Steel shot for tumblers

I’m just starting to mass polish with a vibratory tumbler.

How do I keep the steel shot from rusting? This stuff is
nexpensive and I hate to throw it out. Right now its under water
into which I put the tumbling soap, but it’s already a yucky
rusty color. Do I have to throw this away and start over? Can I
reclaim? What’s the best way to store the stuff to keep it clean
and not rust?


Virginia; Use automobile antifreeze, it will solve your problem
and the shot can remain in the antifreeze long term without fear
of rust. do not however let animals or humans drink the stuff.
charles in Austin

Virginia, Your message caused me to go look at my shot because I
haven’t used it in at least 6 months and I feared it would be one
mass of rust. Hooray, it is still fine, clear water and no rust.
I keep mine in one of those large plastic jugs that kitty
litter comes in and it it just covered with water and a drip of
burnishing soap. The cap is screwed on tight.


Hi Virginia,

I’ve been using the same carbon steel shot in a vibratory
tumbler for about 10 yrs. When tumbling, I use about 2 oz of
household ammonia & a pinch of burnishing soap. After the items
have been removed from the tumbler, I put the lid back on it,
tightly as though another load was going to be tumbled.

If the tumbler isn’t used for several days, I rinse the shot
with hot water (in a screen lined colander) before the next use,
allow it to drain for about 1/2 hour, clean out & dry the
tumbler, replace the shot, add the ammonia & soap & get back to

If the shot gets grungy looking, I add about a cup of water &
about a 2 oz cup of powdered Draino (lye, sodium hydroxide, will
also work), run the tumbler for 1/2 -1 hour, dump, rinse as
above, replace the ammonia & soap.

If the shot will be unused for an extended period of time, a
week or more, rinse the shot in hot water & spread on a bath
towel in the air to dry. Place the dried shot back in a clean dry
tumbler & close the lid tightly. Add the ammonia & soap when
ready to use.


Hello Virginia!

Tumbling was a daily chore a few years back. The steel we had
was held in a “holding” solution. I am sorry I have no product
names. I’m sure others will notice my shortcoming and post some
suppliers and product suggestions.

The “holding” solution is made fresh each time after use. A
cleaning solution is used quite frequently. Just proportion the
"cleaning" solution and run the suggested time. Then store it in
the holding solution. Water is a no-no even for a few hours.
Sorry about that! Get some towels and warm room and lay out your
shot. Get it dry. Look them over (do this routinely) for pits
and rust spots that break into the surface. If you have more
than a few it should be replaced. I remember learning this the
hard way too. It’s not just as simple as using a low sudsing
detergent for all purpose. I experienced great success going
with separate soaps for each need. So once again, holding
(storage) solution, Cleaner solution, and operating (tumbling)

If anybody reading this has used their steel and notice a slight
hazy, uniform, discoloration, that can be eliminated by
following this type of routine. You can’t overclean your steel
shot, use it often. Myself I ran a cleaner after rinsing away
the storage goop. Happy tumbling! Tim


you can get steel shot storage solution. You remove the shot
from the tumbling solution, wash it, and store it in this other,
rust inhibiting solution. that’s good for several days to a week
or so. =46or long term storage, remove from the storage solution
again, don’t wash it, so it keeps a film of the rust inhibitors,
spread it on a towel under some lamps so it warms up and dries
quickly. Your then storing dried shot with a rust inhibitor on

=46or shot that’s gotton rusty, if it’s not all pitted, you can
run it in a mildly acidic steel shot “conditioner” solution, that
will clean it right up. For really badly rusted shot, you can
add some actual polishing compound, like cerium oxide, linde a,
or other such lapidary type polish, to the conditioner. Then run
it a long time (couple days.). That will nicely restore the
shot. If it’s so rusted as to be all pitted, you may have to
throw it out, though I know one guy who treated it just like
tumbling rocks, starting with a handful of 600 grit, tumbled it a
week, went to the polish step for another week, and lo and
behold, he had newly reground and finished steel shot.

Easier, though, is to start with stainless steel shot in the
first place. About twice the cost, but well worth it in the
greater ease of care…

Peter Rowe

Several years ago a member of our department left the stainless
shot damp, in a jar. Of course it rusted into a hard mass. I
purchased some rust remover from the hardware store and soaked
the shot in it after breaking it up with a hammer. After a couple
of soakings and a couple of days the shot was rust free, but not
shiny bright. I then tumbled it a number of times, changing out
the solution each time. The shot then had the appearence of being
brand new. This was a lot of trouble and all due to the laziness
of one person, but it taught me how to save ruined shot. I have
stored the shot over the summer in three ways: anti-freeze,
tumbling solution such as Sun- sheen Burnishing solution and
dry–in a plastic lidded container. I understand that some
people store it in Murphy’s Oil Soap, but have not tried this
myself. My students have been using this shot for several years
now with success. The point is that you can salvage shot on
occasion. As for the cause of this problem, she did not want to
take the trouble to go to the hardware store across the street
for rust remover and asked to borrow mine. I had already taken
mine home. I do not know what she did with shot left for her.

