My Dirty Little Secret of Cleaning Guns

By Kellene Bishop

No one can underestimate the importance of cleaning their firearms.  However, I discovered the importance of this hard way—nearly the same way I realized that I was actually supposed to change the oil in my car as a 19-year-old.  So, I thought I’d share a little bit of information with our readers on the cleaning of firearms—particularly how I clean my Glocks the lazy woman’s way—it’s my dirty little secret of cleaning guns. 😉

Photo c/o blakeperez.net

Photo c/o blakeperez.net

The ONLY rule related to cleaning your firearms is to do so with safety in mind!  Far too many foolish accidents have occurred because folks got careless in their safety checks prior to cleaning their guns.  You should always check the chamber/magazine well for cartridges, in front of the primer pin, and down the barrel—looking down from the action port—not from the front of the barrel.  All three of these checks should be visible by opening the action.  You should NEVER look down the barrel of a gun—and if you do happen to, I hope you’re a quick shot.  This is a necessary three-point check that I ALWAYS do prior to handling a firearm in the classroom.  I do my three-point check, hand the firearm to my assistant who also does a three-point check, and then when they return the firearm to me I do the three-point check again—WITHOUT exception.  The more famous occurrence of firearms instructor shooting himself in the leg while teaching elementary school kids about guns certainly NEVER would have happened if he had done the three-point check.  

Other than the safety rule, there really aren’t any other hard and fast rules on cleaning guns.  The bottom line is you’ve got to consult your owner’s manual.  For example, you can actually gum up an AR 15 or an M 16 if you clean it too often.  Also, if you clean firearms that have softer metal, such as the older Kimber 1911 models, then you will do some “wearing” damage as well.  Some firearms should be cleaned after every couple of uses, some rifles should be cleaned after 20-50 rounds during the breaking in period.  It really just depends on the type of gun it is.  So please, please reference your owner’s manual. 

Let me appeal to your womanly side of “yuck” for a moment to illustrate the importance of cleaning guns.

Photo c/o rd.com

Photo c/o rd.com

1)     Just as you have to have your oil changed, you must clean your firearms in order for them to operate properly.

2)     For the same reasons as you would never try to make whipped cream in your Kitchen Aid mixer that hasn’t been cleaned after making a batch of chocolate chip cookies, your gun must be kept clean.

3)     Just as you would never rely on a dirty diaper to last you 4 hours, you should never entrust your life to a dirty gun. (Guys, I hope those of you who are reading this know that) 

4)     For the same reasons why you have to clean the hair out of the drain trap, you must clean your firearm.

OK.  I think we’ve sufficiently covered that.

The oils, gases, and powder build-up in the action portion of the gun and down the barrel can even back up into the magazine well and prevent proper cycling of your cartridges.  Couple that with the oils from your hands as well as the dust and dirt around, and you’ve got the makings of a useless tool when you need it most for self-defense.  A dirty gun is useless.  All firearms should definitely be cleaned prior to putting them in long-term storage.

One of my favorite cleaning kits is the Otis cleaning kits.  I only say that because I KNOW that some of you will inevitably ask my preference.

OK.  Glock alert.  Here’s yet another reason why I love my Glocks.  I believe that if you give a lazy man an easy job, they will always find an easier way to do it.  And that is indeed the case when it comes to cleaning my Glocks.  Are you ready for my dirty little secret of cleaning guns?  I put them in the dishwasher! 

Don't try this at home, kids! Glocks in the dishwasher

Don't try this at home, kids! Glocks in the dishwasher

Yup, you read that right.  I put them in, all by themselves, with no soap or detergent of any kind.  I let them run through a complete cycle and then oil them up afterwards while I’m watching Desperate Housewives or The Closer.  Now you know my “dirty little secret” when it comes to cleaning guns. 

CAUTION: The dishwasher method is NOT appropriate for any other firearms that I know of.  So don’t attempt it.

Copyright 2009 Kellene Bishop. All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Kellene Bishop.

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37 Responses

  1. Yeah,don’t think the wife would appreciate that too much if she found my Glocks in the dishwasher. But interesting method none the less.

  2. Um… Don’t glocks have unprotected steel parts that will rust?

    • You can even shoot a Glock underwater. As I shared in my article, Glocks are the only firearm I would wash in the dishwasher. The key is to oil them after they are finished.

      • That makes sense. I dropped my glock in our cat’s water bowl a few months back, stripped it down, dried and oiled the heck out of everything, and it continues to act like it’s fresh out of the box every time I shoot it.

