Dirty dirty .22 suppressors

I know from experience that .22 suppressors accumulate a lot of dirt. Federalist shares the lessons he learnt about cleaning .22 suppressors

This is a big mistake for a .22LR suppressor, and here’s why: .22 rimfires are very dirty. Over time layers of condensed lead, hardened with powder byproducts and bullet lubricant, will accumulate on the baffles that are supposed to disperse the propellant gasses inside the can. After thousands of rounds the silencer can double or triple in weight and lose most of its sound attenuation as it clogs with lead.

A few years ago one licensed manufacturer, SRI, began to “jailbreak” old suppressors that weren’t originally designed to be cleaned: for a few hundred dollars they clean or replace the old core and fit an endcap that can be easily unscrewed. Curious as to just how bad the problem can be I decided to open my Outback II. (Doing this in a non-destructive fashion took quite a bit of work, a lot of penetrating lubricant, and a few special tools.) Here is what the baffles looked like:

I am not suggesting this as a solution, but once when I had a suppressor at least as terrible, if not more so, than the suppressor pictured above, I put the baffles into a mason jar along with the contents of an entire bottle of Hoppe’s #9 and left it for a year. I don’t know how long it took for the solvent to work but when I found it again they were clean. I did not intend to leave it so long but I forgot about it, buried behind other shooting equipment (I have a number of .22 suppressors so I did not realize it was missing).

What are your suppressor cleaning tricks?

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • erwos

    I toss the baffles into an ultrasonic cleaner with some carbon remover after shooting. Removes the worst of it in no time.

  • Garret

    Just for the record the baffles in the Element 2 aren’t titanium, they’re 17-4 stainless steel. This way they can stand up to harsher (and more effective) cleaning methods such as ultrasonic cleaners and the “dip”.

  • 10-32

    I’ve used Ed’s Red on mine. I then applied Frog lube to see if it’ll help with later cleanings.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Yea I imagine hoppes for an extended time will do it! Lucky it didn’t start eating the metal 😉 Really though, people go WAY overboard with 22 can cleaning. They are not supposed to ever be mirror finish. One mag after you clean them and they’re “dirty” again. Get the large pieces of build up off and move along.

    TO the people that do go way overboard… In almost no circumstance should anynone be using “the dip” which is equal parts of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. It will clean your can. Will also eat aluminum and some carbon steels. But more dangerously, when mixed with lead will create lead acetate which is super harmful to everything, and extremely difficult to dispose of properly, you make cancer in a jar. Friend’s don’t let friends dip.

    For steel cans, an ultrasonic with a cleaning agent works well (I use water and Purple Power which is a SimpleGreen-like natural solvent). For aluminum parts your only options are mechanically cleaning, some people use brushes (again, you just want big build up gone) and others are starting to use soda blasting and tumblers.

    Don’t get caught up in cleaning your 22 cans to look like new. It’s OCD, pointless, and often people are actually damaging their parts (esp aluminum oxide / anodizing)… I can remember the last time I cleaned my 22 cans.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      by the time I found it the hoppes resembled a dark thick oil rather than solvent. Not sure how much solvent was left in that mess.

    • ThomasD

      Lead acetate is dangerous, but not the end of the world, you just need to wear gloves, and avoid inhaling or ingesting.

      The dip solution can be dealt with by slowly adding diluted sulfuric acid (never add concentrated acid directly to water.) The combination will react to form lead sulfate, which, unlike lead acetate, is poorly soluble and will settle out as a sludge than can be disposed of the same way you would dispose of a car battery or scrap lead. This is the same stuff that forms on the terminals of your car battery that you wash away with vinegar or Coca-Cola.

      But I would agree that acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide are bad news for aluminum – you will rapidly etch the metal. Used on briefly on steel, and quickly rinsed away the damage will be minimal if any.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        AAA Always Add Acid. You do add the acid to water.

        Like I said, almost no one is equipped to dispose of “the dip” properly. It’s pointless to try and clean baffles that much. An ultrasonic cleaner with a soap works well, easier to dispose of.

