How to Clean A Shotgun: Maintaining Your Firearm

Clean your shotgun
Written by Shawn Harrison

For a person to become sure that his shotgun will continue to function optimally in any situation, you will need to keep it in its top performance by doing some regular cleaning on it. This is usually a very important thing to do thus your shotgun will always remain clean, functional and also it will last for long. Maintaining your shotgun also means keeping it safe since you wouldn’t want your firearm to be unpredictable.

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You should always aim at keeping your gun to work steadily and should also be reliable. Nobody would like his shotgun to fail them, at least not when you need it the most. This is why in this article today, we shall look at how you can effectively clean your shotgun thus it will serve you for a longer period while staying in its top shape.

Steps of Cleaning Your Shotgun

#1 Safety first

Of course, you must start with ensuring your safety and the safety of those around you.

Cleaning Your Shotgun safety

This is actually why we shall start by telling you how you can unload your weapon safely without injuring yourself and also avoiding any accidents.

  • The first and most important thing to do is making sure that your shotgun is unloaded. Remove your fingers from the trigger then make sure your gun is also pointed in a safe direction, away from yourself and those around you.
  • On your shotgun, just around the trigger guard, find the bolt action and press it. Make sure the muzzle is still pointed in a safe direction then use the pump action to unload your shotgun. Continue with the pumping until you see all the shells appear in the compartment of the magazine.
  • Proceed by removing the ammo after you have removed all the shells from your magazine. This is an important step which will help you to avoid unexpected firing when cleaning the gun. This is the main reason why you should ensure your safety first before anything else.
  • When you are done, the bolt action button should then be taken back to its place. This is usually done so that you may check if there could be some more ammo in the gun.

#2 Wiping

For this, you will just use some cloth or any cleaning sheet. These should be used to wipe off any dust that was built up and also the caked carbon that was created due to using the gun for a long time. Failure to do so might lead to your gun being dysfunctional or even being corroded.

Traces of powder and old oil can also be found on your shotgun thus you will need to carefully do the wiping. Make sure all the gaps also needs to be cleaned. This will make your shotgun look as good as new. The chamber area should also be cleaned. The rag you are using might turn black due to a lot of dirt hence the gun should be cleaned regularly.

#3 Solvent

For you to clean your shotgun, you will need to have a solvent with you. There are usually a variety of solvent products that are very cost-effective. The right choice is always the one which will not have some negative impact on your health when you come into contact with it or even inhale it when you will be cleaning.

When using the solvent, you need to be very keen and only spray it in little amount bit by bit then let it stay for about 20 minutes or even more so that the already built up dirt could get soaked. You must always make sure that all the areas of your shotgun are covered well by the solvent. This is recommended for the guns having caked oil, gun powder and carbon among others.

#4 Scrubbing

After applying the solvent and leaving it for about 20 minutes, you can now proceed with the scrubbing. This is usually done using a brush which can easily be purchased from a local gun store. It is recommended that you use brushes of high quality for best results.

This includes those brushes made with bronze or just any other material as long as it is designed specifically for scrubbing and cleaning guns. This will really help you remove the dirt from shotguns and pistols.

Scrubbing shotgun

In case you were not lucky to grab one of these brushes, a regular toothbrush can also be used or just any similar brush. The brush should be used to thoroughly scrub the surface of your shotgun. Using the solvent first, then scrubbing will really help you to remove the dirt from your shotgun.

Using the brushes also means having a much more easy work when cleaning your shotgun and making it look as good as new.

#5 The second wiping

Ensure that you have yourself a cloth that is lint-free completely. This will make you do an effective cleaning thus getting good results. After you are done with the scrubbing and brushing then your shotgun will just be over.

What you will need to do now is just cleaning the whole surface using that piece of cloth and make it completely dirt free and clean. The solvent layer will also get removed along when cleaning.

