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Published Aug 13, 2022 9:00 AM

Unfortunately, gun cleaning solvents can rank low in the hierarchy of hunting and shooting gear, but that doesn’t make them any less important. After all, buying a bottle of bore cleaner isn’t as sexy as slapping a new bipod on your gun or upgrading your riflescope. Trust me, I know: I spent over five years working at a local gun shop throughout my extended college years, and except for the serious hunters and precision shooters, I saw the same trends year after year. Every season just before the gun opener, hunters would bring in their rifles to mount a new scope or make sure their old ones were bore-sighted. Then, they’d ask us to run a bore snake through it for good measure. And that was the extent of their gun cleaning.

Coincidentally, many of these return customers would also complain about missing deer because their gun malfunctioned, their ammo was garbage, their scope broke—you name it. I’d be willing to bet my pampered Savage 99 that many of these mishaps could have been avoided if they’d just taken care of their gear. And that includes cleaning their guns.

When you consider the time, effort, and money that goes into your hunting and shooting, not taking the time to clean your gun because you wanted to save a buck might just cost you a big one. If you’re already investing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in your hunting and shooting, spending less than $20 on some of the best gun cleaning solvents can ensure that you’re not fouling up your hunt before you even get started.

Best Overall: Hoppe’s No. 9

Hoppe’s

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Why It Made the Cut

I’ve used Hoppes No. 9 for years, and it’s by far the most versatile and potent bore cleaner. It also helps prevent excess fouling and can be used on multiple parts of the gun.

Key Features

  • Protects against corrosion
  • Multiple size options
  • Removes copper, lead, and carbon fouling

Pros

  • Cleans and protects multiple parts of the gun
  • Conditions outer surfaces
  • Widely available

Cons

  • Not non-toxic

Product Description

There’s a reason Hoppe’s No. 9 has become almost synonymous with bore or gun cleaner. This potent gun cleaning solvent has no problem removing copper and lead fouling that accumulates in gun bores. During my years working at a gun shop, I cleaned countless guns that were long overdue. Some rifles were so fouled their barrels toed the line of having a smooth bore. Though some guns required a few more pass-throughs than others, Hoppe’s No. 9 made light work of the most neglected guns. And if you make it a habit of cleaning your firearms, this formula conditions your bore to reduce excess fouling, saving you from extensive cleaning time in the long run.

Hoppe’s No. 9 comes in a variety of sizes and applicators, so you can find this in an option that best fits your cleaning needs. While not completely necessary, it’s still a good idea to wear gloves when you’re using this cleaner, especially if you’re sensitive to irritants. And though there are plenty of competitors with stronger smells, this one isn’t subtle either. Still, Hoppe’s No. 9 works great, whether you’re cleaning your bore or conditioning the outer metal surfaces.

Best CLP: Break Free CLP

Break Free

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Why It Made the Cut

Break Free’s CLP lives up to its name and keeps your gun in working order even when you neglect it.

Key Features

  • Multiple sizes and applicator options
  • Resists hardening from -65 to 475 degrees
  • Contains corrosion inhibitors

Pros

  • Multi-purpose
  • Conditions against rust
  • Less viscous than most competitors

Cons

  • Smells bad

Product Description

Break Free’s CLP is another gun cleaning solvent that had a spot on my workbench. It works admirably as a CLP (cleaner, lubricator, and protectant) and revives even the most neglected guns. Customers would bring in a firearm with a gummed-up action. I’d spray this on the slide, lever, bolt carrier, etc. and let it sit while the customer shopped for ammo. Within minutes, the action would (drumroll) break free.

This multipurpose cleaner helps clean and protect against future build-up, and it keeps your firearms in working order. I’m a huge fan of using this as a conditioner for your gun’s outer surfaces, because it hits the sweet spot when it comes to viscosity, which penetrates for lasting protection, but it doesn’t run or linger on the surface like other products. For an all-in-one option, you can’t go wrong with Break Free CLP.

Best Solvent and Lube: FrogLube Extreme

Frog Lube

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Why It Made the Cut

FrogLube is an excellent non-corrosive solvent that cuts through copper and lead fouling, but it also excels as a lubricant for guns that see heavy use (and cleaning).

Key Features

  • Biodegradable
  • Removes copper and lead fouling
  • Non-corrosive
  • Food-grade product

Pros

  • A little goes a long way
  • Makes cleanup after shooting sessions easy
  • Pleasant smell
  • Non-toxic

Cons

  • Requires precise application
  • High maintenance

Product Description

If non-toxic or non-corrosive is your biggest priority for a two-in-one solvent and lube, you should consider FrogLube Extreme. Just understand that it comes with a few caveats. While this product does an admirable job of removing copper and lead fouling while keeping your gun parts lubed, it requires precise application. If you leave any excess on your gun parts, FrogLube will gum-up your action. I also wouldn’t recommend using this as a protectant for those safe queens you only break out on special occasions. FrogLube Extreme works best for guns that see heavy use and require routine maintenance. So, if you have an AR or pistol that gets serious range time every month, I wouldn’t hesitate to use FrogLube Extreme on them.

If it seems like a high maintenance product, that’s because it is. But the non-toxic properties come with tradeoffs. If you don’t want the hassle that comes with this lubricant-solvent combo, but still need something green, FrogLube’s regular gun cleaning solvent works great too.

Best Non-Toxic: Breakthrough Military-Grade Solvent

Breakthrough Clean Technologies

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Why It Made the Cut

This solvent is great for removing carbon fouling on bolts, slides, actions, and other gun parts that often put you in the most contact with the solvents themselves. A non-toxic solvent that allows you to do general cleaning without worrying about exposure or safe disposal is a valuable asset.

