How to Clean An AR-15 – Your Ultimate Guide

How to Clean an AR-15
Alfred Mendoza

A well-cleaned and maintained AR-15 increases the reliability and longevity of the firearm. In addition, the residues accumulated from the AR-15 can cause malfunction when not properly cleaned. 

Our team spent 48 hours preparing a detailed guide on how to clean an AR-15 to prevent any damages and increase its reliability.

1. Gather All The Necessary Tools

When cleaning an AR-15, it is important to use the right tools to avoid damaging the parts. While many home tools can be used, an AR-15 rifle cleaning kit is highly recommended. 

With the use of a bore snake, cleaning rod, nylon brush, right size bore brushes, and cleaning patches, you can clean your weapon safely and effectively. You can also use a chamber brush, rifle mop, cotton swab, cleaning chemicals, and slotted patch tip.

2. Prepare Your Work Area

When cleaning any firearm, preparing your work area will help you be organized and keeps you from missing small parts of the AR-15. You can lay a gun cleaning mat on the table to help you clean the area afterward. 

If a cleaning mat is not available, you can opt for a table cloth or a bedsheet. 

3. Remove Ammunition, Magazines, & Clear The Rifle

The most important step when cleaning an AR-15 is removing ammunition, magazines and clearing the rifle. Out of 430 yearly recorded fatalities from unintentional firearms in the United States, 17% think the gun is unloaded [1]

To avoid any untoward incidents, ensure that the gun is unloaded and the ammunition must be away from your cleaning area. 

4. Separate The Upper From The Lower Receiver.

After ensuring that the firearm is incapable of firing, separate the upper receiver properly from the lower receiver. Push the pinout and pull the halves apart.  

When separating the two receivers, you can use a nylon punch on the extractor pin. It will help you easily separate the upper and lower receivers without risking any scratches or damages on either part. 

5. Remove The Charging Handle & Bolt Carrier Group

Now that you’re done separating the lower and upper receivers, remove the charging handle and the bolt carrier group. Wipe the charging handle and the bolt carrier group with a rag to remove the grit and black sludge. 

If you are new to fieldstrip, you can watch some videos on YouTube to prevent you from damaging your bolt carrier group and charging handle.

6. Disassemble The Bolt Carrier Group

To disassemble the Bolt Carrier Group, you can start by pushing the bolt to the back and removing the firing pin. Once the firing pin is removed, rotate the cam pin by ninety degrees before taking it out. 

Do not worry if the bolt did not slide out because that’s a normal problem, especially if it’s your first time. You can watch some helpful how-to videos on how to disassemble your bolt carrier group correctly.

Disassemble The Bolt Carrier Group

7. Remove The Buffer & Buffer Spring 

You can use punch when removing the buffer and the buffer spring in the buffer tube. Be reminded that the retaining pin on the buffer tube is under tension, so be careful when working with the buffer spring. 

You can also remove your diamond grip Microflex gloves first while doing this procedure so the grip will be firm and will not slide. 

8. Clean The Chamber, BCG, Buffer Assembly, & Barrel

After disassembling all the major components of the AR-15, you can now clean the chamber, BCG, buffer assembly, and barrel. You can use bore snakes, bore cleaner, a cleaning rod, and a good bore brush when cleaning the parts. 

Our team recommends cleaning the parts from breech to muzzle with cleaning solvents to effectively remove residues and dirt buildup.

Clean The Chamber, BCG, Buffer Assembly, & Barrel

9. Polish The Charging Handle, FCG, & Upper Receiver

After making sure that the gun bore, gas key, and gas tube are free from any carbon buildup or residues, you can polish the charging handle, fire control group, and the upper receiver. You can wipe a light coat of gun oil on a cleaning rag to wipe the whole thing down. 

Our team suggests using four rags on the upper receiver to keep you from running back and forth when cleaning and lubricating the parts. 

Recommended Posts:

10. Clean & Inspect The Lower Receiver

With a rag or patch, clean the receiver and the magazine as it can have dirt and carbon buildup, and check the trigger mechanism as you clean it. The spring, keepers, firing pin and bolt cam pin, and rear takedown pin must be in place.

