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For some people, routine cleaning and maintenance is the worst part of gun ownership. For others, like myself, cleaning your AR-15 is a very zen, almost meditative process. And most people probably fall somewhere in between.
Whatever your position, you need high-quality products to do so. Today, we’re taking a particular look at a particular cleaning product for a particular weapon: the best AR-15 solvents.
A gun cleaner, usually in the form of a solvent, is an essential part of the cleaning process for any firearm, the AR-15 included. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to choose the right AR-15 solvent for your rifle.
Our favorite AR-15 cleaning solvent is Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner. It’s a classic for a reason: it’s a highly affordable yet highly effective gun cleaning solvent.
Here Are the Best AR-15 Cleaning Solvent (Our Picks)
Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner
For many gun owners, Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner is the go-to gun cleaner. There’s certainly a bottle in my workbench right now. So does my dad and so did his, when he was still with us. Hoppe’s has survived for more than a century, building a loyal, multi-generational customer base. Quality products like Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner are why.
This gun cleaning solvent is incredibly effective at removing all kinds of stuff from your rifle, including rust, fouling, lead, and powder residue. A little goes a long way, and the cap has a narrow opening, making it easy to dispense just a little at a time.
Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner is very affordable and it comes in a bunch of different sizes so you can get as much solvent as will fit in however much space you’re willing to dedicate to it. Most sizes have a childproof cap, but the Hoppe’s packaging is famously leaky, so you’ll want to make sure you store it upright or transfer it to a leak-proof container.
The OG version is a liquid, but Hoppe’s also makes a foaming version. Whichever size or version you get, Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner is as affordable as it is effective. That is to say, very.
You can buy this cleaning solvent on its own, or you can get it as part of a larger cleaning kit. The Hoppe’s Cleaning Kit for .22-.255, for example, includes Hoppe’s No. 9 cleaning solvent, plus Hoppe’s No. 9 Lubricating Oil, patches, an aluminum cleaning rod, a rod extension, a bore brush, a jag, and a slotted tip, all in a clamshell case.
If you’ve just purchased your AR-15 and are looking to get the basics in a convenient way, a cleaning kit like this one is a great way to do that. You’ll probably want to buy larger bottles of both the bore cleaner and lubricating oil before too long, though, since the included bottles are pretty small.
- A variety of size options
- Liquid and foam versions
- Bottle can be leaky
- Scent is notoriously strong unpleasant
Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner is a classic and for good reason: it’s effective at cleaning up fouling and corrosion of all kinds from just about any firearm. Plus, it’s very affordable.
Ballistol Multi-Purpose Oil
CLP by Sage & Braker
Our favorite liquid CLP is CLP by Sage & Braker. In fact, this is actually the CLP currently sitting in my cleaning kit.
A lot of CLPs are sub-par and not equally effective at cleaning, lubricating, and protecting. This Sage & Braker CLP excels at all three, at least relative to other CLPs. I still wouldn’t use it as my main cleaning method, but it’s great for a quick clean when necessary.
Like Ballistol, CLP by Sage & Braker is another really effective option that’s also biodegradable and non-toxic. CLP by Sage & Braker has a spray pump bottle, which is a bit less convenient to spray than an aerosol.
On the other hand, you can also just unscrew the top and pour a little out onto a cloth, patch, or even directly on your AR-15 to use CLP by Sage & Braker like any other liquid gun cleaning solent.
A unique feature of CLP by Sage & Braker is that it’s designed to attract less debris than other CLPs, and in my experience, that’s how it works in reality too. This is thanks to the anti-static formula, which also helps prevent corrosion and carbon build-up in the future.
CLP by Sage & Braker comes in a 4 ounce spray bottle. The little spray bottle fits well in my range bag or the drawer of my workbench, which is handy, but it would be nice to be able to buy it in larger containers to cut down on the cost per ounce.
Warning, though: in my experience, this bottle leaks like crazy if you leave it on its side, so you’ll want to make sure it stays upright.
- Doesn’t attract as much debris as other CLPs
- Prevents corrosion and carbon build-up
- Spray bottle packaging
- Very effective, especially relative to other CLPs
- Costly relative to other cleaning products
- Bottle leaks badly if stored on its side
When it comes to CLPs, it’s hard to top this one from Sage & Braker. We love the anti-static formula and the versatility of the pump spray packaging.
While CLP by Sage & Braker is my personal favorite CLP, Break-Free CLP-2 is possibly the most popular CLP on the market. It’s even used by the US Army for everything from small arms to tanks.
A large portion of Break-Free CLP-2’s popularity may be its excellent weather tolerance. Corrosion inhibitors in this aerosol spray CLP stands up well against extreme heat, extreme cold, humidity, and even salt.
