Guns and Gear

Hornady Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner Review

In today’s review, Andy Grossman takes a look at the Hornady Hot Tub — a sonic cleaning system for your firearms. Ultrasonic cleaners have been around for a while, but most only handle small things. This one can accommodate an AR upper. The Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner was provided to the author for review by Hornady.

Cleaning guns may be one of the worst tasks I have to do in my life. I honestly put it right up there with picking up the dog poop, doing dishes and cleaning the bathrooms. Yes, I seriously hate it that much.

Few people enjoy cleaning carbon residue and other gunk from their firearms. The Hornady Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner offers an elegant and relatively easy way to eliminate that job.

Because of my complete and utter hatred for the task of cleaning guns, I naturally look to alternatives. I have considered paying someone to do it for me — but I have a lot of guns, and because I have a lot of guns I in turn have very little money. So, paying someone just isn’t going to cut it. 

My solution came in the form of technology; not really new technology, but a new product that utilizes old technology to make tasks like cleaning guns or even brass and jewelry easier for everyone. That product is the Hornady Hot Tub 9L Sonic Cleaner.

Sonic Cleaners

I think it’s important to understand how an ultrasonic cleaner actually works before diving into the details of this one. Basically, a sonic cleaner uses sound waves and cleaning solution to dissolve the stuff that isn’t supposed to be on your gun. 


In this photo we see a side view of the Hornady ultrasonic firearms cleaner. It is longer than wide with the appearance of a small footlocker. It is large enough to accommodate and clean a 16 inch ar-15. The author states he found it very good to removes carbon residue. It can even clean cases and gets even the primer pockets dinner plate clean. We don't recommend eating from anything you use this to clean. That would be silly.
The Hornady Hot Tub is designed to be as easy to use when cleaning gun parts and equipment. It is large enough to accommodate an AR upper plus comes with a basket for cleaning small parts. 

I like to think of it as the scrubbing bubbles of gun cleaning; the sound waves do the work, so you don’t have to. The sonic cleaner’s solution helps dissolve the dirt and debris and the sound waves act like brushes that gently wash every crack and crevasse while you just sit back and wait. 

Now, sonic cleaners are not new, but Hornady specially designed the Hot Tub for guns and cleaning brass for reloading. 

Hornady’s Hot Tub Cleaner

Hornady took the sonic cleaner idea and went one step further by adding a built-in heating element that super-heats the solution to assist it in working faster and better. 


In this image, the author places an AR upper assembly into the tub of the sonic gun parts cleaner. It is long enough to accommodate many gun parts and will often do a job that is equal to or better than an old fashioned scrubbing with brushes and Hoppe's #9. If you've wanted one, give it a look. It worked great for the author. 
The 9-liter capacity of the Sonic Cleaner gives you a lot of volume to utilize for cleaning. You can use it to clean most everything in your gun safe. 

The Hot Tub is large enough to fit an AR upper, with the main cleaning tank being 25.5″ x 7.0″ x 4″. It holds a maximum of nine liters, or 2.3 gallons of solution/water mixture. It also comes with a small-parts basket as well as a smaller tank insert, so if you are just cleaning small stuff you don’t have to use so much solution.

The internal divider tank is 6.7″ x 4.7″ x 3.2″ and holds 1.6 liters or 1.7 quarts of solution for those smaller jobs. The basket is perfect for cleaning entire pistols. Just take the slide off, remove the barrel and recoil spring, and throw the entire thing in the basket, grip, and all. 

To assist in cleaning faster and more effectively, the Hot Tub has a built-in heating element that offers five temperature settings from 100-140°F as well as a “de-gas” function to remove air bubbles in the cleaning solution, making it more effective in cleaning. 

One of the best features of the Hornady Hot Tub is the fact you can put a whole AR upper in the thing without disassembling anything. You can utilize the rubber hanging straps to make sure the upper stays suspended in the solution. The straps are very easy to use and Hornady gives you plenty of spots to lock them into the unit so you can customize the height of the straps to work with any larger objects. 

Hands-On

The Hot Tub looks like a toolbox and is easy to transport and set up. The digital display is very easy to read, and the controls are just intuitive and simple to use without much browsing through the owner’s manual. There is a timer that will allow the unit to run from 0-30 minutes at a time, and the cleaning solution timer helps monitor the life of your cleaning solution, so you know when it needs to be changed out. 


Here the author shows us how to hang a riffle upper in the Hornady cleaning solution using rubber straps. The straps have nodules at set intervals to allow you to securely hang it at just the right height. The helps the cleaning solution get into all of the nooks and crannies to get the best results — a perfectly clean firearm!
You can use the included rubber straps to suspend large gun parts in the cleaning solution. This helps to ensure the cleaning action reaches all areas of the object being cleaned.