        Glocks rock.

  3. I’m guessing you don’t use the dishwasher for dishes?

  4. […] Blog Post posted by c k at 11:20 pm   […]

  5. I think I’ll just use my gun cleaning kit and not the dishwasher

  6. Hmm…I’m not sure if that’s an argument for or against Glocks.

  7. I’ve cleaned my HK USP in the dishwasher with no ill effects.
    Just make sure you put some lube/oil on the springs etc.

  8. I sure hope that’s a “spare” dishwasher – or you are poisoning anyone who eats dishes washed in there, no matter how many times you run an “empty” cycle afterwards.

  9. Hey! What the heck is wrong here? Don’t you know that you are contaminating your dishwasher with LEAD? As in lead poisoning! It makes complaining about the lead in Asian dinnerware a joke.

  10. You know that you just contaminated your dishwasher with gun powder, mercury and oil right? You should not use this method, not because it will hurt the firearm, because it can hurt YOU. Every time you use that dish washer, you are coating your dishes with the contaminates I mentioned earlier.

    I hope you don’t have any small children. You could be exposing them to harmful chemicals that could be fatal over time.

    Please don’t do this anymore.

    • Ok. Enough is enough. For all of you folks who think you are certain as to the error of my science and somehow believe that I’m an incompetent guardian of any kind, do this little science experiment.
      Place your GLOCK in a bowl of hot water for about 20 minutes. Then remove it. Then do one of those handy dandy tests and measure the lead and mercury levels in the water. Now, do that SAME test on just plain tap water from your sink. You will see virtually NO difference.

      Food for thought, if cleaning your handgun was so dangerous, then wouldn’t we ALL have lead and mercury poisoning from cleaing them by hand? I know very few people who use gloves when they clean their guns.

      I believe that this is just one more instance in which people are just plain unknowledgable about the “dangers” of firearms.

      If you will read the article you will see that this is something that I do with my Glocks–only. I do so because of the make up and materials in the Glocks. I never shoot lead ammo either. The article is about cleaning your guns, period. In fact I even state that my favorite cleaning kit is Otis.

      Also, just for future reference, I will always accept posts with dissenting opinions, but I will not accept posts which hurl insults at people. In the meantime I’m just going to assume that the naysayers are well-intentioned and not simply emboldened with a heavy handed opinion simply because they are posting anonymously.

      • The mercury, lead and other carcinogens don’t come from the gun, they are deposited on the guns by the ammo. It comes from the act of taking modern smokeless powder and using it to propel a lead bullet (most coated with copper) down a steel barrel. Yes there are very small amounts of lead, copper and mercury in the powder and bullet itself. But due to the type of rifling’s that glock uses it doesn’t leave any significant deposits inside the barrel. Even though the method is “safe” for the firearm, its ill advised to use this in your “kitchen” dishwasher as it does have the potential to poison you over a long period of time, and many cleanings… Its safer to use a proper gun cleaning kit away from your living area. Example: garage, storage shed, or even the range you shoot at. There are many articles to view that can drive the point home. I used to shoot at an indoor gun range that was shut down intermittently due to staff of the range receiving lead poisoning. They filed complaints with CALOSHA, EPA and civil liabilities in court. The powder burning itself caused the exposure. After shooting you should clean yourself before entering your living quarters so you dont cross contaminate. If you wish to search it, check out the riverside, ca court doccuments concerning “magnum indoor gun range” in riverside, CA.
        Food for thought…. Wish you the best.

  11. You know that we are just looking out for you, right? If that is going to be your attitude, then I don’t really care about what you do.

    When you clean a gun, all those contaminates enter your body through your skin. That’s why I wear gloves when I clean my guns. Over time, these trace amounts of lead, oil and other nasty stuff can cause damage to your body. Have you ever been to a local, public range? There are usually signs that alert pregnant women to the dangers of being exposed to these agents. Have you noticed when the people who work there enter the range area, they usually have masks on? Why do you think that is?

    If you want to introduce harmful agents into the dishes you use or the food you eat, that’s cool. You have every right. But why not just clean them the old fashioned way?

    No matter how many empty cycles you do after your gun is in the dishwasher, there will still be trace amounts of the agents in the machine.

