“The Dip” – A Toxic Mixture Used To Clean Silencer Parts

chemistry

I like cleaning guns. One, you usually have to be surrounded by guns to clean them. And two, for the most part there is a direct relationship between the time you invest and the results on the other end. However, I concede that I might be in the minority when it comes to breaking out the Ballistol and patches. And even more so when it comes to cleaning rimfire silencers.

Modern rimfire and pistol caliber suppressors are designed to be disassembled and cleaned regularly. Even so, rimfire and cast lead bullet loadings can make a silencer internals pretty messy. And while there are a variety of techniques to cleaning baffles, one technique regularly discussed on internet forums is simply called “The Dip”.

WARNING: I like ‘do it yourself’ projects like most gun owners, however, I cannot recommend making or using “The Dip” to clean suppressors. It is a highly toxic solution that will poison or kill you if handled incorrectly.

“The Dip” is created by mixing a 50/50 mixture of White Vinegar (Acetic Acid) with Hydrogen Peroxide. The resulting mixture can then be used to dissolve the lead that is caked on stainless steel baffles. Dropping lead-coated silencer parts into the reactive solution slowly creates Lead Acetate, which is basically dissolved lead in solution.

From the Lead Acetate Wikipedia page:

Lead acetate can be made by boiling elemental lead in acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide. This method of using acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide will also work with lead carbonate or lead oxide.

(Not only is a bad idea to make this solution, it’s doubly bad to boil it.)

Pb(s) + H2O2 + 2 H+(aq) → Pb2+(aq) + 2 H2O(l)
Pb2+ + 2 CH3COO(aq) → Pb(CH3COO)2

PbAc2_(jonowo)

Lead Acetate

Whereas common (elemental) lead poisoning most commonly occurs by ingesting and absorption of lead in the gastrointestinal system, poisoning via Lead Acetate can occur with simple contact with the dermis (skin). Lead Acetate must be treated as a hazardous substance and dealt with appropriately.

A current thread on Silencer Talk documents the use of “The Dip” on a rimfire suppressor with approximately 400 rounds clocked since the last cleaning.

Bowen1911: I decided to snap some pics as i cleaned out my silencer last night. I put 333 winchester bulk pack and 100 remington subsonics through it since the last cleaning

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Bowen1911

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Bowen1911

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Bowen1911

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Bowen1911

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Bowen1911

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Bowen1911

As you can see, “The Dip” is a very effective cleaning solution.

A couple of things:

  1. Please do not make or use “The Dip”.
  2. If you have any of this solution around your shop, treat it as a hazardous material: wear gloves and other protective gear.
  3. Disposing of “The Dip” means taking it to a certified hazardous waste collection company/department.
  4. It has been a long time since organic chemistry, but there are ways to neutralize the solution as well precipitate out the lead (salts) from “The Dip” – (I’m being vague here because I don’t want to advocate using “The Dip” for cleaning silencers).
  5. “The Dip” will damage aluminum.

Next week we will talk about two other ways to clean suppressors: “Soda Blasting” and Tumbling. Both are much safer than creating Lead Acetate.



Pete

LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Pete.M@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • BattleshipGrey

    So what you’re saying is; make sure you don’t have lead pipes before you pour it down the drain. Got it.

    • M.M.D.C.

      Would’ve been hell on the plumbing in ancient Rome.

      • DanGoodShot

        Lead is also used on cast waste lines where the waste line exits the house. Where the last peice of cast attaches to the clean out before going through the foudation. You don’t want that to happen! However, if your house was built after the 80s you probably have pvc or abs. Either way your g2g!

    • hking

      I would think in the small amounts being used for silencer cleaning it would be diluted down to a non reactive point fairly quickly. Not a good idea to pour it down the drain because you are introducing hazardous chemicals into the water system which often end up in streams and lakes, but the pipes are probably going to be ok.

  • M.M.D.C.

    Summary: “Don’t do this.” “Here’s how to do this.” “Don’t do this.”

