When you don’t use disposable razors and blades, being able to get the perfect shave is more than having a great technique and the proper skin preparation. Razor and blade maintenance is important for the longevity and efficiency of one’s equipment, as well as for the well-being of the skin being shaved.
This guide will suggest ways to properly maintain razors and blades, concentrating solely on newly bought, shave-ready razors. Although there will be some suggestions as to how to maintain short-term disposable razors and blades, there will also be focus on long-term razors and blades, that can last for years with proper care.
Straight Razor and Blade Maintenance
The traditional straight razor has been used since the 1700s, and has a reputation for being a method of shaving that requires the most skill to employ, and also maintain. Sometimes called ‘cut-throat razor’, ‘open razor’ or ‘salon razor’, the straight razor is made up of a sharp-edged single blade that pivots into a handle (or scale) when not in use. The blade is usually made from a form of steel, and some models can come coated in titanium or other metals. There are three key points to remember in the maintenance of a straight razor and its blade, which are outlined below:
- Straight razors need regular honing and stropping to keep it in pristine condition.
- Use a honing stone and a leather (or other tough fabric) strop with abrasive paste carefully, to avoid destroying the blade.
- Honing refines the sharp edge of the blade, whilst stropping helps remove bends in the blade, and gets rid of microscopic faults.
- Honing should be done every few months, whereas stropping should be done more regularly for quick sharpening, including during a shave.
- How to use a honing stone:
- Wet the honing stone with warm water.
- Rest the honing stone securely on a flat surface, holding its handle firmly.
- Hold the shaft of the blade with the thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand.
- Placing the blade flat on the stone, draw it towards the hone handle, leading with the edge side. If the blade is wider than the stone, hold the blade at a downward angle as it travels along the stone.
- Once one has reached the end of the stone, turn the blade and draw it away in the same way.
- Repeat this process several times, using equal pressure, with the blade in full contact with the stone at all times.
- How to use a strop:
- Good quality leather strops can be used for daily stropping. Some come with a coarser canvas strop on one side. Use the canvas side first, then the leather to sharpen any fine edges.
- Stropping with an abrasive paste can help extend the time between stropping, however the paste is difficult to wash out of the strop, so it is advisable to paste one strop and leave another clean. The pasted strop need only be used every week or so, whilst the clean strop can be used daily.
- The stropping technique can be a new experience to every user, but a general rule is to hold the strop securely at chest level (hanging strops can be hung on a wall), and making sure it is fully taut.
- Grip the shaft of the blade with your thumb and forefinger and place the spine of the blade away from you.
- Stroke the blade away from you, turn it over, then stroke it towards you, in quick motions, repeating several times.
- One will know the blade is sharp if the edge of the blade clings or drags when it is run along a moistened thumbnail, and obviously if there is less drag from the razor when shaving.
- The Blade:
- Wash out the shaving cream and any hair thoroughly using warm water after every use, to ensure there is no residue left behind.
- Rubbing on alcohol or ethyl alcohol with a soft cloth or a cotton bud helps de-grease the blade.
- A thin coat of mineral oil on the blade can help prevent further rusting. Use the alcohol to remove oil before use and to clean the blade after use.
- Do not use metal polishes on the blade as it can damage the surface and leave harmful polish residues.
- Pat dry the blade completely with a soft cloth.
- The Handle:
- Do not use bleach, ammonia-based products or detergent to clean razors, as they can damage the handle and sometimes the blade, depending on the material.
- Use distilled water, without soap or detergents.
- Do not soak the handle in water, simply wipe with a dampened soft cloth, and then dry immediately with another soft, absorbent cloth.
- To remove grease, use a few drops of household ammonia with distilled water and rinse it quickly with a dampened cloth. Dry immediately.
- For wooden handles, using water is not recommended, so it is best to use a micro fiber cloth or a soft, white vinyl eraser can be effective.
- The best environment to store the straight razor is a well-ventilated, cool, dark and dry cupboard, such as an underwear drawer.
- Make sure both the handle and the blade are completely dry before storing.
- A leather pouch can be bought from eBay, often as a bundle (extra, complimentary items chosen by the seller), to keep it protected.
- Keep it away from water and liquids as this can cause rust in iron-based blades and can damage the handle.