To change the solution, all you have to do is attach the supplied hose to the petcock and turn the dial to open the valve. The tank will drain in seconds and can easily be cleaned out using a little warm water to wash all the leftover contaminants out of the stainless-steel tub. It is really super easy to use. 

Step 1, fill the tank with distilled water and cleaning solution. 


The author adds purified water to the storage tank in this photo. Adding tap water can work, but keep in mind that tap water often contains minerals and other impurities that can reduce the effectiveness of the cleaner. When employing sonic cleaning to clean an AR or other firearm, you want to set up the solution correctly.
To begin the cleaning process, the author adds water to the tank. Distilled water will work better than tap water as it lacks any minerals or chemicals that may hinder the cleaning.

I use Hornady’s One Shot Sonic Clean Solution, which is mixed at a 40-to-1 ratio. After mixing your solution with the water, turn on the heater and wait for it to heat the solution up. It takes a little while to heat a full tank of cleaner up, so I like to apply the old saying of “a watched pot never boils.” Just walk away and let it do its thing. 

Once the tank is heated, I always run the de-gassing feature to remove all the air bubbles from the solution, ensuring it reaches its maximum cleaning potential.


Here the author mixes the Hornady One Shot cleaning solution with water. The Hornady sonic cleaner needs this solution to work effectively in the ultrasonic cleaning process to loosen and remove carbon build up and old gun grease. It also works well for brass cleaning. 
The author used Hornady’s One Shot Sonic Clean Solution in this review. He mixed it with water at a 1:40 ratio — one part cleaning solution to 40 parts water.

Now it is time to move on to step 2, getting cleaning. Simply unload your firearm and fieldstrip it per the manufacturer’s instruction, which can be found within your firearms manual. Then throw the disassembled and empty firearm in the solution. 

As I mentioned before, for pistols I use the basket and put all the parts in it. For rifles, I suspend the upper on the straps and then normally will do the lower separately in another cycle. However, you could throw it in the Hot Tub with the lower as well. 


As a real time saver, you can add all of your pistol and AR parts into the basket to be cleaned as shown in this photo. While it is not specifically designed for reloading uses, you can also use the basket as a brass cleaner as the Hornady liquid cleaner works perfectly well with spent cartridge cases. A smaller sonic cleaner might be preferable if you never clean an AR upper. 
The included basket is ideal for cleaning small firearm parts. You can add your AR bolt carrier group, pistol slide and frame, and virtually anything else in it for cleaning. 

Once you have all your parts in the heated cleaner, simply set your timer and hit “start.” The machine is a little loud, but that just lets you know the gun is getting clean. 

Once the timer goes off, it’s time for step 3. Pull all your parts out of the Hot Tub and start drying them off. I use a clean microfiber towel to dry the parts. You can use a microfiber towel to put a little elbow grease into some of the dirtier areas during drying. Chances are that dirt and grime will wipe right off with ease at this point. 


In this photo, the author adds a thin film of lube to his firearm after pulling it from the Hornady Lock-n-Load Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner. When you pull it out of the tub, be sure to wipe it down and blow it off if you have an air compressor to ensure all of the cleaning fluid is removed. Then add a bit of oil to reduce wear.
After cleaning, make sure to add a thin coat of gun lubricant to the gun’s wear parts. A good gun oil regularly applied can keep your firearm properly functioning for many years.

Be very careful when removing the parts from the tank because they will be hot. 

The third and final step is to oil everything up and reassemble. Again, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for oiling and reassembly. 

You are now left with the cleanest gun you have probably ever seen. I always function test everything after reassembly to make sure it is working properly. What you will notice is how smooth the action is because it is so clean. 

Final Thoughts on the Hornady Firearms Cleaner

The first time using the sonic cleaner, I kind of freaked out a bit. I was worried my gun was going to have no coating left on it and the plastic parts were just going to be melted into little piles of plastic. Trust me, your gun will be just fine and will thank you for the spa day when it’s all said and done. 


In this photo, the author demonstrates how to set the timer for the cleaning cycle. Sort of a washing machine for your firearms, the Hornady ultrasonic cleaner proved to be very effective at removing dirt and burned gunpowder from guns.
The Hornady Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner proved to be an excellent performer. It can make short work of cleaning your long guns and other firearm parts. 

So, I know what you’re thinking: This works, but is it worth the money, time, and set-up? My answer is simply, YES. It really is the solution to my gun-cleaning hatred. I’ll never go back to the traditional method of gun cleaning using a bunch of tools, brushes and chemicals. 

Breaking down your guns as far as you can easily do will definitely help you with the end result. When barrels, magazines and components are removed, they get cleaner faster and will always look better than leaving everything together. However, if you are lazy like me and hate the process, just throwing everything in the Hot Tub from Hornady is way better than the alternative of never cleaning at all. 

The Hornady Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner has an MSRP of $1,025 and a street price normally less than $800. If you are like me and have a lot of guns to clean and hate doing it, the price is well worth it. 

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