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      I know. I know. As good as the dip is, there’s no way I could recommend it. But I wanted to talk about it.

      • M.M.D.C.

        Sorry about that, couldn’t resist.

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          Don’t be sorry. You’re right.

      • PK

        Make sure to clarify that the solution isn’t toxic until there’s lead introduced.

        Also, I use this regularly with proper PPE and bring the lead acetate solution to hazmat collection every six months or so. It really does REQUIRE mask, gloves, and proper handling.

    • Edeco

      journalistic integrity; not paternalizing by withholding info 🙂

    • Bigbigpoopi

      “It’s not a buttstock” “Do not put the arm brace to your shoulder”

    • milesfortis

      Reminds me of Dan Aykroyd’s part in 1941 where he’s telling people how not to load a 40mm anti-aircraft cannon.

      • Pete – TFB Writer

        I love that movie! Awesome scene.

  • Could you you not use an electrolysis system to recollect the lead from the fluid? As long as the terminals arc in fluid, lead would begin to ?ionize? and want to cling to something, right?

    It has been a long time since I’ve formally ‘scienced’ too.

    • Mr. C

      The lead ions are reduced to lead. Ionization is an entirely different subject. Well, not ENTIRELY, but you get the jist.

    • Chipsa

      Add sulfuric acid, and the lead precipitates out as lead sulfate.

      • Pete – TFB Writer

        Drano. That’s what I left out.

      • UnderDown

        Just don’t add the H₂SO₄ when the baffles are still in solution. Otherwise your tolerances may get a lot looser.

        Or un-even pitting might create areas that’ll scour later on, shortening the life and/or making the suppressor less un-noisy.

    • UnderDown

      Yep.

      Just use sodium bicarbonate or sodium carbonate solution as the electrolysis medium. Not dangerous acids. No chemical corrosion. No chloride cracking. Even use it with non-stainless. Plus you’ll get lead carbonate [insoluble, inoffensive(ish)] that you can wash off and filter/settle-out.

      Just don’t use NaCl. Unless you want chlorine gas. But I reckon you don’t want chlorine gas.

      • UnderDown

        And watch out for H₂ build-up.

      • Baking soda is always the answer! Its like the Miata of cars.

  • Joseph Goins

    Last year, we found out we cleaned our guns with vegetable oil.
    This year, we found out we cleaned our silencers with stuff that can kill us.
    What will we find out next?

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Magpul polymer is delicious?

      • HammaHamma

        That would certainly improve sales. I’d love a PMAG salad with some shrimp.

    • Independent George

      How to cook a batch of fries with the stuff we clean our guns with?

      • If you’re clever you can run your truck off it as well.

        • iksnilol

          Doubt it’d burn clean. Would rather not subject my petrol engine to that.

          • Gary Kirk

            Rudolph diesel originally designed his engine to run on peanut oil.. But it would gel considerably, so any organic oil will run an older style direct mechanical injection diesel engine. But most alternative fuel sources for said engines require a heated fuel system to keep the fuel liquid. And do not try to run fast food leftover grease without a heavy filtration system.. And just a side note.. Gasoline was an accident, was a leftover product from the “cracking” process, that was originally used as a cleaning agent

        • Billy Jack

          Bio-Ballistol

    • Samson

      DIDN’T YOU READ THEIR RESPONSE?! JUST BECAUSE IT’S CHEMICALLY IDENTICAL TO VEGETABLE OIL AND IS IN FACT VEGETABLE OIL DOESN’T MEAN IT’S VEGETABLE OIL. IT’S TACTICALLY HI-TECH AND ABSOLUTELY TECHNOLOGICALLY TACTICAL. VEGETABLE OIL LIVES MATTER.

      • Samson

        SORRY FOR SHOUTING I HAVE HAD TOO MUCH CAFFEINE.

    • Joe

      It’s not the cleaning compounds that are dangerous. Vinegar and store bought hydrogen peroxide are not all that dangerous even when mixed. It’s the final product (lead acetate) that’s dangerous.