It also comes with a little straw that attaches to the aerosol spray head to help you direct the spray for more targeted application and less wasted product. There are 4 ounces of Break-Free CLP-2 in each spray can.
Other than that, there’s not much to say about this basic CLP, except perhaps that Break-Free’s parent company is Safariland. If you’re familiar with Safariland, you know that they’re known for their high-quality products. Break-Free carries that same quality over into their products as well.
- Weather resistant
- Straw helps direct the spray
- Sprayer can be tricky to use
Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s good, but there is something to be said about a lot of good reviews, especially when one of those reviews is from the US Army. That’s the case for Break-Free CLP-2, an affordable yet effective spray CLP.
Slip 2000 EWL
The EWL in Slip 2000 EWL stands for “Extreme Weapons Lubricant.” This reflects the fact that the formula was designed for use on chain guns and machine guns. In other words, Slip 2000 EWL is more than effective enough for your AR-15.
Slip 2000 EWL is particularly resistant to heat and friction. This is due to its synthetic ingredients. There’s no mineral oil or petroleum so Slip 2000 EWL doesn’t burn off with heat and also attracts less debris.
In addition, the formula is highly penetrating and doesn’t evaporate because it doesn’t have or need a liquid carrier. It’s still present, even when the surface feels dry to the touch. It leaves a thin protective film that provides a barrier against water and corrosion, protecting against saltwater, chlorine, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and more. It also makes it easier to clean up fouling later. At the same time, it’s safe for wood and plastic and is non-toxic.
Slip 2000 EWL comes in a 4 ounce bottle.
As far as downsides go, the formula is very thin, which makes it messy and easy to overuse. I suggest not trying to pour it directly onto your rifle, and instead pouring onto a patch or rag to make it easier to control the amount you apply.
- Originally designed for chain guns and machine guns
- Highly weather resistant
- Safe for wood and plastic
- Applicator can be tricky to use
- Messy and easy to overuse
Slip 2000 EWL was designed for weapons that experience far greater wear and tear than the average civilian-owned AR-15 and is highly resistant to even extreme weather conditions, so it’s sure to take whatever you throw at it in stride.
Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner
Hornady is, of course, best known for their ammunition, but they make other firearms products as well, including cleaning products.
Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner is another aerosol solvent option that comes with a straw to help you direct the spray. It’s basically odorless and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.
Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner comes in a 10 ounce can and provides more than twice the size of Break-Free CLP-2 but for only a couple bucks more.
With that said, it’s not quite as effective as other options, though it does help remove fouling, oils, and other grime. You just might need to put in a little bit more elbow grease.
It can be a good option for light cleanings so you can reserve a more effective, more expensive cleaning solvent for bigger cleaning jobs. With that said, Ballistol is still cheaper per ounce.
- Virtually no smell
- Very affordable
- Aerosol can comes with a straw
- Large can size
- Not as effective as some of our other recommendations
Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner is a great all-in-one cleaning solvent from one of the most well-respected names in modern ballistics. It’s great option for anyone who is already plugged into the Hornady ecosystem of products or just anyone looking for a convenient all-in-one solvent and lube.
Break Free Powder Blast Gun Cleaner
Break Free Powder Blast Gun Cleaner isn’t strictly a solvent, but it is incredibly effective, so it’s worth taking a look at if you’re in the market for a gun cleaner.
Instead of solvent, it sprays a fine powder at a high velocity to remove oil, grease, fouling, and more. You can then simply wipe your weapon clean and there’s no smell or residue left behind.
However, Break Free Powder Blast Gun Cleaner is only safe for metal and polymer surfaces. You’ll want to cover any components made of non-polymer and non-metal materials while use Break Free Powder Blast Gun Cleaner in order to keep those surfaces safe. However, it is safe for all metal finishes, even delicate blueing.
Break Free Powder Blast Gun Cleaner comes in a 12 ounce aerosol can.
- An effective alternative to traditional cleaning solvents
- No smell
- No residue
- Not safe for non-metal, non-polymer surfaces
Solvents are by far the most popular type of gun cleaner, but they aren’t the only option. If you’d like to try something outside of the traditional solvent family, Break Free Powder Blast Gun Cleaner is an excellent place to start. Just remember to follow it up with a quality gun oil, just like you would a solvent.
Bore Tech Eliminator Bore Cleaner
Bore Tech, like Hoppe’s, is another company well known for their high quality gun cleaning products, though they don’t have quite the history that Hoppe’s does.
If the quality of products like Bore Tech Eliminator Bore Cleaner is anything to judge by, though, Bore Tech will certainly get that same reputation eventually.
Eliminator Bore Cleaner works well against carbon, lead, and corrosion, but is particularly effective against copper fouling. It even contains a short-term rust preventative that is effective for up to 2 weeks.