- Oil the razor regularly to ensure the pin is pivoting properly, using mineral oil, sewing oil or any light oil.
Safety Razor and Blade Maintenance
Safety razors were initially invented to reduce the skill needed to shave oneself, as was the case with straight razors, enabling injury-free shaves at home. Initially made as single edge razors, safety razors are now more commonly made with a removable double-edge blade, with a permanent metal handle although single edge razors are still available to buy. The blade is usually made with rust-resistant stainless steel and can be used until the blade is blunt; and the handle is usually made from solid metal, which makes them heavier than other forms of shaver. With some models, the blade will weigh heavier than the handle, which can make it harder to control the pressure on the blade when shaving.
Long-term safety razors and blades need very little maintenance and care, as they are shave-ready when sold. However, simple techniques can be used before, after and during shaves to increase the lifespan of the razor.
- Thoroughly clean the razor handle before each new blade is inserted to ensure maximum efficiency.
- Fill the sink with scrubbing bubbles and some water every few months and scrub the handle with a toothbrush.
- Although safety razors blades were invented to be disposable (thus reducing the inconvenience of sharpening), they can be sharpened if needed. Recommended methods have been filling a drinking glass with water and moving the blade back and forth along the inside curve of the glass ten to twenty times. Following that, it is best to run the blade carefully several times across a garment’s sleeve to remove any metal fragments. Running the blade up and then down a denim jeans leg can also help (for more information see ‘Disposable Razor and Blade Maintenance’).
The main problem that will occur with a safety razor blade, whether double edged or multi-bladed, is that it may become clogged with shaving cream and hair during use.
- Rinse the blade in water while vigorously shaking it to loosen such debris.
- Remove the blade and run hot water over the head of the razor handle, then shake off any excess water and pat dry with a towel, ensuring it is free from shaving debris before storage.
- If needed, gently swipe the blade away from the edge on a towel or sponge to loosen any remaining debris.
- Ensure the blade and handle are completely dry before storage, as oxidation can dull a blade. Applying a light oil such as mineral oil or sewing oil or alcohol to the blade using a cotton ball can help reduce moisture.
- Clean all moving parts of the razor thoroughly every month using a soft brush, removing all soap and shaving cream residue.
- Over time, one may need to remove lime scale from the razor. Choose a gentle solution, as most lime scale removers are simply too strong for shaving implements. Submerging the razor for ten minutes in a 9:1 solution of water and vinegar to loosen and dissolve hard water stains and residue. Rinse off in water and pat dry.
- Store in a leather pouch away from moisture and heat. Without a pouch, laying the shaving equipment on a towel can help reduce moisture, whilst giving the razor a soft surface to rest.
Safety razors have evolved into removable multi-blade cartridge razors made from stainless steel and with plastic handles. The blades can range from three to as many as six blades in one blade cartridge. The cartridges can be removed once blunt and replaced with a new one. As such, maintenance of the blade is unnecessary, but the handle needs to be kept clean and functional throughout numerous shaves. Simply ensure the un-used blades remain in their containers and away from moisture until use.
Electric Razor and Blade Maintenance
Electric razors or shavers consist of a set of blades powered by a motor or drive unit that is powered by a circuit board or some form of electronics. There are two main types of electric razors: rotary blade razors and foil razors. Rotary blade razors have a series of circular cutters typically placed in a triangular pattern. Foil razors have a series of cutters under a rectangular metallic foil (or screen), designed to raise and guide the hairs close to the cutters. On eBay, searching ‘shaver’ will bring up more relevant results than searching ‘razor’ for electric models. It is fairly simple to maintain an electric razor, as opposed to straight or safety razors, but it comes with additional safety concerns due to its electronic mechanisms. Ensuring the razor is charged, cleaned and stored according to specifications will ensure the long-life of your electric razor.
- Use manufacturer’s instructions on how to charge and store razors. Usually, the razor has to be charged fully before using it for the first time. In order to extend the life of the razor, it is recommended to discontinue charging the razor once fully charged.
- Overcharging may weaken the batteries, which will then have to be replaced at a specialist repair center.
- The razor can be plugged in briefly mid-shave if it runs out of power.
- The razor is never to be used while charging as this could cause an electrical accident.
- The charging cord may need to be replaced after continuous use, but can last for 2-5 years, depending on care, maintenance, usage and model. Replacement parts may be covered under warranty.