Check out for the parts that will make your cloth a bit darker and clean them until they are completely clean. You can also use patches instead of using the cloth. These patches can always be purchased, they are also designed and specifically made for cleaning firearms.

Make sure that you buy the patches that are 100% made of cotton and cannot be reused. Luckily you can get them in different batches of 50 or 100. This will enable you to back up your stash of patches hence ensuring enough patches for cleaning purposes.

#6 Solvent soaked

In this step, you will need to soak the shotgun again in the solvent. Also, make sure you use a soaked cloth to clean the areas and gaps that are a bit difficult to reach.

Solvent soaked

Just to remind you, you must make sure that you clean every place thoroughly, especially those areas that often tend to turn your cloth black.

#7 Picking

For this step, you will need to do some picking. Using a pick, clean all those areas that always have the carbon build ups. You can always find these build-ups in your gun’s chamber but to effectively clean it, you will need to do that using the picks that will help you clean the corners and the sides of the metal. By doing this, your gun will be thoroughly cleaned up.

#8 Barrel

For you to be able to have your shotgun completely clean and ready, the barrel should also be cleaned. You might need to use the cleaning rod instead of a solvent soaked cloth. However, this method is not that guaranteed to give you maximum results so most people will choose to go with the clean cloth soaked in the solvent.

Barrel cleaning

For those who will choose to use the solvent soaked cloth for cleaning, you must ensure that you have plenty of these since you will be changing them until the barrel is completely clean. Make sure that all the clothes you are using are all soaked in the solvent then after you are done with the cleaning, you will need to swab the remaining dirt from the barrel just by using a dry cloth.

After all, this is over, you will need to oil another cloth again and use it in swabbing the whole barrel. This usually protects the barrel against oxidation thus no rust will appear on your shotgun’s barrel anytime soon.

#9 Oiling up

If you have been doing this for quite some times now, you will realize that some parts usually needs more oiling than the other parts. When you go through the manual you got when you purchased your shotgun, you will see some areas that are specified and listed to help you know just the parts that should be oiled and how often you should be oiling them.

See also: Best Gun Oil: Keep your Weapon Clean

If you have no manual that can help you when doing this, then you will need to crack it out yourself simply by looking for the parts that are most likely to wear out.

Oiling up

Just pointing you towards the correct direction, it is usually recommended that you oil the bolt rails and the bolts just so to prevent the wearing off and oxidation. The firing pin and the housing are the only parts that shouldn’t be oiled. Doing so will only get the dirt to build up in your shotgun and this might make it fail when firing and that is how people usually end up with dysfunctional firearms.

#10 Finishing up

Once you are over with the oiling all those parts that requires oiling and maintenance, you will need to get another clean cloth and use it to wipe your shotgun, removing any excess oil that might be on your shotgun’s surface.

Another important thing that you should know is just what to have around you so that you will be able to effectively clean your shotgun. This is actually why we have also decided to list down all the necessary things for maintaining your shotgun.

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Based on what you prefer, you will be able to choose what you need from the list but for you to do some effective cleaning, we recommend that you buy the complete firearm cleaning kit. Buying this will ensure you perform some top notch cleaning and maintenance to your shotgun.

What You Will Need to Clean Your Shotgun

Cleaning rod

This is actually made and designed in a manner that will help you to clean the barrel of your shotgun. Many people usually prefer using the cleaning rod just for the sake of cleaning. For effectively cleaning of your shotgun’s barrel, it is advised that you clean your barrel just as described in this article.

For those who are usually interested in cleaning the barrel using the cleaning rod, you might consider looking for rods that are made of soft materials or just any material provided that it is softer than the material used to make the barrel.

Cleaning kit

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If you damage or spoil the barrel of your gun, you will only remain with a dysfunctional gun. This is simply why you need to be more careful with the choices you make when shopping for cleaning gears.


Picks are always important and that is why it is usually recommended that you have some in your cleaning kit. Following the steps above, you will have noticed that there are some parts of a gun that might need to be cleaned using the picks.