        • M40

          Using a Boston or New York accent, the old adage is;

          “Do it like ya oughtta… add ya acid to the water”.

    • STA

      Wouldn’t carb cleaner work on aluminum cans? (haven’t tried but I have cleaned a LOT of aluminum carbs)

  • wetcorps

    Welp you just motivated me to spend a few extra bucks on a suppressor that can be disassembled instead of the one I was about to get.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Definitely in 22. Take-apart 9mm sometimes, like if you’ll shoot lead. Never take-apart rifle, those should absolutely be welded.

      Also, don’t consider price in NFA world. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Try to always but the absolute best you can afford.

      • iksnilol

        How do you clean the welded ones? Just fill them with solvent and wait?

        Also since I am not familiar with American suppressors (can’t get them due to US export laws) what do you think about the ones Huntertown Arms makes? They seem inexpensive compared to others.

        • Federalist

          Don’t shoot unjacketed bullets in welded suppressors and you never need to clean them.

          AFAIK this is a U.S. problem resulting from draconian regulation of silencers and even their parts. Because we have to pay a $200 transfer tax (not to mention wait 10 months, etc.) even .22LR suppressors are pricey and are made to last. Outside of the U.S. where you can get an effective .22LR suppressor for under $100 with no hassle I would just shoot it until it starts to get loud/heavy and then throw it away and buy another.

          • iksnilol

            Why? Built to last is a good thing, taking care of your things to make them last longer is simple logic. You can get a good take-apart silencer for cheap, the ASE UTRA I mentioned is a good example. It costs about 160 USD here in Norway (which is pretty cheap when you compare to your average salary), is solid steel and take-apart which means it will pretty much last forever if you aren’t stupid.

            Suppressors aren’t consumable items like magazines or casings.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Suppressors are wear items like barrels. If you fire enough to erode/wear the baffles out of a rifle can, you can afford to replace it along with the barrel.

            On 22 they just require cleaning. Nothing else should clog up even remotely the same way.

      • wetcorps

        I’m in France so suppressors prices can’t be compared with your NFA stuff 🙂
        I was considering a 25€ Still n°2 for its short lenght, but now I’m leaning towards the n°3 or equivalent, a bit longer but can be taken appart. That’s a 5€ difference.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Ah, yea, still do a take-apart.

          There is an entire separate discussion as to why regulated suppressors in the USA have developmentally outpaced those in unregulated countries. It’s sort of opposite to what you would expect.

          • wetcorps

            It doesn’t suprise me. If you’re gonna pay 200$ for it anyway, you might as well go all the way and get top of the line stuff.
            Though there is probably a point where you can’t supress more and are just paying for swag.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Agreed. What you’ll see is cans starting to get lighter and shorter, but there are absolutely diminishing returns on suppression. Particularly in 22 where the better cans are already stupid quiet.

          • Eurocopter

            What makes you think that? Even though they are marketed for “tactical” purposes… Google A-tec Carbon and T.E Titan, a 3D printed version, or even Hausken Whisper. I´ll admit you guys are ahead in pistol suppressors though…

          • M40

            It’s absolutely no surprise that the sheer bulk of ALL firearms development comes from the US. It’s simple math. There are at least 300 million privately owned firearms here in the US.

            Compare that to Europe, where Germany has the highest number of privately owned firearms at 25 million. France follows at 19M, Italy at 7M, Spain at 4.5M, Switzerland at 3.5M, England and Wales at 3.4M, Sweden at 2.8M, Austria at 2.5M, Greece at 2.5M, Finland at 2.4M, Norway at 1.4M. The rest of the European nations combined add another 1-2 million (a few hundred thousand arms in each).

            This means that in all of Europe combined, you have about 75 million privately held firearms. Therefore we have at least 4 times as many privately owned firearms in the US as in all of Europe combined.

            Now add in the fact that in many European nations, firearms ownership is not a right, but a luxury afforded to the wealthy and politically connected… and absolutely denied to the masses. Many of Europe’s privately owned guns therefore reside in large, expensive estate collections. These folks aren’t developers or even tinkerers… they’re collectors.

