Case tumbler or sonic bath?


Well-Known Member
Hi All

just wondered what are the advantages/ disadvantages of each process
or where you should or shouldn't use them etc?

obviously both clean externally and internally and leave no residue inside a case so that powder will not stick to the inside of the case wall.
but Is there a substantial difference? is one more thorough? someone please explain.

Thanks Secret


Site Staff
I'm a bit OCD when it comes to cleaning but personally I have found that the most effective and quickest for the standard of cleaning you get is the Thumler type 'wet' tumbler.

1) the 'Thumler' type rotary tumbler using stainless steel media. They come out immaculate, no matter how fouled and tarnished they start.

Pros: they will come out clean and in quick time. Period.
Cons: they will be wet and need drying - can be annoying if you have hard water and leave water marks

2) Traditional vibratory tumblers with crushed walnut shell type media do a good job but take hours in my experience

Pros: come out shiny and dry
Cons: media gets stuck in the primer holes every time, slow, not so good at cleaning the inside

3) Ultrasonic gives a fairly good clean inside and out and quickly but you don't get the same standard of clean as 1) or the shine of 2) in my experience

Pros: gets inside every nook and cranny
Cons: stubborn grime won't come off, they come out wet - same issues as 1)

They all have their place depending on what your requirements are personally I just don't get on with ultrasonic for brass. Absolutely brilliant for cleaning carburettors though! :D
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night stalker

Well-Known Member
I'm also a bit OCD with my case prep. I spent quite a bit of money on my dies and don't want to introduce any dirt to them, to that end this is what I do.

De prime with a lee universal de priming die, ultra sonic clean using a teaspoon of citric acid and warm water, once dry I full lenght size, wash the lube off in warm water, dry again, trim to length then debur. The last stage of my case prep is to throw them in the tumbler for 10 to 12 hours.

The tumbling at the end is not a necessity but I use norma brass in my 25-06 and at over £1 a case I want to be able to find them in the grass/scrub when I quickly reload in case a follow up shot is required so they need to be "blinged up"

The ultra sonic cleaner cleans all residue from the case inc in the primer pocket but doesn't give a shine, the tumbler makes the cases shine but if you use it to clean cases the media soon becomes a black mess that doesn't work too well.
Hope that made sense,



Well-Known Member
I also use both. My shot cases go into the ultrasonic cleaner with a warm Seaclean solution for about 15 mins. They come out and are completely dried before depriming and sizing. I then trim and debur the cases before tumbling in walnut media for approx 10 hours.

I wouldn't want to put a dirty case in any of my dies, so they are always cleaned before depriming and the walnut media, as mentioned above, helps polish the cases as well as taking off any excess carbon that was loosened, but not removed by the ultrasonic bath.