Ed’s Red Notes

Note: Ed Harris is the “Ed” in Ed’s Red; that’s not me.

I mixed my first batch of Ed’s Red, a home-mixed gun cleaning solution, in March 2005. It has become my primary (but not my only) gun cleaning solution. The recipe, mixing and use directions as well as the very important safety precautions are available in many places on the web and I won’t repeat them here. For details, please use your favorite search engine.

My goal is simply to provide a record of everything I needed, starting from scratch, to assemble a complete cleaning “solution.”


These notes are a record of the sources, costs, fabrications and procedures I used and followed. Nothing more. This is not a recommendation nor a set of procedures you should follow. It’s just what I did. Use of these notes (and Ed’s Red) is at your own risk.

I hereby disclaim all responsibility for any use of these notes (or Ed’s Red).

Planning, Shopping and Overall Use Sequence

I use the “soak” method of cleaning. This is not a universal practice, however because others have reported they prefer a more frugal approach, and they report good results as well.

Regardless, here’s what I did to figure out the size of the soak container and other items.

  1. Disassemble the guns that will be placed in the overnight soak and determine the minimum interior dimensions required. (For my Smith & Wesson Model 41, a minimum diagonal measurement of 10.75" was needed for the 7" barrel because of the associated tang.)
  2. Estimate the volume of Ed’s Red that will be needed to cover the soaking parts in the container. (I mixed a full gallon of Ed’s Red and found that to be adequate for my needs.)
  3. Purchase that container, possibly an ammunition can at a “Surplus” store and clean it. (See below for the container I purchased.)
  4. Go to WalMart and use the WALMART SHOPPING LIST herein.
  5. Determine where to acquire the remaining parts and materials, and do so.
  6. Fabricate any parts as needed.
  7. Figure out a safe location to mix the batch of Ed’s Red, where to store it while parts are soaking, where to do the final wiping and cleaning, where to store the mixing, used and storage containers, and where to put the other related parts.
  8. Figure out where to locate the fire extinguisher for emergency access.
  9. Shoot, clean, etc.

Primary Ingredients

Makes slightly more than one (1) gallon of Ed’s Red.

  • 1 qt. ATF III (Automatic Transmission Fluid), Walmart automotive department, about $2.00
  • 1 qt. Acetone, Home Depot paint department, $5.69 plus tax. (Probably also available at Walmart.) This ingredient is listed as “optional” in the original formulation – it accelerates the cleaning action – and is the most volatile [and hazardous] ingredient.
  • 1 qt. Deodorized Mineral Spirits, Home Depot paint department, $3.69 plus tax. (Probably also available at Walmart.)
  • 1 qt. K1 Kerosene. This was the second-most difficult item to locate (in Phoenix AZ). None of the sporting goods stores I contacted (in Phoenix) carried it. A few had “Coleman Fuel” but, examining the can, I couldn’t determine the ingredients. Using my favorite internet search engine, however, I found kerosene at a fuels distributor in Phoenix. I called and verified they would sell me as little as one gallon (in a gasoline container that I would provide). The kerosene was $3.20 (cash) for one gallon. Western States Petroleum, 450 S. 15th Ave, Phoenix AZ 85007, 602-252-4011.
  • 1 lb. Lanolin.

Lanolin Notes

Quoting Ed Harris’s notes: “The lanolin is optional. The cleaner works quite well without it. Incorporating the lanolin makes the cleaner easier on the hands, and provides better residual lubrication and corrosion protection if you use the cleaner as a protectant for long term storage.

I omitted Lanolin from my initial batch because I couldn’t locate any locally but then later added it to the previously mixed solution without problem.

Someone (on the Internet) had suggested using “Dax Lanolin Hair Dress” but, in the ingredients list for the jar I found in a beauty products store, “Lanolin” is #3 in the list, neither the sole nor even the primary ingredient. Nor does the label specify if the Lanolin is hydrous or anhydrous. “Dax Lanolin Hair Dress” is, therefore, not an appropriate source of Lanolin for Ed’s Red.

Walgreens lists “Lanolin, Hydrous” as a special order item but, according to Ed Harris, “hydrous Lanolin” won’t have the desired effect. Walgreens is also, therefore, “out” as a source of the Lanolin.

(Finally,) on a tip from another Ed’s Red user, I purchased a 16 oz. tub of Anhydrous Lanolin on the Internet from http://www.fromnaturewithlove.com/ for $8.50 (and paid almost the same again for shipping!). This appears to be the “right stuff.” See notes below on how to liquify the Lanolin prior to adding it to the mix.