Key Features

  • Multi-purpose cleaner/degreaser
  • Removes carbon fouling
  • Evaporates with no residue

Pros

  • Cleans carbon fouling that we often have to clean by-hand on many gun parts
  • Non-toxic, non-hazardous, and non-corrosive
  • Odorless and stain-free
  • Evaporates and leaves no residue

Cons

  • Won’t remove copper or lead fouling from bores

Product Description

This general-use solvent provides a non-toxic and non-corrosive option for cleaning carbon fouling out of guns. It’s especially valuable because tasks such as cleaning bolts, receivers, slides, and other gun parts put the user in hands-on contact with harsh solvents, and this is a much safer option.

With the spray-bottle applicator, you can spray directly on the parts that need cleaning without worrying about damage to synthetic parts. Use it as any other solvent and brush or wipe away the fouling. Excess solvent will evaporate without leaving any sticky residue.

The Best Gun Cleaning Solvents for 2022
A eco-friendly option, non-toxic Breakthrough Military Grade Solvent is great for cleaning powder deposits from gun parts and reducing your exposure to harsh chemicals. Tyler Freel

I found it especially handy for cleaning pistol parts as well as AR receivers and bolt carrier group parts. It’s not a great bore cleaner, but worth having around for the tasks that require you to get hands-on. – OL Staff Writer, Tyler Freel

Best for Copper Fouling: Barnes CR-10

Barnes

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Why It Made the Cut 

Barnes CR-10 is a heavy-duty solvent specifically designed to cut through copper fouling and residue.

Key Features

  • Non-corrosive
  • Harsh solvent
  • No petroleum products

Pros

  • Aggressive cleaner
  • Works fast

Cons

  • Contains ammonia

Product Description

Barnes CR-10 is one of the best gun cleaning solvents for removing copper fouling. This aggressive ammonia based solvent quickly breaks down and loosens fouling left by copper or copper coated ammunition, but it also comes with an aggressive smell. Because this solvent is so harsh, I wouldn’t leave it on as long as others before wiping it from the bore. For best results, you should apply a small layer of oil after cleaning with CR-10 and avoid getting it on your old wooden stocks.

Best Spray: Ballistol

Ballistol

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Why It Made the Cut

Ballistol’s versatile spray CLP makes it easy to apply this cleaner to your gun and much more, and it’s non-toxic.

Key Features

  • Non-irritant
  • Conditions and protects wood stocks
  • Useful for other items too

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Eco-friendly
  • Easy application

Cons

  • Jack of all trades, master of none
  • Can leave a sticky residue

Product Description

Most gun cleaning solvents offer spray options, so you can probably just buy your preferred product in a spray bottle. But if you’re insistent on a classic spray can, Ballistol is the way to go. Like a lot of multipurpose gun cleaners, Ballistol does an adequate job of cleaning, lubricating, and preventing future corrosion, but it doesn’t really excel at any of them. It works well enough for removing copper and lead fouling from your gun bore, but there are other products I would use before Ballistol for that specific purpose. Still, its convenient spray applicator and the fact that it’s widely available makes it a great option if you want an all-in-one cleaner, especially if you don’t have many guns or shoot them often. Because it’s a great all-around spray for furniture and even leather goods, it does an admirable job of conditioning your wooden gun stocks and protecting them from water or moisture damage.

Things to Consider When Buying Gun Cleaning Solvents

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole when it comes to cleaning your guns. You can buy specific products that excel as bore cleaners, lubricators, or oils, or you can opt for a multipurpose solvent that does an adequate job of all of them. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these options, but it’s important to have the right tool for the job, especially if your guns see a lot of action.

Gun Collection Size

If you only have a few guns, you can probably get away with an all-in-one cleaner or CLP. However, if you have a wide gun collection of the best hunting rifles, shotguns, ARs/AKs, semi-auto pistols, and so on, you would be wise to invest in one of the best gun cleaning kits and a variety of products that more specifically fit the needs of each firearm.

Non-Toxic

Do you prioritize non-toxic or corrosive products? If so, there are plenty of great options. Just know that some of them, like FrogLube Extreme, might require a bit more maintenance on your firearms than products with corrosive properties.

Purpose

While CLP products cover most of your cleaning needs, there are some specifically designated as solvents, oils, or lubes. It’s important to know that these serve different functions. If you’re getting ready to clean your bolt-action’s bore, you’ll want a solvent like Hoppe’s No. 9. When you need to make sure your AR runs like clockwork, applying a lubricant to the bolt carrier groups can ensure that you don’t have a misfire. For those collectibles or family heirlooms in the gun safe, coating the outer parts of your guns with an oil will keep them shining and protected from rust or moisture.

FAQs

Q: Should I clean my gun after every use?

It definitely doesn’t hurt to clean your gun after every use, but if you’re only putting a few rounds through it, it might not be necessary to do a deep clean. Of course, how many rounds you fire through it, the type of ammo, and shooting conditions might require a more extensive cleaning.

Q: Should I oil the barrel of my gun?

It’s good practice to oil your gun barrel to prevent damage from corrosion or exposure to the elements, especially when it comes to hunting rifles.

Q: Is WD40 good for cleaning guns?

While WD40 works for cleaning guns in a pinch, I wouldn’t recommend using it as part of your cleaning regimen. There are too many products that work better than WD40 and are designed specifically for cleaning guns.

Methodology

For this review, I relied on years of experience working at a gun shop. I’ve also cleaned my own guns with most of these solvents, and I know how well they remove fouling and whether or not they leave adequate or excessive coatings over the outer parts of the gun.

Final Thoughts

The best gun cleaning solvents should do more than clean: they should keep your firearms functioning in proper order. And these products are an easy way to ensure the money you invest in your hunting or shooting goes a long way.