This Bore Tech gun cleaner is biodegradable, non-hazardous, and ammonia free, and doesn’t have a strong smell. It’s also barrel safe, even if you leave your barrel to soak indefinitely.
Don’t take that to mean that you can put Eliminator Bore Cleaner on just anything though. It can damage wood varnish and may discolor nickel if left on for more than a few minutes. You’ll want to do a small patch test on any material you’re not sure about. Then again, that’s probably a good idea with any cleaning product, gun cleaning solvents included.
Bore Tech Eliminator Bore Cleaner is available in 4 ounce an 16 ounce containers. Each size features a tapered tip that helps with targeted application.
- Particularly effective for copper fouling
- Short term rust preventative
- Barrel safe
- Tapered tip
- Not as effective as some other products
- Can discolor nickel and damage varnish on wood
If you especially struggle with copper fouling, Bore Tech Eliminator Bore Cleaner may be just the gun cleaning solvent for you, though it is, of course, good with other fouling too. Be careful about where you get the formula to avoid damaging something you’d rather not, but the tapered tip and some careful protective barriers will help you protect your gun’s more sensitive surfaces.
M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner
Our last recommendation is M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner.
What makes M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner unique is that unlike most other solvents, this one actually works best if you start cleaning right away, rather than letting it soak for a while. This make M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner ideal for AR-15 owners who just want to get through the cleaning process as fast as possible but know the importance of a good, thorough clean.
It’s safe for all metal surfaces and helps prevent future fouling without leaving an oily residue. M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner is ammonia-free, non-flammable, non-toxic, and biodegradable. It has very little smell and is made more effective by heat and agitation, so feel free to really put your elbow into it.
However, it’s not safe for oil-based stock finishes. If that’s your stock, you’ll want to carefully cover it for cleaning, since the spray bottle makes targeted application tricky.
- No waiting for maximum effectiveness
- Available in a few different sizes, including 4 ounces, 8 ounces, and 32 ounces
- Heat and agitation make the formula more effective
- A bit costly
- Sprayer pump can be prone to issues like sticking or leaking
In most cases, a thorough rifle cleaning requires patience. Unfortunately, patience isn’t a virtue that all of us possess. If that’s you, then M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner with it’s immediate maximum effectiveness may just be the blessing that you’ve been waiting for.
Buying Guide: What Should You Look For in a Cleaning Solvent
Now that we’ve talked about the top AR-15 cleaning solvents, let’s talk about what to look for to choose the right one for you.
Penetrating Oil vs CLP vs Cleaning Solvent
There are three main types of gun cleaning solvents, traditional cleaning solvent, penetrating oil, and CLP. These categories aren’t distinct: there’s a lot of overlap between them. However, you can still broadly categorize most cleaning solvents into at least one of these groups.
Solvent is your basic gun cleaner. It breaks down oil and corrosion, as well as copper, lead, and carbon buildup, and more. It can be used on the inner parts of your firearm or on the outside.
Penetrating oils are usually made up of a solvent, plus a lubricating oil. However, their primary purpose is to be a cleaning agent. The main advantage of penetrating oil is that it’s good at getting into places that it can be tricky to get a traditional cleaning solvent, even working its way underneath corrosion buildup.
CLP stands for “clean, lubricate, protect.” CLP is, ostensibly, an all-in-one product that does all three of those things. In reality, however, that’s only sort of the case. CLPs are generally pretty good at cleaning guns, but their ability to lubricate and/or protect is where things get questionable.
Of course, you can always apply a little bit of extra oil to lubricate and protect your gun. For the most part, however, CLP should be considered a shortcut for a quick field cleaning, not a regular part of maintenance.
Obviously, your AR-15 cleaning solvent needs to effectively clean your weapon. That is, after all, the whole point of a cleaning solvent.
Whatever cleaning solvent you choose should be able to quickly and easily break down grease and corrosion, plus carbon, lead, and copper buildup. Even if you enjoy cleaning your AR-15 and find the whole process therapeutic, you probably don’t want to be spending ages trying to get off some stubborn rust.
Of course, with any cleaning solvent, you’ll still need good quality tools, like a bore snake and cleaning brushes, and should expect to put in some elbow grease for particularly stubborn messes, but an effective cleaning solvent will give you a considerable head start.
Remember, you don’t just clean your firearm so it looks good (though cleaning certainly does help with that). You’ve got to thoroughly clean your rifle to make sure that it stays in its best possible working order.
You also want to be sure to pay attention to the amount of cleaning solvent in the container, especially when comparing prices. One container may seem a lot cheaper, but if you look at the cost per ounce, it may actually be more expensive for the amount of solvent you get, even for the exact same product. Buying in bulk saves money, even on gun cleaning solvent.