  • 1 gal. gasoline container to hold the purchased kerosene, Walmart automotive department $1.93.
  • 1 gal. gasoline container in which to mix and store unused Ed’s Red, Walmart automotive department $1.93.
  • 1 “840 CRTG 5.56MM BALL M855 10 ROUND CLIPS” ammunition can in which to “use” (soak parts in) and store the (used) Ed’s Red, Allied Surplus, 4244 W. Dunlap, Phoenix AZ 85051, 623-435-2640, www.alliedsurplus.com, $7.45 plus tax. Note: I measured the various parts of my Smith & Wesson model 41 target pistol to determine the necessary minimum dimensions. They were 10 3/4" by 5 3/8" by 1" and I then measured the available ammunition cans before purchasing one. The selected can is large enough that all parts can “stretch out and lay down” without touching the sides (barely). [Indeed, the barrel sits at a slight upward angle which, I’m hopeful, will permit trapped bubbles to run up and out of the barrel.]
  • 1 pr. latex rubber gloves (impervious to Acetone and other ingredients – check the label!), Home Depot paint department, $2.97 plus tax. (Probably also available at Walmart.)
  • 1 “Chrome Organizer 9-6 inch” metal screen basket, Walmart kitchen utensils area with other organizers. Note: the basket is about 1/2" too wide for the ammunition can – I squished it to fit so that it would go in without touching the sides of the can.
  • 1 odd-length metal coat hanger wire attached as a “handle” to the chrome-plated metal screen allowing it to be placed into or removed from the ammunition can without having to immerse my hand. (Scavenged from a closet.)
  • 1 pr. safety glasses (already on hand).
  • Disposable paper funnels (already on hand – probably from an auto parts store) (used when pouring from the original product containers into the mixing / “clean storage” container).
  • Hardware cloth, 1/4" mesh, cut to fit and formed as a 1/2" high “platform” in the bottom of the ammunition can (to allow sludge to fall away from parts and accumulate below), Home Depot outdoor fence products area.
  • Metal shears for cutting the hardware cloth (already on hand – available at Home Depot but an old pair of wire cutting “diagonal” pliers would also work, or maybe the work area’s shop scissors [but will probably ruin them in the process]).
  • Fire extinguisher (already on hand). There are lots of flammable ingredients in this concoction so it is vital to have one immediately available that will work on flammable liquids. Read the directions to verify if the type you have is for use on liquids, and, of course, how to use it.
  • Source of compressed air such as the cans sold for use with computers (CostCo, $10.99/4pack or 12 oz. cans).
  • Other gun cleaning supplies: cleaning rod, jag, disposable cotton cleaning patches, Q-tips, nylon bristle brush, clean rags, etc..
  • Snap caps so that the complete functioning of the pistol can be hand-tested. (I use my own “Trash Can Snap Cap”, see [TrashCanSnapCap](pages/trash-can-snap-cap], when dry-firing, after cleaning I want snap caps that enable full movement, a full strike of the hammer, hence the second type of “snap cap” in my cleaning kit.)
  • Small bottle for storage and application of a small amount of Ed’s Red (to be drawn off before the Acetone and Lanolin are added). I use a small Remington “Gun oil” commercial container with an appropriate hand-written label.

Walmart Shopping List

Most of the ingredients and parts can be found at WalMart. Although I bought some of these at Home Depot, my next batch will be sourced almost completely at WalMart.

Here’s the shopping list for WalMart, ordered by department.

  • Auto department
    • 1 qt. ATF III, about $2.00
    • Two (2) one-gallon plastic gasoline containers (1 gallon, 4 ounce capacity), $1.93 each
    • Paper (or other “gasoline-safe”) funnel
    • Fire extinguisher appropriate for flammable liquid fires
  • Paint and tools department
    • 1 qt. Acetone, about $6.00
    • 1 qt. Deodorized Mineral Spirits, about $4.00
    • 1 pr. latex rubber gloves, about $3.00
    • 1 pr. safety glasses
  • Kitchen gadgets aisle
    • 1 metal screen basket of the appropriate size for your ammunition can (I had to squish the 9-6 inch basket a little)
  • Garden department (often “outside”)
    • 1 roll of 1/4" mesh hardware cloth, about $15.00 – You may have to go to Home Depot (or such) for this
  • Computers and Electronics
    • Can(s) of compressed air, (CostCo was cheaper but an additional shopping stop)
  • Cosmetics and Dental Needs (these departments are usually right next to each other)
    • Q-tips, price unknown (less than $2.00?)
    • Fiber toothbrush, about $2.00 [I don’t know if Ed’s Red will eventually attack the plastic bristles and/or handle. “Let the buyer beware.”]

Other Parts and Ingredients

(Probably not available at WalMart)

  • 1 qt. K1 Kerosene (fuels distributor?)
  • 1 ammunition can (surplus store?)
  • Misc. gun cleaning supplies: cleaning rag, disposable common cleaning patches (gun store), etc.
  • Snap caps (gun store, internet?)
  • Small bottle for drawn-off Ed’s Red for pre-scrubbing and oiling (I used an empty Remington “gun oil” bottle with a hand-written label)
  • 1 pc. odd-length of coat hanger wire (bedroom closet?)
  • Clean rags (bedroom closet?)

