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Every responsible gun owner knows that regular cleaning is essential for maintaining your rifle. However, spending your hard-earned money on commercial solvent is not always necessary, and there are some gun solvent alternatives. 

Gun Cleaning in Vice

If you are wondering about cleaning a gun without solvent, there are more options than you might think.  

With the price of standard rifle ammunition at an all-time high, gun owners are all probably looking to save cash where they can.

Yet, you still need to be very cautious about what you use as a gun cleaning solvent substitute. 

Let’s look at some homemade gun cleaning solvents, and we’ll show you which ones are worth using and which ones might just ruin your rifle. 

Homemade Gun Cleaning Solvent

There are quite a few homemade bore cleaners that offer alternatives to commercially prepared solvents. 

Do You Even Need Any Solvent?

Sometimes, especially if you’re not shooting much, your rifle doesn’t need to be cleaned with a solvent.

For instance, if you haven’t put any rounds down range in a few months, it may make more sense to run a patch through your rifle to remove any moisture or dust without any solvent at all. 

A solvent is primarily for removing the fouling of leftover metal from gunshots and any old oil in your bore.

So your rifle that’s been sitting in the safe shouldn’t be messed with.

If you used a rust inhibitor as part of your preparation for long-term non-use of the rifle, applying a solvent will remove that rust inhibitor.  

If you’ve been shooting often, you will need to use some sort of solvent to remove the leftover metal from the rounds you have fired. 


Acetone is a natural solvent, and it sometimes appears as an ingredient in commercial solvents mixed with oils and other chemicals.

Most commercially prepared solvents and gun cleaning systems do two things.

They work to break down and remove powder residue and metal from your gun and lubricate and protect it.

Acetone is not an all-in-one product. It might help break down grease and remove any old oil, but it will not offer any lubrication. 

Brakleen Brake Cleaner

Brakleen Brake Cleaner is a strong solvent. Like a rifle, car brake systems are easy to foul with dirt, debris, and metal. But, I don’t recommend using brake cleaner to clean your rifle unless it’s severely corrupted and you are cleaning the barrel very aggressively. 

That’s because if the brake cleaner comes into contact with wood, plastic, or rubber, it will do considerable damage.

So, your rifle’s stock, all your accessories, and some of the gun’s internal operating parts are at risk from any over-application. 

The only time it makes sense to use brake cleaner to clean your rifle is when the bore is in bad shape.

When heavily fouled and you’re working on a bench to clean the bore with heavy-duty bronze brushes and dozens of patches, brake cleaner is a decent substitute for a commercial solvent.

Make sure to remove every trace of brake cleaner from your rifle. 

WD40 Electrical Contact Cleaner

You shouldn’t use WD-40’s standard lubricant on a rifle. Save that stuff for your household applications.

In a pinch, WD-40 Electrical Contact Cleaner is fine for removing the old oil, powder residue, and any metal fouling from the bore of your rifle. 

We wouldn’t recommend it as a gun lubricant, but it will effectively break down grease and oil.

So if you’re on the road and your range bag got lost, cleaning the bore with a WD-40 Electrical Contact cleaner will do the trick.

Make sure there is no residue left behind, and consider using a separate lubricant, even a dab of motor oil, for the moving parts of your rifle.

It's also possible to use WD-40 as an effective rust removal product too. 

Throttle Body Cleaner

Throttle body cleaner is a cleaner for the throttle body on car engines.

You don’t need to become a car mechanic to understand that the throttle body does a lot of the work of determining the air/fuel mixture entering an engine. 

On modern cars, throttle bodies often have plastic and rubber components.

Throttle body cleaner doesn’t hurt them, so it should also be pretty safe to use as a gun cleaning solvent substitute. Just make sure to remove it all. 

Homemade Gun Cleaning Solvents

If you have a basic understanding of what it takes to clean and lubricate a gun, you may be able to make your solvent at home. 

Simply blend a solvent with a high viscosity-lubricant, and you’re good to go.

It’s unlikely you’ll have much success doing this as a novice, and the risks probably outweigh the rewards in most cases. 

If you try to make your own homemade gun cleaning solvents, stick with relatively mild citrus-based or natural solvents.

The more aggressive the chemicals you use, the more likely they are to ruin something. 

Problems That May Arise When Not Using a Solvent to Clean a Gun

If you’re not using a solvent to clean the bore of your rifle, you will run into problems.

First, the residue and metal will build up. Old oil will dry out, and your rifle won’t shoot as well, and your rounds will start to spray unpredictably. 

Then, as the remnants of your shooting activities continue to foul the bore, your rifle will become inherently dangerous to fire.

A clean bore is essential for accuracy and safety. 

Potential Damage from Non-Commercial Products

Commercially-prepared solvents, gun cleaning systems, and lubricants are proven to work maintaining rifles and other firearms.

By mixing up a homemade gun cleaning solvent, you might be able to save a few dollars. 

However, is it worth the potential damage to your rifle?

Consider that using the wrong mixture could result in a fouled bore despite your cleaning efforts, as the solvent might not be adequate to break down the copper, lead, and gunpowder residue. 

If you use the wrong solvent on the wrong part of the rifle, even accidentally in a small amount, you may end up with a .308 caliber paperweight instead of an effective shooting platform. 

Most commercially prepared systems also include some rust-inhibiting chemicals that you’ll likely struggle to create at home.

Failure to fight rust could quickly leave your rifle oxidized and potentially ruined. 


So, now you’ve learned about how to use non-solvent products to clean your rifle.

If your local store is running out of solvent products or you just want to try something new, there’s plenty of options available for you.

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