  12. what happened to doing thisgs the right way, like the way you are supposed to. I’ve been hearing people talk about all sorts of odd ways of cleaning and lubing their guns, simple green, used motor oil, gear oil. They make things specifically for these jobs. it’s called hoppe’s #9 solvent and gun oil. would you use mineral oil in your car engine, no, because you are supposed to use engine oil. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just my $0.02

    • To each his own, right? Keep in mind that after a class I have no less than 20 Glocks to clean. I find this a very simple way of getting it done quickly.

      • I’ve been cleaing guns for a long time now. Bare hands and all. So far no adverse effects.
        Your use of the hot water test seems sound. I guess there are a lot of nanny staters even in the ranks of shooters.
        Since Glock recommends to never use plain lead and you don’t and since the gun itself is basically safe from the dishwasher environment I see no problem. Especially as you state that this is not the preferred method but only occasional.
        Retired Industrial Engineer

  13. While this method may be safe, have you had lead tests done during your annual check up? The difference between hand cleaning and dish washing is that inorganic lead is negligibly absorbed through the skin. 5-15% of lead ingested or eaten is absorbed though, which is the concern if the metals are coating plates your family eats off of.. Also, with the hot water test, swabbing the chamber after wetting may provide a different result.

    While this is definitely a neat, simple way of cleaning, please take the time to get your family tested for lead levels at your next physicals.

    I ask as I once tested 7 times the average American. (It was still under the “warning level” of 20 ppm and OSHA’s 40ppm.) Honestly, it could have been either shooting or working in an old school machine shop. Either way, the issue probably came from inconsistent cleanup and either inhalation or ingestion. I’ve met too many shooters who thought they were safe, only to find they had elevated lead levels (some testing much higher due to decades using the same procedures), to not post a comment.

    • I believe that I’ve already addressed this point of view ad nauseum on this site.
      And yes, since I’m a firearms instructor, I’m tested every year for lead levels in my physical.

  14. I have never used the dishwasher method . But I used to shoot a lot of black powder pistols and we had a large pot of water boiling and dropped all into the pot and let it go for a 5-10 minutes. Placed the still hot metal on cloths for drying and then oiled and ran a patch through the barrel a few times after all parts had cooled. Worked so good I used it for my M-16 in the Army. I always passed my white glove inspections using this method.
    Just make sure you dry the weapon and have no water in those hard to reach places and oil it and it will do great.
    I would recommend if you are casting your own lead bullets, fire a few jacket bullets at the end of practice it will clean most of the lead out of a pistol barrel and make it easier to clean.

  15. > CAUTION: The dishwasher method is NOT appropriate for any other firearms that I know of.

    You say this, but I’m pretty sure I see a Beretta in the back of your dishwasher there.

    What I’m trying to say is, will this method work for Berettas, too? 😀

    • those are all Glocks.

      • Are you sure? Because looking at that gun that is the highest up in the picture zoomed in, it does appear to be a 92 to me too. At least it appears to have an open slide with an exposed barrel.

      • Yeah, I’m quite sure I know my babies.

    • When I do a full armorers strip/clean, I dishwash both my Beretta and my H&K USP. I strip the frames and slides, spray everything with BreakFree, nylon brush every part, copper brush and patch the barrels, then run it through a full cycle.
      There are then like 2 or 3 single parts that need oiling (they rust lightly during the drying cycle), then you can lightly oil and reassemble. The USP prefers to be completely dry of oil, and it’s entire finish is rated for continuous salt water immersion, so it scoffs at the dishwasher.

  16. The method may not be “appropriate” for other firearms but it works well for black powder revolvers, especially stainless ones. The blues do have to be very well oiled afterward.

  17. I clean sks parts in the dishwasher to drive all the gunk and cosmoline out. Works GREAT. Just spray some WD40 in all the nooks and crannies, down the fire pin hole and all. It drives the water out then just lube it up after . If you do it with GLocks I dont see why any other polymer frame pistol couldnt handle it. Funny all the times I washed sks stuff in one I never thought to put my jericho in one.

    As long as you drive all the water out after and lube the gun up I really dont see why you couldnt wash any gun in a dishwasher.

  18. I’m going to try it on my Glock 22. I want to buy a Gen4 anyways so i will risk all damages. Here we go. And no people. I am using a dishwasher that will never see dishes again.

  19. So much information in the comments – thank you to all.

    One more reason to always do the three point inspection? In the local news here recently there was an article about a father who shot and killed his ten year old son while cleaning his gun. Who cleans guns with ammo inside???

    Don’t be that person!

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