For instance, the pieces of metal and the chamber can be cleaned more effectively using a pick. This always helps in removing the carbon build-ups thus leaving you with a clean and maintained shotgun.

Jags and loops

These are just some attachments that are usually made so that they can be used together with the cleaning rod. Both of them must first be placed on the cleaning rod’s tip for them to be used. They are always used for cleaning the gun’s barrel.

The jag’s middle always is attached to the cleaning rod just at the tip. This usually keeps it secure and safe from getting removed while cleaning up your gun.

Jags and loops

For the loops, they are slightly different from the jags. They are usually some hole like attachments which can be secured to the cleaning rod. They are usually used for to do some effective cleaning thus maximum results is guaranteed.

Patches, swabs, and clothes

It is mostly advised that you use a cloth that is lint-free for wiping and cleaning your gun. You can also use the patches to clean your shotgun. There is no problem when you choose to use a cloth for cleaning the parts of your gun but for you to clean the bore using the cleaning rod, it is usually recommended that you go for those patches made of 100% cotton.

They are always available and can be bought in large packages at a low and fair prices. You must also ensure that when you are cleaning the bore, the patches must be changed as soon as they turn black or just get dirty.

Patches, swabs, and clothes

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Using clean patches is usually a very important thing as it ensures a thorough cleaning of your shotgun. Using swabs is also another option and are mostly used to clean the shotguns and other firearms too. For a cost-effective cleaning, you can purchase the reusable swabs that can be used again after washing them using warm water.

Cleaning brushes

When it comes to removing the carbon build-ups you will use some brush after the application of the solvent. However, the barrel can still be cleaned using the brushes. The special brushes for cleaning the guns are usually made using nylon, bronze or even brass. If there is a lot of dirt on the gun’s surface, then it is recommended that you use those brushes made using bronze.

Cleaning brushes

This is because bronze is just strong enough to help you remove the carbon build-ups. For cleaning the barrel, use a brush that is made using a soft material, something like nylon is recommended since it won’t be able to damage the barrel of your gun.


This is needed for the dissolving and removing the dirt that has already built up, the carbon and lead. Purchasing a suitable solvent is usually recommended for your shotgun cleaning. Choose an environment-friendly solvent thus keeping both you and your environment safe.


If you have a shotgun that looks a bit oily, it is because of the dirt that has built up on the surface of the gun. For you to effectively degrease your shotgun, you will need to get one of the many available degreasers that are available in the stores.


For you to protect the surface of your gun from rust or oxidation, you will need to look for gun lubricants and oils.

Lubricant and brushes

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Applying these will ensure that some protective layer is made on your gun. This usually will help to keep your gun away from rusting or oxidation.

Waterproof protect

There are always a lot of products in the market that will help you to protect your shotgun in case it is exposed to some bad weather or a heavy rain.

Waterproof protect

These products might just help your firearm to last longer while protected from corrosion. This will help keep your gun functional and free of corrosion for long.


For all those places that are difficult to clean using cloths or patches, you can go for a regular toothbrush. You can also purchase a toothbrush that is specifically made to clean those areas which are difficult to reach thus you won’t have to use much effort to clean the dirt.

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The regular toothbrushes can just be a good choice. The only difference is that toothbrushes specially made for cleaning guns are made with different materials making them more suitable for this job.


With all these in mind, you will notice that shotguns are very easy to clean. You only need to know to know what tool to use for what particular part of your gun.

Shotgun cleaning and maintanence

Also, make sure to refer to your manual if you are not sure of your shotgun structure. Staying safe is also another important thing you will need to keep in mind. Practicing the safety measures means staying safe and also the people around you. Having a firearm is an investment so keep it clean and maintain it very well to serve you well for long.

For tips on how to select the top gun cleaning kit you will need, see our amazing reviews to find out more.


Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.