Go to a pet supply store like PetSmart, Petco, etc. and buy a large bag of reptile bedding. It is a real fine walnut. A lot cheaper than buying commercial tumbler media and is small enough that it does not plug up flash holes. I add a capful of mineral spirits, a little car wax and a fabric softener sheet and run it a few minutes before I put the brass in. Works just as good or better than commercial media.
I recently bought an ultrasonic cleaner but am not sold on it yet.
If your not sold on the Ultrasonic you either have a bad one or are trying the wrong cleaning solution.
Try this - put your brass in the cleaner, fill it with water so it is halfway up on your case then fill it the rest of the way with white vinegar and add a drop of dishwashing detergent, dawn or something like that. Run it for 40 minutes or so, I like to stir it occasionally. Immediately after you take the cases out of the solution put them into water mixed with baking soda, that will neutralize the acid effect the vinegar has, if you don't do that your cases will end up being black. Then rinse the ultrasonic cleaner and dump in the cases with the baking soda mixture and run that for 15 minutes, then do the same with clean water, I usually run it through 2 times with clean water, sometimes I'll even use distilled water on the last time though. I blow out the cases with the air compressor and leave them dry overnight on a paper towel. This method works great and is cheap. BTW, you do not need a ultrasonic cleaner with a heater, don't use heat, the water will heat up naturally
The cases are cleaner than I get them with a tumbler, especially the inside. I use a homemade mixture like you mentioned and Hornady cleaner. I load a lot of bulk pistol and usually tumble a few hundred rifle cases at a time. I am not saving any time with the ultrasonic cleaner, especially when depriming cases prior to cleaning.
I was wondering this as well. Currently using a vibrating tumbler with Tuffnut (Pecan shells?)and I hate the stuff. The red dust gets all over everything. It also sticks in the flash holes, and takes forever to get out.
I was thinking of going ultrasonic, but never have been around one. Heard they work great.
The thing that stinks is I like to clean twice.
Once at the beginning to protect my dies from dirt/debris.
And the second time after resizing to remove the lube.
Im not sure whats best. Maybe tumble the first time.....then ultrasonic to finish?
I clean after sizing only, if you clean up your necks with 0000 steel wool before sizing you'll be good to go. The nicest thing about cleaning after with the ultrasonic is it also gets your primer pockets. Also try some spray on lube, i really like the Royal Case and Die Lube, it wipes off nice with a towel. I spray that onto a lube pad then roll the cases, saves on mess