My Thirty Years With Ed's Red

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Ed Harris posted this 19 February 2021

My Thirty Years With ''Ed's Red'' Bore Cleaner... Home-Mix Still Works

By C.E. ''Ed'' Harris - Updated 2/20/2021.

Thirty years ago I mixed my first "Ed's Red" or "ER" bore cleaner. It has passed the test of time. Thousands of satisfied users think this home-mixed cleaner is every bit as effective as more expensive commercial products.

The design intent of “ER” was to provide cleaning action similar to Vietnam-era military rifle bore cleaner, Mil-C-372B.  When the optional acetone is included ER is more effective than Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or heavily-caked carbon fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols. Users have reported it as effective as Kano Kroil as a penetrant for loosening rusted bolts, engine parts and in removing leading in revolvers.  “ER” is less expensive than commercial bore cleaners, and as effective, providing excellent corrosion protection and fully adequate residual lubrication so that routine "oiling" after cleaning is unnecessary, except for long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service, such as humid tropical environments or salt water exposure.

The “ER” formula was based upon proven principles, incorporating two polar and two nonpolar solvents. It was adapted from the recipe published in Hatcher's Notebook for "Frankford Arsenal Cleaner No.18," substituting readily available modern materials.  Hatcher’s formula called for equal parts of acetone, turpentine, Pratts Astral Oil and sperm oil, and optionally 200 grams of anhydrous lanolin being added per liter.

Today I recommend "K1" kerosene of the type normally sold for use in indoor space heaters.  Users have reported successful substitution of civilian aviation grade kerosene such as Turbo-A.  


An inexpensive, effective substitute for sperm oil is Dexron automatic transmission fluid. 
[The original Dexron (B) transmission fluid was introduced on April 1, 1967. Over the years, the original Dexron (B) was supplanted by Dexron-II(C), Dexron-II(D), Dexron-II(E), Dexron-III(F), Dexron-III(G), Dexron-III(H), Dexron-VI(J), Dexron HP, Dexron LV ATF HP, and Dexron ULV which is the latest fluid]

Experience has proven that any major name-brand ATF whether Dexron, Mercon, Mopar, etc., are all fine in ER.  If you have old Ford-Mercon in the garage back from the days you owned that Ford Galaxy Police Interceptor which would pass anything on the road except a gas station, mixing ER is the best way to repurpose it, instead of taking to household hazardous waste disposal.

Hatcher's original Frankford Arsenal No. 18 formula used gum spirits of turpentine. Safer and cheaper is "aliphatic mineral spirits," a petroleum based "safety solvent" used for thinning oil based paints and widely used as charcoal lighter, and as automotive parts cleaner. It is commonly sold under the names "odorless mineral spirits," "Stoddard Solvent" or "Varsol". 

Acetone was 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.  This is because the acetone in ER will readily evaporate, liberating volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere unless containers are kept tightly closed when not in use.

ER is still effective without the acetone, just not as "fast-acting," so you will have to be patient.

There isn't anything in Ed's Red which chemically dissolves copper fouling in rifle bores.  However, because it does a better job removing caked on carbon and abrasive primer residue, decades of use has established that exclusive use of "ER" reduces copper deposits, because it removes the old impacted powder fouling which is left by other cleaners, by reducing the abrasion and adhesion of jacket metal to the bore surface, leaving a cleaner surface which reduces subsequent fouling. "ER" reduces adhesion of metal fouling when if you let it "soak." Once the penetrants and surfactants do their the job, deposits are more easily brushed out.

Addition of the lanolin to ER bore cleaner mix is entirely optional. Today it is increasing difficult to find anhydrous lanolin. A clever boy can substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, USP from the drug store, heating it over a double boiler and gradually driving off the excess moisture.  Farm boys tell me that Bag Balm can be minimally processed and used in the same way.  ER still gives adequate corrosion protection and lubrication for most users without the lanolin. However, incorporating the lanolin makes it easier on the hands, displaces water better, increases its lubricity and film strength, and improves corrosion protection for long term storage or when firearms will  be routinely exposed to salt air, water spray, industrial or polluted urban corrosive atmospheres.