      Lead metal = mildly toxic
      Lead salts (lead acetate) = more toxic
      Organic lead compounds (ethyl lead) = highly toxic

      Concentrated (20 or 40%) hydrogen peroxide is a completely different beast and is not something the non-chemist should mess with.

  • Luke Wayman

    Lead acetate is still used in hair coloring. As per the FDA website. So the dermal route of poisoning is not readily accessible. However, it is still a problem in the water supply, but you probably get more lead in your at an indoor range than in drinking water, even in Flint.
    Really, it’s much ado about nothing.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Much, much lower concentrations in hair products. I assure you that if you use the dip without gloves, you will get lead poisoning.

      • Luke Wayman

        You are assuming that the majority of that is lead. If you use a 5% vinegar solution, then the most that can come off, (given that it’s 250 mL of 50:50 mixture) is around 11 mg of lead. And it will stay ionized in water. Moreover if you add table salt it will precipitate out as lead (II) chloride, which is inert. Chances are most of that gunk is carbon based and calcium based residue, not lead. The hydrogen peroxide is acting upon it.

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          Just too many variables to suggest that anyone can do it safely.

          • Luke Wayman

            I think that the biggest umbrage appears to revolve around lead which is already there. If you use organic based cleaners, you’ll make organic based lead derivatives. Whether it be acetate or otherwise. I would argue that the risk is the same. There are lead organometallic compounds literally coating the suppressor baffles. Cleaning your suppressor is intrinsically dirty, toxic work. Just because you are unaware of the dangers or the variables does not mitigate them. Moreover, the described process has less of a chance of lead ingestion due to the liquid, assuming you don’t drink the tangy concoction. Not that I should know, I’m only a biochemist with the USDA.

          • Pete – TFB Writer

            Congrats. You are qualified to use the dip. Go forth and clean. Not everyone has the same knowledge base.

            But there is a difference between using Ballistol and creating lead acetate by dropping your baffles into a kitchen-made solution on a whim.

          • What sort of evaporation rate does a vinegar/hydrogen peroxide/water mixture have? The main purpose of cautioning dinguses not to Try This At Home is the high likelihood that they’ll try it without the correct PPE, and it seems like an inhaled lead acetate solution would be far more dangerous in far smaller amounts than dermal contact.

          • Luke Wayman

            It’s nonvolatile at room temperature. Meaning it will not readily evaporate at normal household temperature (72-78 F). I’d wear glasses and gloves none the less. Pretty standard PPE when doing work with cleaning agents.

          • HG

            For those of us who take PPE seriously, I’d love to see a write up of how to do this safely (type of glove, mask, outside only, evaporation concern, clean up procedure, how to “neutralize”, etc… Id like to know from a chemist if this is safer or more dangerous than other methods

          • Joe

            You’re right….you’re a biochemist not a chemist. Cleaning a gun with typical solvents will not make the highly toxic organo lead compounds like tetraethyl lead that you speak of. At worst it will make lead salts.

            The irony is striking. Go play with your black box biochemistry kits.

          • zardoz711

            >Just too many variables to suggest that anyone can do it safely.
            Man made no great accomplishments with that level of thinking.

          • Pete – TFB Writer

            I don’t think they give out Nobel prizes for suppressor cleaning.

            But, point taken.

  • Edeco

    6. Do not under any circumstances say “Hold muh beer and watch this.” then make, use, and improperly dispose of “The Dip”.

  • Vhyrus

    Okay, but how does it work on toons?

    (God I hope someone gets this reference)

    • Roy G Bunting

      I hear a judge in Southern California has some experience with that usage. 🙂

      • It would certainly explain a few things about the nature of their gun laws.

    • Nick

      I believe that dip had a different recipe, so probably not.

    • me

      That poor shoe

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      You’re going back 30 years… 🙂

  • Roy G Bunting

    Firearms. The hobby that leads you into leather working, history, woodworking, machining, ammunition manufacture, metal casting, chemistry, thermoplastic forming, study of the law and other pursuits.

