Cosmoline Removal

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CosmolineWhat is Cosmoline?  Cosmoline is something every antique collector of guns may run across during their collecting adventures.  It has a yellowish or light-amber color and looks very much like Vaseline petroleum jelly.  Guns, gun parts and other antique military weapons are often coated in Cosmoline to protect the weapons from weathering and serve as a firearm storage preservative to protect against rust and corrosion .  Commercially Cosmoline is used as a as a rust inhibitor.

Cosmoline Removal – The Best Method

Cosmoline Gun
There are several methods for removing Cosmoline, from using chemicals to applying heat. Cosmoline melts at 113°-125° F and has a flashpoint of 365° F.

Things you will need for cleaning include rubber gloves, some tooth brushes or nylon cleaning brushes, some pliers, some large garbage bags, newspaper, a large pan to collect the Cosmoline and some patience.

The first step to the cleaning process is to break down the gun into it’s individual parts.  Metal parts in one location and the wooden stock (Assuming it’s wood) in another.  If there is a lot of Cosmoline, you may not be able to break down the weapon.  You may have to use the methods below first.

For the metal parts you have several choices.

Method 1: Use Boiling Water – This method is the least expensive and the least toxic and seems to work pretty well.   After that wash everything down with a strong detergent and water.  Make sure to dry all parts and then apply oil.

Method 2: Use A Portable Hand Steamer – This method requires the purchase of a hand steamer or the use of one from a friend.  These can usually be found for $40-$100 at your local hardware store.  Normally during the steaming process, you can hold the various parts in one hand, while you steam with the other.  Some small parts may require the use of pliers to hold due to the heat of steamer.

Method 3: Use Brake Cleaner.  While much more toxic, brake cleaner usually does a rather good job of removing grease and grim buildup.  Don’t use Brake Cleaner on wood parts however.  The main downside to using Brake Cleaner is it is NASTY stuff.  I try and avoid it whenever possible.  It may also remove some of the bluing.

Method 4: Mineral Spirits.  I recommend if you use this approach, buy the non-smelly type.  Mineral Spirits do a pretty good job of removing oil and grim.  Soaking the parts in a mineral spirit bath will eventually melt away the Cosmoline.

For wood parts I recommend Method 1 and Method 2.  To finish off cleaning wood parts you can try wrapping them in a towel and then putting the parts in a black trash bag in the sun.  The heat from the sun should melt away some of the Cosmoline that has soaked into the wood.  An even quicker way is to put the package on the front of your cars dashboard, since cars typically get very hot in the sun.  I haven’t tried this, but I hear it does an amazing job.

Of the 4 methods, Method 2 seems to be the best with the least amount of mess.

Cosmoline Cleanup

Once finished, Cosmoline cleanup is pretty simple.  Just dispose of the liquid in trash bags.

A Word Of Caution.  Do not pour the leftover liquid in your drain pipes, because this will surely cause a clog of epic proportions when the Cosmoline cools in the pipes, solidify and adhering to them.

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About Author

I share a passion for collecting all things vintage and antique and love to share that passion with others.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this! I’m going to be ordering a Mosin Nagant fairly soon, and I saw some reviews saying it was smothered in Cosmoline. Now I’m prepared to remove it 🙂

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