At current retail prices [unless you live in California, I am told…] you can buy the ingredients to mix ER, without the lanolin for about $25 per gallon. 
I feel obligated to say that in the years since Ed’s Red was introduced, others have advocated substituting other materials such as MEK or other hazardous, cancer-causing solvents, or Marvel Mystery Oil, which does have a pleasant smell, but is more expensive than Dexron and offers has no real advantage. 

So I am going on record here that Ed does not recommend ANY substitutions.  Please stick to the proven recipe.

CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner

1 part Dexron ATF, GM Spec. D-20265 or later. Older Ford Mercon and Mopar are also OK.

1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1, also OK to substitute Jet-A

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)

 (Also optional) 200 g per Liter or up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon, OK to
substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


This "Recipe" is placed in the public domain, and may be freely distributed. 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Elmer posted this 17 July 2021

Found it in Fr Frog's Pad in the ER section.

JSM

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Elmer posted this 17 July 2021

Did I read somewhere (else) that ATF + K1 makes a good firearm lubricant?

JSM

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Wineman posted this 26 June 2021

Got it thanks! I'll keep my Coleman fuel for my vintage lanterns and stoves. When I was a kid, Coleman would send out a "Rep" to the local hardware store. He would fix or tell you about any Coleman fuel using device you brought in. Only charged for parts and IIRC a leather pump gasket was free. I had a lantern with a mica "globe" it was too old to fix and might have been kerosene too. Another guy brought in a USGI stove that was used in unpressurized WW2 (he said B17's) aircraft. It would not work at sea level as the jetting was not correct. He got it to work. Gone are the days of real service...

Dave

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Ed Harris posted this 26 June 2021

One 4-oz. bottle of LLA to a gallon of ER, thoroughly rinsing the container with the mixed solvent, works well and is very affordable.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ed Harris posted this 26 June 2021

Coleman fuel is NOT the same as kerosene, but is 100% light hydrotreated distillate, commonly known as petroleum naphtha. The NIOSH recommended exposure limit is 350 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday and 1800 mg/m3 over 15 minutes. At levels of 1100 ppm, 10% of the lower explosive limit, petroleum naphtha is immediately dangerous and I would avoid it for safety reasons. 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Shuz posted this 26 June 2021

I have always used Coleman fuel instead of kerosene when I mixed up Ed's red. Is that the same thing? It seems to work well!

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Wineman posted this 26 June 2021

Ed, thanks. I am much more in the latter camp. On occasion, I may run some corrosive short Russian through my SKS, but that's about it. I have Ballistol "moose milk" for that. Long term storage is more of the norm too (not enough time to get them all exercise).  I'll go LLA. One container per gallon?

Dave

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Ed Harris posted this 26 June 2021

Lanolin is better at displacing moisture.  LLA blends more easily and is better for long term corrosion protection.

If you use ER as a "flush" after water cleaning to remove black powder, Pyrodex or corrosive primer residue, then stick to the lanolin.

If you never use black powder or chlorate-primed military ammo, but want the best corrosion protection for long term storage, then use the LLA.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Wineman posted this 26 June 2021

Just finished blending a gallon batch. I have both Anhydrous lanolin and plenty of Lee LLA. Certainly the LLA would be easier to add, but if Lanolin is better I will go that route. Any thoughts?

Dave

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Squid Boy posted this 28 April 2021

Well, like I said, I don't believe until I try something my self. I guess I'll go back to using Hoppes for after-shave now. Squid Boy

"Squid Pro Quo"

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RicinYakima posted this 28 April 2021

The Rangers swore by it in Afghanistan, so that is good enough for me. They threw the issue CLP away, or used it for non-weapon use. 