    Does any other pursuit lead to so many studies?

    • Anonymoose

      I’m stealing this quote.

      • Pete – TFB Writer

        Same.

  • Definitely looking for safe ways to clean my suppressors, and obviously this is not it!

    Thanks for the heads up.

  • Jordan Mickelson

    Just an FYI, I called SilencerCo to check on using “The Dip” to clean the stainless steel parts on my cans and they said to dip it for 15min max. Anything after that could result in pitting on the metal.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Given that guns themselves are extremely hazardous and can kill us if we don’t follow proper precautions, how is using “The Dip” any worse?

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      If I pour my guns down the drain do I poison the kids down stream? Can you touch your guns without gloves?

      Anyone should be free to use the dip, but I’m not going to recommend it.

      • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

        Sounds like the reasons they use against us when it comes to “Assault Weapons”.

        Don’t pour this stuff down the drain and use gloves. Why is that so difficult? Why is using gloves so unacceptable? I use gloves when I clean because I don’t want nasty solvents getting on my skin.

        Seems like much ado about nothing to me.

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          Why waste time reading my posts and commenting? You’ve got some dip to make up.

          As a writer here I have responsibilities. As a commenter you can say what you wish.

          I don’t like your “assault weapon” analogy. In fact I said “anyone is free to use the dip”. Pretty insulting really.

          • CWO John Miller

            Ole CRAB, In Viet-Nam we used a gallon of “TEXAS PETE” hot sauce to take carbon off M60 gas pistons, soak over 24 hours &
            wash off to clean !!! Perhaps, this would work on the stainless
            baffles. However I’d NOT recommend using the sauce on your eggs.
            Really worked, vinegar?? pepper juice ?? Who knows
            From a VET IN COUNTRY

  • Joey Dryer

    You can also take the dip left overs (Lead I acetate) into a sealable bucket (I use a cheap home depot one), and add muriac acid (aka hydrochloric acid). That will precipitate the lead I acetate to lead II acetate – making it way safer. Still needs to be disposed of properly.

    • Joe

      Or not. Go read a chemistry book and try again.

      Just another reason not to believe the Internet service.

  • North Polar

    Recommended is double nitrile gloves as lead (II) acetate will absorb straight through the skin. Oddly enough, it’s considered toxic as hell, yet is FDA approved in Grecian Formula for men.

    Now there is a way to settle out the lead from the solution, but unless you are an expert in organic chemestry it is a bad idea.

  • thedonn007

    I use an ultrasonic cleaner.

  • Major Tom

    “It has been a long time since organic chemistry, but there are ways
    to neutralize the solution as well precipitate out the lead (salts) from
    “The Dip””

    Baking soda. Acetic acid neutralizes in baking soda and hydrogen peroxide breaks down on its own over time. Diluting the (lead precipitates already filtered out preferably) leftover solution with water and then mixing in some baking soda will neutralize and degrade the leftovers. Once it stops fizzing when you add in baking soda, the acetic acid is no more. The peroxide just requires open air to decay.

    I’m pretty sure acetic acid and peroxide do not chemically combine on their own but a solution built with both is plenty reactive to other components. (The peroxide being an oxidizer and/or catalyst.) Of course it has been like ten years since I was in Chem class. Maybe I need to drag out that old chemistry book…

  • Bill

    Why does this read like an episode of “Breaking Bad?”

  • Kivaari

    Does it work on copper? Does it effect bluing?

    • UnderDown

      Don’t do that. The peroxide’ll murder the copper.

      As for the bluing? Not sure. Worse case you convert the blue magnetite (Fe₃O₄) to ferrite (Fe₂O₃.FeO)

      which you’ll see ’cause it will turn green-ish. It’s not very stable and will probably chip, flake, and rust quicksmart.

      But there’s only one way to find out…

  • Mark K

    Just use a sonic cleaning machine.

  • J-

    Lead acetate is also known as sugar of lead and makes great artificial sweetener.

  • Bob

    how about good old COCA COLA??