Using our Plastic Tumbler/vibrator Medium

While specific to our plastic medium, there is information that is also applicable to ‘abrasive’ media.

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How much to use:

Separating the cases and medium

Cleaning this medium:


Do your cases need to be bright and shiny?

If the medium gets wet



  • Free-flowing mil-spec plastic medium,
  • Non-toxic, no silicosis hazard
  • Specific gravity of this medium keeps cases ‘flowing’ through the medium when cleaning cases,
  • Long lasting – I don’t know how long but I have been using my first batch for about five years and it’s still working well,
  • Also suitable for non-abrasive cleaning of nickel-plated casings
  • Most  turbo-tumblers only need 1.2 to 1.5litres of this medium for great results,
  • This medium is easily shaken off the cleaned cases – typically, no further case cleaning process is needed before reloading.  As with ANY medium, for bottle-neck cases make sure you get all the medium out of the cases – for this reason I avoid using tumblers for bottle neck cases,
  • Straight-sided cases do not need lubrication if used with ‘carbide’ reloading dies,
  • Medium usually does not get caught in primer pockets of un-primed cases (while it’s possible, I have never has this problem with this medium),
  • Easily dried if it does get wet more>>,
  • Our plastic medium can be cleaned (if necessary).



  • great for primary cleaning of lightly grubby cases and secondary cleaning of cases
    • While fired, .32S&WLong cases typically come out of the pistol fairly grubby, due to the low gas pressures involved this soiling is easily removed.
    • Higher pressure cases may need longer, or even a run through a tumbler using a more abrasive medium as a first step.  Really dirty cases may need  treating in a proprietary immersion case cleaner; see note below>>
    • Really high pressure cases (my 6mm rifle runs at near 3600fps) operate at high temperatures and this heat will darken the cases after a number of reloads –while it is essential that cases for these loads are clean and oil free, in my opinion the heat darkening is not a problem.


Cleaning this medium:

I have been using this medium for most of my cases prior to reloading for years without needing to ‘clean’ it, but I have been asked about cleaning it – so here goes:

  • Tray, 4+litre basin or plastic bucket, warm water, blue Windex (my multi-purpose cleaning liquid), dishwashing (not dishwasher) detergent, some muslin or similar cloth,
  • To pre-soak, spread out the medium on an average sized serving tray, spray well with Windex and leave for 10-15 minutes,
  • Add a few drops of the dishwashing liquid to warm water in the basin or bucket and pour the medium into the basin/bucket – if surface tension keeps any of the medium floating on top of the water, a spray with Windex will normally make it settle,
  • Stir wellfor a few minutes,
  • Pour off water leaving the medium behind,
  • Add more warm water, stir well and pour off water – repeat this rinsing,
  • Slowly pour off water and medium, straining the mix through the muslin,
  • Dry medium as per If the medium gets wet.

P/s – while this method works for the plastic medium, I imagine it would be disastrous for organic media such as crushed walnut or rice, etc.


Do your cases need to be bright and shiny?

1.       Unless you keep your cases for ‘show, not for go’, you need to be aware that keeping your cases highly polished comes at the expense of removing metal from the case/s: every time you polish a case your will be removing metal!

2.       If you use a proprietary immersion case cleaner (Birchwood Casey, Iosso, G96, Lyman, etc.):

a.       ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s directions (including OHS) fully and

b.      do not leave the cases immersed in the cleaner any longer than necessary and definitely no longer the manufacturer’s directions, and

c.       rinse thoroughly with water ASAP, and

d.      dry the cases thoroughly

3.       A lot of the discoloration of brass cases is due to oxidation – keep them in sealed containers: even the plastic cases (CaseGuard, AmmoSafe, etc.) do a good job.


How much to use:

Most reloaders’ turbo-tumblers need about 1.5 litres of the medium.

Typically a ‘load’ of cases in one of my turbo-tumblers is up to 300 x .32S&W or up to 200 x .38S&WLong – don’t overload your tumbler.


If the medium gets wet:

For cleaning cases, this medium is meant to be used dry!

If it does get wet:

  • Spread it out on a tray, cover the tray with a tea towel and leave it in the sun until dry (the tea towel is to stop it blowing away in a breeze).
  • Avoid any temptation to use an oven, even at the oven’s lowest setting!
  • Break up any ‘clumping’ that forms as the medium dries with a wooden or plastic spoon/spatula.


Separating the cases and medium:

The ‘trick’ I have used for years is:

  • a cheap plastic bucket and a cheap small wire waste paper basket, both from the local bargain store.  The wire basket should fit well into the bucket and the wire ‘weave’ should be tight enough that your smallest cases to be cleaned (typically .32S&WLong) do not go through mesh.
  • Put basket in bucket and then tip entire contents of tumbler into the basket.
  • Shuffle basket half-way up out of the bucket and most of the media stays in the bucket
  • Tilt basket at 45° while keeping it over the bucket and rotate/shake the basket for a couple of turns in one direction, then a couple of turns in the opposite direction
  • For straight sided cases, this should remove all the media from the cases leaving it in the bucket to be poured back into the tumbler.  As with ANY medium, bottle-neck cases will need to be thoroughly emptied manually.

© 2011, Spencer Tweedie