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Squid Boy posted this 27 April 2021

I had to revive this and post a comment. People that know me know that I usually need to see something for myself before I will accept it as fact. I read all the posts about Ed's Red and it sounded a bit like too good to be true but after returning from the Southern Side by Side with three dirty guns and maybe a teaspoon of Hoppes #9, I decided to mix up four ounces just for a test. Well, I am now a believer and fairly amazed at how well this stuff works. I was running 800X in my 10 gauge and that stuff is really dirty at low pressures but that mix got it clean in nothing flat. My hat is off to you Ed Harris. Thanks, Squid Boy

"Squid Pro Quo"

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Eutectic posted this 03 April 2021

As for adding brake fluid - DO NOT DO THAT! Most brake fluids are glycol esters. They absorb water and are not lubricants.  The new DOT 5 is silicone based. Neither is the same as ATF. It is the ATF which makes ED's Red special.

I have used Lee Liquid Alox in ER as a rust preventer. It forms a precipitate after a few days, but this does not seem to affect the performance. I find a 4 ounce bottle in a gallon is enough. It is a lot cheaper than lanolin, especially if you use a pound of lanolin in a gallon of ER. Using a pound of lanolin per gallon leaves a thick film, which you might want for storing guns for a long time.

Steve

 

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JimmyDee posted this 02 April 2021

I use three mixtures based on Ed's Red:

- ER(C) is ATF, kerosene, mineral spirts, and acetone; a cleaner

- ER(L) is ATF and kerosene; a lubricant 

- ER(P) is ATF, kerosene, mineral spirits, and lanolin; a protectant

The C-L-P bits are shamelessly borrowed.

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max503 posted this 28 March 2021

I made a batch up 12 years ago, about a gallon. Had four brown quart iodine bottles from my lab. I'm down to my last pint. I used Lanolin and it has been a workhorse for me. Time to start gathering the ingredients for another batch. Brown glass bottles may be an issue, it seems every lab company has gone to plastic.

Dave


Animal medicine comes in glass lab-style bottles, but they aren't brown.  I find them washed up along the Mississippi River all the time.  Maybe the ones I'm seeing are old.  I also find many old style pop and beer bottles.  The ones from the 70's, back when I used to drink that stuff.

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Wineman posted this 28 March 2021

I made a batch up 12 years ago, about a gallon. Had four brown quart iodine bottles from my lab. I'm down to my last pint. I used Lanolin and it has been a workhorse for me. Time to start gathering the ingredients for another batch. Brown glass bottles may be an issue, it seems every lab company has gone to plastic.

Dave

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tedly posted this 25 March 2021

Thanks,Ed.

I'm going to do a batch like that, too. In home mix, we trust.

... certain dangerous habits of thought. One is that, while all important enterprises need careful organization, it is the organization that needs organizing, rather than the enterprise. And another is that tranquility is always a good thing. - Terry Pratchett

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Ed Harris posted this 24 March 2021

Ed,

Thank you for answering my question. 

I store it in a big dark brown glass bottle with a metal screw cap, the same type of bottle that I store my photo developing chemicals in.  Since I use ER indoors often, I shall leave it alone and continue enjoying it's virtues.

 

Ah, the memories of wet process photography and forced air ventilation when mixing bleach starter, can you spell isothermic reaction?

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ed Harris posted this 24 March 2021

Yes, one 4-oz. bottle of Lee Liquid Alox, with the bottle rinsed multiple times to get it all, being added to a gallon if you don't use the lanolin. This gives useful additional corrosion protection and improves the film strength at very little increased cost.  Originally was suggested by the late Nick Croyle, who was a bullet casting and shooting buddy of mine from the Fairfax Rod & Gun Club where Frank Marshall, Bob Seras and I all belonged.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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tedly posted this 24 March 2021

Ed, 

I too thank you for Ed's Red, and all your other advice with lubes and sizing. 

I mix up a batch and then dole it out to members of my club who bring their own cans. I tried selling it at our gun show, but the cans cost three times what the Red does. I'm down to my last 150ml bottle, so it's time for a new batch. 

Now for the question - was it you, or some other  fellow who suggested using Lee liquid Alox instead of lanolin? Is this a good or bad idea?

Given the comments above, I'm going to split this batch, with, without acetone and with lanolin. 

Thanks again for all your help

Ted.

... certain dangerous habits of thought. One is that, while all important enterprises need careful organization, it is the organization that needs organizing, rather than the enterprise. And another is that tranquility is always a good thing. - Terry Pratchett

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