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Cleaning Vintage Shotshells Paper Brass

I received a question from William.


Cleaning Vintage Shotshells Paper Brass


Could recommend the best method to clean vintage shotshells to improve the appearance, condition, value and protect them from the elements in the future?


Cleaning and Storage of Vintage Shotshells

Shotshell collection in trays

For long-term storage the shells must be dry and stored where the humidity is low. Storage that is a constant mild temperature and away from bright light and dust and keep them dry is ideal.

A good rule for the storage place is if you are comfortable there then the shells are also. So that rules out garages, attics, closets and any unconditioned air space. Yes a closet is not a good place because it is closed to the air condition space on the other side of the closed door.


The things to avoid:

High humidity




Bright light

High temperatures

Temperatures that change often

High heat sources that could cause an explosion

Chemicals used for cleaning or polishing

Anything corrosive


The safest way to clean old, antique and vintages shotshells is to use a clean white well laundered 100% cotton cloth like an old T-shirt to wipe the shells gently. Make sure your hands are clean without dirt or oils when touching the shell any where. If you use any thing else on the shells you may destroy or harm them. Remember you are the curator for your lifetime and to take care of them so others after you can enjoy and learn from them.

A strong dust and light resistance box is great for long term storage. It would be best to use a paper or plastic box that is pH neutral just like those used to store other valuable paper objects.

The less cleaning and polishing you do the better. If you must clean and polish your shells take a worthless shell to mess up or destroy before you work on a rare valuable shell to see how the stuff you use leaves the shells after you finish. If you have ever watched the Antique Roadshow on PBS you know many items have been cleaned and restored by someone who did not know what they were doing and they made the item worthless or worth much less than if they had let it be and not worked to improve it.

Old, antique and vintage shotshells are unique items and may never be made the same way again. To try and make them like new shiny shells is not true to what they are or represent. Enjoy your special found object just the way it is because it is much more special than and not as common as a new current shiny one.


Enjoy your shotshell collection!

Vintage Shot Shells Home page


About The Author

At shows since 1991 on the net since 1999! Founder and owner of


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