Lynn Wall

Hi Virginia, I have been using a tumbler to finish my metal work
for a little over a year. When I surveyed for suggestions, I was
instructed to clean it with storage solution, drain, dry
completely and store in a air tight container until the next
time. So far this has worked very well. I purchased the steel
shot solution from Rio.

There was a thread in March titled ‘Tumbler Advice’ where Donald
Norris mentioned using a storage solution that he kept his shot
in with no problem.

Hope this helps.

Terri Collier
Dallas, TX

Well, after telling all you Orchidites how my shot stayed
shiny bright all these years, the impossible happened: It turned
dull grey, would not respond to cleaning, and developed a
spreading patina of rust. Before dumping the whole lot out and
investing in stainless shot, I tried cleaning it with
burnishing compound, which washed off some of the rust; with
ammonia and detergent, which washed off more; but nothing would
get rid of the dirty-looking opaque grey finish on the shot. In
desperation I turned to my personal file of useful
gleaned from Orchid e-mail, and guess what? Coca Cola turned
up as a great shot cleaner. (Not Diet Coke, not Pepsi nor RC
…just good ole Coca Cola) . So I cleaned the barrel of my
rotary tumbler, rinsed out the shot (still dirty grey looking),
added the fizzless Coke,turned the thing on and let 'er roll.
…all the while being very skeptical about this folk remedy.

After two hours, I took a peek. Marked improvement. So I
emptied the barrel, rinsed it, rinsed the shot, added more Coke
and repeated the process.

SUCCESS! SHINY,CLEAN SHOT! Thanks to Orchid for giving me
the suggestion in the first place. It also saved the day in a
workshop I attended where the shot suddenly went grungy.
Incidentally, I changed burnishing soaps and that seems to have
helped the shot to stay clean. Am now using a powder
manufactured by Kramer.

Another thing that was posted on a previous orchid thread–when
storing dry shot, add one of those little silica packets that
come in various products. You know those little packets that say
"Do not eat. Use to preserve freshness’ – or whatever. They
absorb moisture, so apparently they help keep the shot dry.

FYI - the silica packets are silica gel. They are used to absorb
moisture. When they eventually get saturated and stop doing their
work, they can be regenerated by heating in your oven for awhile.
If you don’t have any of those packets on hand you can buy it
from a chemical supply house. You can even get it with an
indicator in it that changes color when it needs to be

Well I’m reporting back on all the wonderful tips I got for
cleaning and storing steel shot. I couldn’t resist the tip on
using coca cola and went out and splashed some classic coke into
my vibratory tumbler. It jumped and jived down in the garage
overnight. The next morning, voila! It was shiney again!

Amazing. Sheesh what does coke do to your teeth?

I’ve stored the shot in a gallon of Murphy’s oil soapy water.
Thanks to everyone who responded.


Virginia Lyons

Amazing. Sheesh what does coke do to your teeth?

If you’ve got any baby teeth around, left by the tooth fairy,
etc., from your children’s teething days, and want to expend one,
drop it in a glass of coke or pepsi. You won’t have anything but
the coke or pepsi in the bottom of the glass by the next day…

Adult teeth have stronger enamel, so resist it somewhat. But
not completely. Fortunately for our teeth, most of us are in the
habit of swallowing the stuff, not holding it in our mouths
swishing it through our teeth for any length of time. Were you
to do that, over time, I’d expect your tooth decay problems to be
worse than they would otherwise have been.

How 'bout it Skip, am I right?



Right on! All of you orange/lemon/lime/grapefruit eaters out
there beware also! I have seen any number of citrus junkies out
there that just love to suck on citrus wedges all day, or for
that matter only occasionally. This also happens to people that
have a “coke” to suck on all of the time. What generally occurs
is that the juncture of the coronal portion of the tooth and the
root portion of the tooth develops carious lesions (cavities).
The cemento-enamel junction is where the extremely impervious
enamel which covers the crown portion of the tooth and the not
quite so impervious cementum meet on the tooth. This is usually
just below the movable gingival (gum) tissue in healthy mouths.
The acids from these products just lays there and 'percolates’
and rots the teeth right at that point. If you can’t brush, you
can swish your mouth thoroughly with water which will remove
most of the acids and dilute the rest. Hope this helps.


Skip Meister
Orchid Jewelry Listserve Member
N.R.A. Endowment &
Certified Instructor
in all disciplines
Certified Illinois D.N.R.
Hunter Ed, Instructor
ICQ 37319071

You might try this. Remove the shot from the tumbler. Dry with a
hair dryer. Place shot into suitable beaker or “second tank” for
your ultrasonic cleaner. Cover the shot with the lightest
available oil. 3-1 or sewing machine oil. As ultrasonic cleaners
clean down to " the pores of the metal" it stands to reason that
it should also oil “down to the pores of the metal” . Gun
smiths clean and oil weapons in this manner. To clean the oil from
the shot. reverse the procedure and use a suitable detergent,
i.e… Dawn or Joy and ultrasonically clean the shot and it
should be ready for use again.

Mike Fritz
Lone Star Technical Services

PS We specialize in the repair and manufacture of ultrasonic cleaners.