CleaningAn electric razor may accumulate hair, moisture, oil and particles of skin in the cutting head over time, which needs to be cleaned to maintain optimal shaving conditions.
- Ensure the razor is unplugged before cleaning.
- Brush the hair out of the cutters after every shave with a soft bristled brush to minimise build-up and keep the cutters sharp. Some manufacturers will provide brushes with their razors.
- Rotary razors have a cutting head that can be removed, and the accumulated hair can be brushed or blown away. Do so after every shave, or every second shave.
- Foil razors have removable cutters and foil, which can be replaced when the cutter gets blunt and ineffective and the foil becomes too thin, about once a year. Ensure you buy the correct replacement parts for the model.
- Once a month, remove and thoroughly clean the foil and cutter by soaking them in some cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, to keep it clean and free from bacteria. The foil is very fragile, and must be handled with care.
- Aerosol lubricant, disinfectant sprays or specialised razor sprays can be sprayed, after it has been cleaned, onto the foil to keep the motors lubricated and the foil disinfected. A single drop of light oil such as baby oil or mineral oil directly on the foil with the shaver running can also be used.
- Some razor heads can be disassembled, and doing so can help remove debris using a soft brush and some rubbing alcohol or electrical contact cleaner. Let it dry, then wipe off any remaining dirt with a soft cloth.
- The cutters can be taken out individually in some models, and then sharpened on a glass sheet by rubbing it gently in a figure eight motion with a lubricant. Dry it with a soft cloth or tissue and assemble when done.
- Some unconventional suggestions for cleaning the shaver head can be to mix a 1:3 solution of white toothpaste to mineral oil and running the shaver for a few minutes.
- If a protective cover is provided, use it if you intend to travel with or transport the electric razor, and when it is not in use.
- Ensure the razor is stored away from areas with high moisture, as it can affect the electronic mechanism.
Disposable Razor and Blade Maintenance
If you do use disposable razors, there are some techniques that may help keep the blades sharp, dramatically increasing the amount of time one blade can be used before it has to be thrown away.
- Keep the blades free from build-up by vigorously shaking it under water.
- Before shaving, run dry blades against an old pair of jeans, holding the razor so that the blades glide over the surface of the jeans without ‘shaving’ them.
- Run the razor up and then down the jeans quickly, exerting a little bit of pressure each time.
- Doing this every other shave can fix small bends and warping that can occur over time, and will keep the blades sharper for longer.
- If the blade is already quite dull, 50-100 quick swipes both ways can sharpen it dramatically.
Buying Razors and Blades, and Maintenance Equipment on eBay
Use the search function on eBay for a general search for razors or blades. Simply type in the item you want to find in the search bar near the top of the screen. eBay will often suggest related items below the search bar which may help narrow down one’s search results.
Do individual searches for maintenance equipment such as leather strops, honing stones, leather pouches, electric shaver replacement parts, rubbing alcohol, and specialised brushes to ensure the product is relevant to your razor.
You can also find razors and blades by going to the Health and Beauty category, which can be accessed using the ‘Search by Category’ drop down menu on the left of the search bar. Once there, find the Hair Removal subcategory, from which one can choose from a selection of available products.
Choose Razors and Bladesfor a more specific selection. It is possible to then choose to narrow down the search results by a series of sub-categories such as: Type, Product Series, Extras, Power Source, Brand, Condition, Price and Format (i.e. of listing). One can also choose a preferred Item Location and Delivery mode.
The last item on the left hand panel lets you search for Matching eBay Shops, which may be specialised to a certain product, and may have reliable. sellers with useful information and advice.
Along the top of your search results you will see ‘view’ options which will let the buyer choose a particular type of listing to appear in the search results, and options to arrange how you can view and sort your results.
Whilst straight razors need more maintenance and skill than safety razors and electric razors, they all require continual care to ensure long-lasting optimal shaving performance. Straight razors need regular stropping, whilst safety razors and electric razors must be kept free of build-up, and can be sharpened if desired.
Electric razors need to be charged responsibly and cleaned regularly. All razors must be kept free from moisture during storage, but by searching for maintenance, storage, replacement parts and accessories on eBay, a buyer can look forward to a pain-free shaving experience, and long-term razor.