  • John

    has anyone ever tried Fireclean on a supressor? I know it works wonders on my AR bolt as far as cleaning and ease of repeat cleaning

    • JumpIf NotZero

      It’s gone instantly. I do use lube on the mounting surface and latch on my surefire rifle cans, but I don’t bother with it anywhere else on silencers. Doesn’t seem to make a difference to me.

      You could try grease but it won’t last terribly long either.

    • Chris

      I’ve tested several wonderlubes. Froglube works better for coating silencer baffles than Fireclean. Leave the Froglube on kind of thick and it’ll act as an ablative media (like running the silencer “wet”) and for .22lr, it doesn’t burn off too quickly. FC is very thin and the junk from the .22lr tends to stick a bit more than with FL.

      • IXLR8

        +1, I Frog Lube the interior of a new suppressor. After comparing it to my friends similar model without it, I will use it from now on. Second advantage is that it is much easier to disassemble. The pistons keep looking like new. Even the exterior can be protected.
        I don’t have any F/A weapons so I may not experience the same amount of heat as some. YMMV.

  • Misha

    Toss them in a brass tumbler with some walnut shells, couple hrs later and you’re gtg.

  • Chris

    Hoppe’s #9 contains ammonia, which can damage aluminum baffles. Be careful out there!
    Also, ultrasonic cleaners can damage them as well. I’d recommend steel baffles for .22lr silencers to those shopping around for a silencer.

    • iksnilol

      Easier to live with the extra weight for the simplicity of it. I am thinking of getting an ASE UTRA silencer, the entire thing is made out of steel and you can disassemble it. A bit pricy but I will rather save some money and buy it instead of cheaper alternatives.

  • Julio

    “for a few *hundred* dollars they clean or replace the old core and fit an endcap that can be easily unscrewed”
    What! How much does a rimfire silencer cost where you live? How does this make more sense than junking the old one and buying another?

    • iksnilol

      Or cleaning it yourself before it becomes a problem?

      Cheapest 22 suppressor I have seen in the US is 200 dollars.

      Cheapest in Norway was 80 dollars.

      • wetcorps

        Cheapest in France is 34$ (25€). That’s pretty much the only place we have it better than Americans ^^

        • Michel_T

          Proof that gun laws don’t make sense…

          In Canada, the government won’t trust me with a muffler on my gun.
          Oddly enough, they are not worried about me having one on my car.

        • torr10

          there’s a market for you to make some extra cash there!! lol….

    • Cymond

      The cheapest rimfire suppressors are about $200 + another $200 for the transfer tax (and that’s not counting the paperwork, fingerprints, photographs, Sheriff’s signature, and 6-12 month waiting period).

  • bbmg

    Some people make their baffles out of delrin (acetal copolymer) and for a 22 rimfire it works just fine, wonderfully easy stuff to machine too:


    • Federalist

      That is very cool — hadn’t heard of that! Is it slick enough that lead won’t stick, or is there a way to clean it if buildup gets bad?

      • iksnilol

        Seconded, while it is easy to machine how does it react to lead? How do you clean it?

        • ThomasD

          It doesn’t react to lead, but the hot gasses aren’t doing it any favors. You would clean it with vinegar and a scrub brush.

          Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

  • Outbreak

    I built a soda blaster for my first-gen (aluminum) Silencerco 22Sparrow. It took a while with my compressor, but it got the baffles and clam-shells the cleanest they’ve been since it was new.

  • ⊕RussR⊕

    only 1 sure fire way to clean with liquid…

    50/50 mix of household vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.. and if you use it in a ultrasonic tank, it will clean it fast…

    2 small issues…
    it MELTS lead deposits… making lead acetate, bad stuff..
    the vinegar can start to remove anodising if left into long…

  • AR-PRO

    Just use an ultra sonic cleaner and in about 15 minutes its clean as a whistle.

  • William Burke

    I would guess that a jar filled with DMSO should work significantly better than Hoppes #9.