Should You Clean Your Suppressor?

Patrick Sweeney, over at posted a good article about whether or not you should clean your suppressor.

The simple answer is “some need cleaning and some do not.”

First tip:

Let’s start right out with the things you should never, under any circumstances, do.

First off, do not ever poke a cleaning rod, with a cleaning patch on it, down your bore and through your suppressor. If that patch falls off, you now have an obstruction. “Oh, it’s just a bit of cotton, it will burn up.” Maybe it will and maybe it won’t, but until it does, do you want it possibly getting in the path of the next bullet? And destabilizing it enough to thwack a baffle?

If you have a suppressor cranked onto your muzzle, and are loath to remove it, and simply must clean your bore, use a cotton swab that is a threaded-on rod attachment. At least that won’t come off inside your suppressor.

Patrick goes on to explain that most suppressors do not need to be cleaned and do not use aggressive solvents as some of them can attack metal.

The suppressors that do not need to be cleaned are typically the high pressure calibers. They are almost always sealed units from the manufacturer.

Patrick explains that shooting high pressure factory ammo will pretty much heat up and burn most carbon and self clean the suppressor. The photograph below is a cross section of a 5.56 suppressor with an extremely high round count.Reportedly it has had 148k round through it. It never needed cleaning.



Now there is an exception. If you shoot .22LR through your 5.56 suppressor. Some occasional rounds through the can is ok. But shooting an entire brick through the can is not advised. If you limit the amount of .22LR through your sealed can, then you can just go back to shooting 5.56 to clean out the lead deposits.


Here is an example where the suppressor was not cleaned out.



If you plan on shooting .22LR a lot, then just buy a dedicated .22LR can that can be opened and serviced yourself.


One caliber to pay particular attention to is .300 AAC blackout/whisper. Just like shooting .22LR and using 5.56 to clean out the suppressor, you can shoot .308 to help clean your .300 caliber suppressor after some discrete pew pews with your .300blk gun.


One other thing to keep clean is the method of attachment. If the suppressor is directly threaded on then you have nothing to worry about. If your can uses a QD attachment then you should make sure that the muzzle device is kept clean. Otherwise the suppressor can get stuck onto the muzzle device.





Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at


  • Dbz

    Does the “only occasionally” rule apply to copper jacketed 22?

    • My best advice would be to weigh your can before shooting a bunch of rounds, and then weigh it after. If it increased in weight by a significant amount then you will know how much is being deposited.

    • Patrick R.

      Better safe than sorry.

    • nova3930

      Rimfire ammo is just filthy to the point I wouldn’t shoot it in a sealed can at all….

    • Dan

      nope. 22lr is incredibly dirty so you will still get tons of carbon fouling.

  • Make sure that your rimfire cans are serviceable, but don’t get tied up too much about it with centerfire stuff. Unless you shoot cast lead, you should be okay. Most of my customers are preoccupied with a can being serviceable, including hunters who plan on shooting less than 20 rounds a year out of their bolt guns with it.
    Modern suppressors are generally very well-made and can take an incredible amount of abuse. If you want to see an example of this, staff writer Patrick R has a Saker that I have seen glow red on multiple occasions and then be cooled off with water. It is still his primary suppressor and he shoots it all the time and it is never been cleaned.

    • Patrick R.

      Truth. That saker has taken some serious abuse.

  • Riot

    Shooting 308 to clean a .300 suppressor – thats interesting

    • Daniel

      300 Blackout uses .308 cal projectiles. It is essentially a necked up 5.56 case with a 308 bullet going slower than either of the other rounds. So a suppressor capable of firing 300 blackout is the same as one capable of 308 Win/7.62×51 NATO.

      • Riot

        I am aware – its just an interesting fact that it will clean it.

        • Daniel

          Sorry, the way I took interpreted your comment I thought you implied that was unsafe advice. I imagine the greater pressures and velocity of the 308 round would help blast out any lead/carbon build-up accumulated from subsonic 300 Blackout rounds.

      • iksnilol

        What about the pressure? I would dare guess that 308 has higher pressure than 300 BLK.

        • sianmink

          .308 can be higher pressure, but you’re looking at muzzle uncorking pressure when it relates to the suppressor, and a 16 or 18″ .308 has far less of that than a supersonic .300blk out of a 12″ barrel.

          • iksnilol

            So using a 300 BLK suppressor on a 308 rifle is safe? Even with longer barrels (50 or 60 cm)?

            Interesting to say the least.

          • Dan

            Only if your can is rated for .308/7.62 Nato. For instance, you don’t want to shoot .308 through an Octane.

  • Drew Coleman

    What about shooting 556 through a .30 can? Like the silencerco omega?

    • dan citizen

      better than shooting a .30 through a 5.56 can

      • Drew Coleman

        Blowtorching one’s nipples off is better than that.

        • dan citizen

          At least blowtorching your nipples off doesn’t require a tax stamp….yet.

  • Jack Morris

    Cleaning my 22 can is always such a pain. Damn dirty impossible to find 22. Why do I still love you?

    • I use an ultrasonic cleaner from Harbor Freight. Knocks most of the crud right off with very little work. It’s not SHINY afterwards, but it’s a heck of a lot better.

      • Dan

        ultrasonic doesn’t do jack for lead deposits. lead gets sputtered and essentially welded to the metal surfaces.

        the only way to remove lead fouling is bead/soda blasting it off, or the dip.

  • TangledThorns

    I have two suppressors that I’ve owned for about a year now. They are ultra clean because I have yet to take them to a range 🙁

  • STW

    I was a juror on a drug case that included a charge regarding a illegal suppressor. The defense attorney working with what he had, there was no .45 recovered for a .45 suppressor, trumpeted, “There’s no evidence that this was ever used!” The expert took that as an insult and opened the can up right there on the stand so we could see the carbon deposits. Mumble, mumble, mumble from the defense. Just another reason to not let crud build up. FYI this was in California about 1992. Amusing at the time. (Of course the video tapes of the defendant with 500 pounds of drugs didn’t help his case either.)

  • MichaelBolton

    I think it depends on the barrel length used though. An SBR with a 10.5″ bbl is going to be blasting lots of unburnt powder into the can, and it can cause significant buildup of grime.

    You can see pics of folks’ cans on various forums who have significant buildup that will not come off without aggressive scraping and/or solvent drips.

    However, whether or not this is necessary is another question.