that
"ER" will actually remove metal fouling it if you let it
"soak" so the surfactants will do the job, though you may have to be
The lanolin is optional. The cleaner works quite well without it. Incorporating
the lanolin makes the cleaner easier on the hands, and provides better residual
lubrication and corrosion protection if you use the cleaner as a protectant for
long term storage. If you want to minimize cost, you can leave the lanolin out
and save about $8 per gallon. Mix some yourself. I know it will work as well for
you as it does for me.
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 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
breathable because the acetone will evaporate. The acetone in ER will attack
HDPE in about 6 months, making a heck of a mess!
<<NOTE: The common "plastic" 5-gallon paint buckets are made
of HDPE - conveniently, the 1-gallon paint canisters have a solidly-sealing
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 use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without
impairing the effectiveness of the mix.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING Ed's Red Bore Cleaner:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 up to 30 days. 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 residue out.
LABEL AND OBLIGATORY SAFETY WARNINGS
<< NOTE: you should print this up and put on a mailing label to attach
to the storage canister, or use a magic marker to label the container. >>
RIFLE BORE CLEANER CAUTION: HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED.
KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
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 labeling. 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.
This "Recipe" is placed in the public domain, and may be freely
distributed provided that it is done so in its entirely with all
instructions and safety warnings included herein, and that proper
attribution is given to the author.
In Home Mix We Trust,