Mixing Note

  1. Mix the ATF, mineral spirits and kerosene first.
  2. Draw off a few ounces into a separate (“gun oil”) bottle for later use as an “Ed’s Red Compatible Oil”.
  3. Add the Acetone to the mix.
  4. Securely close the container to prevent evaporation (of the Acetone).
  5. Prepare the Lanolin. CAUTION: I microwaved the plastic 16 oz. tub of anhydrous Lanolin into a [hot!] liquid state. I did this in 30 second steps, checking after each increment. In my microwave, complete liquification took a total of three (3) minutes but I STRONGLY advise against attempting the melt in a single whack. Your microwave is almost certain to behave differently. Note also that, as it warmed, the volume increased slightly and, when fully liquified, the container was absolutely full and required a very careful carry to avoid spillage.
  6. Once liquified, carefully pour the [hot!] Lanolin into the mix and stir. It is incorporated immediately and remains in a liquid state with the other ingredients.
  7. Again, securely close the container to prevent evaporation (of the Acetone).


  1. I field-strip my pistols and prescrub selected areas (chamber and breech) using a small amount of previously drawn-off Ed’s Red and the nylon brush, and then I set each piece in the metal screen basket.
  2. Moving outside, I then put on the latex gloves and safety glasses (primarily because of the Acetone), carefully open the ammunition can containing one gallon of Ed’s Red (relieving any pressure therein) and, using the coat hanger wire handle, I angle the basket of parts slightly so the cleaner flows into the barrel and immerse everything. I close the can tightly and place it in a outside-of-the-house locked room for the night.
  3. The next morning, and again working outside, I put on the latex gloves and safety glasses and then carefully open the ammunition can (again relieving any pressure). I lift the basket of parts and, after letting them drip for a moment, rotate the basket 90 degrees and set it atop the open ammunition can to drip for a few more seconds. (The Acetone evaporates quickly from the open can so I try to minimize the “drip time” and close the soak container as soon as possible.)
  4. While the parts are dripping, I lay out a previously-used-for-this-purpose rag and then start removing each of the parts from the basket and laying them on the rag (to drain some more). When empty, I put the basket back in and close the ammunition can (to minimize evaporation of the Acetone).
  5. I lay out a new, clean and dry (second) rag and, using a third rag (also clean and dry), thoroughly wipe each part and transfer it to the second rag.
  6. I move inside and take off the latex gloves at this point on the assumption that any remaining Acetone has evaporated, or is in low enough concentration to no longer be a hazard. (My wife pointed out that Acetone is the #1 ingredient in her finger nail polish remover and, therefore, anyone using it comes into occasional contact with Acetone so perhaps my removing the latex gloves at this point is, indeed, Ok.)
  7. Use the nylon bristle brush again (dampened in Ed’s Red) at this point if needed.
  8. Use the compressed air over a large trash container (but far enough back so the blown-off liquid doesn’t come back into your face) to blow-off – or Q-tips to sop-up – as much liquid as possible in every nook and cranny of all parts. (Beware of “blowing away” small parts into inaccessible corners.)
  9. “Jag” the barrel with several dry cotton patches inspecting them for “more crud”. Continue until the patches are as clean coming out as going in.
  10. Reassemble and test the functioning of the pistol (using snap caps).
    Note: Recommendations vary at this point on whether or not to lubricate the bearing surfaces. For my Model 41, I’m following the “no more oil” approach of simply relying on the Ed’s Red that remains on the gun at this point to provide all needed lubrication and protection. For my 1911, however, I oil it according to Ed Masaki’s recommendations. (Search the internet for “Ed Masaki 1911 Oiling Tips”.)


  • The ammunition can contains the “in use” (and “used”) mixture with an appropriate label [see Ed Harris’s description for the verbage; this is nasty stuff so label it accordingly].
  • Three (3) quarts of kerosene remain in one gasoline container, enough for three more gallons on Ed’s Red.
  • Any remaining unused and fresh Ed’s Red is stored in the second gasoline container, again with an appropriate label.
  • All three containers are stored (fully closed) in an outside-of-the-house room that is securely locked.


The red dot in the safety dimple on my Model 41 target pistol has disappeared. I’m guessing that, over several uses, it was dissolved. Using a single bristle from a paint brush, I now replace it with an appropriate shade of fingernail polish on an as-needed basis.

And for that reason, I do not immerse nor otherwise treat other painted areas (such as sights with paint dots) with Ed’s Red.

08/30/2005 Addendum:

I no longer use Ed’s Red. I found it was just too smelly, messy and the “dunk and soak” approach tended to move dirt deep inside the mechanism rather than fully removing it.

In mid-2005 I started using a brief soak in Simple Green (yes, it is water-based!) with vigorous brushing, a rinse in extremely hot running water immediately followed by wiping away most of the water, a 30 minute bake in either the oven (175 degrees) or outside on the patio in the summer Phoenix AZ sun, a light spray of Rem Oil and wipe as dry as possible, a conventional cleaning of the barrel (Hoppes #9 or whatever, brush and cotton swabs and, on the 1911, a careful use of a dental pick to clean the shoulder inside the barrel where the 45 ACP cartridges index [sit]) and then TW-25B lubricant (grease) any place metal bears on metal (look for the wear marks). When finished, the guns are almost completely dry.

In the Phoenix AZ dry climate in which I live and shoot, this approach seems to work well. Your mileage, of course, may vary.


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