Video: How To Extend The Life Of Razor Blades

It seems like everyone is unhappy with the cost of razor blades. Here are some ways that can make a blade last longer.

First lets correct a common misconception:  It is impossible to “resharpen” a cartridge razor blade. Why? Because to truly sharpen a blade you must have access to both sides of the edge. Even sharpening a double-edge blade would be very difficult because the blade is so thin that keeping the correct angle without flexing the metal would be almost impossible without some kind of machine. Some products play word games with dictionary definitions, but if you ask anyone who sharpens knives or razors for a living you will get the truth. Anyway, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

But that is not to say that a blade’s life cannot be extended. On the contrary, there are a number of strategies and products that can prolong the useful life of a razor blade by slowing down the dulling process. Exactly how much depends on a number of variables, including the metallurgy of the blade, the mineral content of water used for shaving and cleaning the razor, the type of hair being shaved, and even the ingredients of the lather used to shave. However, in my own research for this video I was able to at least double the life of my blades using any of the techniques or products I’m about to describe.

It seems like the best way to extend the life of a blade is to keep it clean, dry, and away from air. This keeps tiny particles picked up from the skin off the blade and slows oxidation which eventually creates chips along the blade edge. Cleaning and drying actions can be combined by rinsing the razor in hot water, then wiping it in the opposite direction from shaving. I use a dry towel but I have seen others do it on denim or even the skin of the forearm. Wiping the blade like this is a form of stropping. By the way, stropping is not really sharpening, its more like polishing off tiny bits of shaving residue from the blade edge and re-aligning the blade edge somewhat. Of course, in the case of a multi-blade razor you’re only stropping one side, but one side is better than nothing.

There are some products that claim to make this cleaning process a little more effective. Razorpit uses a rubber-like surface to clean the blade edge like a squeegee on a glass window. You use a little left-over lather as a cleanser, running the razor over the surface. Then you rinse and dry. Xtenda-blade is another product that uses a treated material to polish the blade surface, though in this case the blade should be dry before using.

Another strategy to slow the oxidizing of the blade is by coating the blades with a thin layer of skin-friendly oil. Mineral oils and cooking oils are commonly used. I happen to like olive oil: its widely available, cheap, and sticks to the blade reasonably well. You can apply a thin layer with a cotton swab or you can immerse the whole razor head in a glass of oil. One less messy alternative is Pacific Shaving’s Blade Oil, a combination of oils that stick well to the blade’s surface.

Finally are a class of products that I view skeptically but do seem to work at least to some extent. These products use the metallurgy of the blade somehow. Some, like Magna-Blade and Razo, claim that magnetic fields can keep the blade edge sharp longer. These claims were difficult for me to verify because they both suggest cleaning and drying the blade first before using.

If you use any of these techniques or products, be sure to leave a comment about how well it has worked for you.

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  1. Dave says

    Here’s what I use:

    You know those black metal clip thingies cubicle hamsters use to clip papers together? These things…

    The 1 1/4″ length is the perfect size for a double edge blade. For a hone, I use a 4000 grit polishing pad and spray lube (or plain ol’ water) from Turtle Wax’s scratch repair kit. Clip the blade in, wet the pad, and *strop strop strop* a few times on each edge.

  2. Joe says

    I too switched to the DE razors mostly because of the cost of the so called modern ones such as Mach 3, Schick Hydro, etc. DE blades are very rare in stores today. I get mine from Ebay for about 10 dollars a hundred. I’ve got about 300 at my disposal right now. I saw some the other day on Ebay for about 8 dollars a hundred and free shipping. I think they shave great. My face is as smooth as a baby’s behind. I never really did anything to make them last. I would just leave it in until it got dull. Sometimes that was only for 3 or 4 shaves. I’m going to start rinsing and wiping the blades after each use and putting it back in the case after each use. If I can get a week out of a blade I’ll be tickled to death.

  3. Hector says

    Newbie question. If the blades are already coated, what would be the point of oiling them. I like the idea and I’m going to use it, but I was just curious. Thanks!

  4. Floyd says

    Many years ago I bought A device that claimed to project “pyramid power.” This was promoted by Patrick Flanagan who wrote a book called of course “Pyramid Power.” This was a metallic device about 3″ x 5″ that had a array of pyramids about one inch square. I believe there are static magnets inside this thing, probably in the base. Among other wonders this device was supposed to “sharpen” razor blades. I doubt that pyramid power has anything to do with it (sorry Patrick) but the magnets are real and produce some effect. I decided to try it again a few years ago and simply placed a cartridge of four blades on top of it. I use the Gillette 4 blade cartridge with the ProGlide handle that uses a AAA battery to produce an electric razor-like vibration. I have a very heavy beard and the only way I can get a close shave is to shave against the grain. I haven’t kept careful track of the exact life of these cartridges (I will when I finally replace it) but I rotate between the blades and use each one about 1x per week. I have used these blades for at least six months and they are still going strong. I clean them very thoroughly getting all beard and shave cream residue off them and shake off the water but don’t dry them any more than shaking produces. Then I put them on top of the pyramid array. My theory is that the blades are weakly magnetized and that this retards oxidation. Looks to me like Magna-Blade and Razo use this method and from what I can tell it works to extend the life of these rather expensive blades.

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