In addition, a small container just doesn’t go very far. If you get a small bottle, you’ll find yourself constantly having to buy more gun cleaner, especially if you shoot frequently or have multiple guns.
On the other hand, small bottles are very handy for throwing in your range bag for quick clean ups. They’ll also fit more easily into a cleaning kit.
One way to get the benefits of a small sized bottle and buying in bulk at the same time is by buying a small, leak-proof bottle and putting some cleaning solvent into it from a larger container. Then just throw the little bottle into your range bag or cleaning kit. You can also get a bottle with a needle tip applicator to help get into those hard-to-reach areas, regardless of what type of dispenser the original container has.
When we say formula, we’re talking about the consistency of the formula. Here are a few of the most common:
Most gun cleaning solvents are liquid. Liquid solvents are incredibly effective, but it can be messy and it’s really easy to accidentally use too much liquid solvent. If you do use too much, the leftover liquid solvent can become greasy and is prone to attracting, dust, lint, and other debris.
This debris can cause malfunctions. In short, you have to practice some discretion with how much liquid solvent you apply. Generally, it’s a good idea to apply the solvent to a cloth or patch, then use that to apply the solvent to your gun. That makes it easier to control the amount of solvent you use than applying it directly to your AR does.
Aerosol sprays are useful because they can really get into those nooks and crannies on your AR-15 for a really thorough cleanup. However, like with liquid solvents, it can be easy to use too much. In addition, some of the solvent will be wasted by missing the gun and mixing with the air. Spray solvents aren’t as messy as liquid solvents, but you’ll still get some spray beyond your weapon.
Aerosol sprays are also far less likely to leak if left on their side. On the other hand, aerosols tend to perform poorly in extremely cold weather.
Foam solvents are easy to apply and easy to remove, and they’re not as messy as liquids or sprays. They allow for targeted application and can be left on to really break down any build-up and oil. On the other hand, they aren’t always great for getting into crevices and other small spaces because they stay in place so well.
Just about any gun solvent can be used with an AR-15. The platform’s main materials, metal and plastic, tend to stand up well to solvents. However, there are specialty solvents designed for less durable guns.
These solvents generally won’t hurt your AR, but they may cost a lot more than a general purpose solvent while cleaning your gun with the same efficiency. That’s because they’re made for more delicate materials that aren’t found on your AR-15.
There’s no reason to shell out more money for a specialty solvent when a run-of-the-mill solvent will do the job just fine. Of course, if you do have some unusual accessories, like wooden furniture, on your AR, you will want to make sure that your solvent of choice can be used with those accessories.
Cleaning solvents are effective, but they’re not exactly great for your health, especially with too much exposure. Always be careful when applying solvents. Use them in a well-ventilated space and wear gloves. You may even want to consider wearing a face mask for some extra protection.
If you have little ones around, remember to treat gun cleaning solvent like you would any other toxic chemical. Keep it out of reach of children. Ideally, put it in your gun safe or keep it in a container with a child-proof cap.
And, of course, you need to practice basic gun safety while cleaning your firearm. Before cleaning, completely remove the magazine. Check and doublecheck the chamber to make sure it’s empty before disassembling your rifle.
Is CLP Bad for Guns?
CLP is supposed to clean, lubricate, and protect your guns, all in one step. Sounds pretty incredible, right? The thing about CLP, though, is that like many all-in-one products, it doesn’t necessarily do all of those things well.
In CLP’s case, it’s great at cleaning. The lubricating and protecting is where it falls short. We already know that solvents (the part of CLP that cleans) are great at breaking down oil. The problem being, the oil in CLP is what is supposed to lubricate and protect.
That means that CLP will certainly get your gun clean, but it’s not adequate for lubricating and protecting your gun. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever use CLP.
If you’re just doing a quick clean before you leave the range or between deeper cleans, that’s fine. However, you shouldn’t only ever use CLP or else your gun will be more prone to malfunctions.
My favorite AR-15 solvent (and probably my favorite gun cleaning solvent in general) is Hoppe’s No. 9 Bore Cleaner. It’s a seminal gun cleaning solvented that has been around for a long time, across generations. You don’t get that kind of success by not meeting expectations.
Hoppe’s No. 9 Bore Cleaner is very effective against pretty much all types of fouling. It comes in a wide variety of container sizes, so you can get a small bottle to throw in your range bag, a large jug to save money per ounce, or somewhere in between to suit your budget, available space, and other needs.
For those who don’t like liquid solvents, there’s also a foam version, and both versions are safe for most materials.
It’s hard to say that any one gun cleaning solvent is better than all the others though, because different people have different expectations from their gun cleaners. You might prefer the aerosol application of Ballistol or the fact that Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner has virtually no odor.
To find the right AR-15 cleaning solvent for you, you may want to sample the various solvents on this list until you find your favorite.