Check the safety selector and remove any debris using a cotton swab and CLP that may cause malfunction. In addition, check the magazine release and bolt catch button and clean any contaminants before lubrication and reassembly.

Clean & Inspect The Lower Receiver

11. Lubricate & Reassemble The Rifle

After ensuring no damage to the rifle’s parts, it’s time to lubricate the parts before reassembly. You must lubricate from the charging handle to the bolt carrier group to ensure that there will be no rust buildup after the AR-15 is cleaned. 

A drop or two of lubricants and a lightly oiled rag is manageable, however, do not over-lubricate because it can damage your rifle. 

12. Perform A Function Check

After putting back the rifle together and placing the take down pins, it is important to perform a function check. The first thing to check is the proper rotation of the safety and the smooth mechanism of the charging handle.  

When performing a function check, the rifle must be clear of any ammunition then point it in a safe direction. If all the parts function well, then your rifle is now good as new. 

13. Clean Up Your Magazine

The primary cause of jams and feeding issues of a magazine is a dirty magazine. By cleaning up your magazine, you can maintain a reliable and better magazine. 

The rifle’s mag lock must be in a safe direction before opening it if you don’t want the spring to hit your face. Disassemble the magazine and clean the insides before reassembling it.

Clean Up Your Magazine

14. Store Your Rifle

After cleaning and lubricating your rifle, it is now safe to store it in a dry place. Always store your rifle lubricated and cleaned. If stored uncleaned, the buildup would be hard to remove, and it can damage your rifle. 

If you have your gun safe, putting a dehumidifier will help with the stability of the temperature. 

15. Perform A Routinary Maintenance

When performing routinary rifle maintenance, you must consult the manufacturer of your rifle to perform the precise maintenance schedule. Use the aforementioned bore brushes, bore snakes, and a basic kit on your gun maintenance. 

Not all guns are the same for maintenance, and rifle over-cleaning can sometimes cause damage.

Safety Tips You Need To Do Before Cleaning Your Rifle

Safety Tips You Need To Do Before Cleaning Your Rifle
  • Triple check if your gun is unloaded and remove any magazine before you start cleaning. 
  • Never work with your ammo laying around. Keep all your ammunition in a separate room or far from your workspace.  
  • Getting rifle cleaning kit tools will help you work on small parts like takedown pins and avoid damages to your AR-15. 
  • Never clean your gun with a company to avoid interruptions.
  • Never listen to music or watch TV because distraction can create untoward incidents. 
  • Get eye protection and hand gloves to avoid hitting the eye, or get a splash of gun cleaner later.  
  • Never multi-task when cleaning any firearm. The only key tool for safe cleaning is concentration.


Yes, you may need to buy a pre-made cleaning kit for your AR-15 if you don’t have any cleaning tools with you. If you decide not to build your own cleaning kit, you can have one at just under fifteen bucks. All your cleaning accessories will help you clean effectively and quickly.

The best lubricant you can use in cleaning your AR-15 is the Prom Hoppe’s M-Pro 7 LPX Gun Oil. Aside from the easy application, it does a great job cleaning, protecting, and lubricating your AR-15.

It will take you 30-45 minutes when cleaning an AR-15. However, if you are a high-volume shooter, the frequency of cleaning, the usage, and the age of the rifle must be considered when cleaning an AR. However, with the right tools, it would hardly get into an hour.

You should clean your firearm after 250 rounds to keep an eye on any carbon buildup. Since it will not take too much of your time, cleaning it after using it will be very beneficial. The corrosion and build upon your AR-15 can cause damage and risk wear on your firearm, so don’t wait until it gets dirty.

Final Thoughts on Cleaning An AR-15

Proper cleaning of an AR-15 helps with the reliability and longevity of a firearm. As a responsible gun owner, make sure that you must have your full attention to avoid any untoward incidents when following the steps above. 

Some recorded fatalities in gun news daily can be alarming but cleaning an AR rifle is safe if you follow our safety precautions. To most gun owners, opting to clean their AR-15 is simple and easy, following our detailed steps and using their own kit.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *