[Introduction by “Mantic59”: I’ve been playing with strategies to extend blade life for a year or so now but I hadn’t put “pen to paper” yet. Then I received an article draft with a similar topic from David Barker of Grooming Corp, so we decided to combine efforts.]
Can you extend the life of a razor blade? The answer seems to be yes, but with variations depending on a number of circumstances. Here are some tips on extending the life of a razor blade.
Why even bother about extending a razor blade’s life? Razor blades are cheap, right?
Yes, many double edge razor blades are cheap. But will your favorite one(s) always be available? Will the specifications change or will the brand be dropped altogether (*cough*PolsilverIridium*cough*)? Sometimes it’s desirable to extend the “stock level” of your favorite blade while you can.
And what about other blades? Some single edge blades (GEM, Injector, FHS, etc.) are comparatively expensive or in limited supply. And do I need to get into the cost of some multi-blade razor cartridges?
The Key Concepts For Extending Blade Life
Extending razor blade life is dependent on the interaction of three strategies. For maximum life a blade should be:
- Kept away from air
However these strategies are not necessarily cumulative. In fact the make-up of the blade itself may govern which strategy(s) work best. Let’s look at some of the variables and what they may mean to blade life.
Blade Manufacturing Variations
The way the blade is manufactured varies between different brands and manufacturing facilities:
Some blades don’t have any coating at all but many use different coatings for specific purposes:
PTFE (“Teflon”) coatings help reduce friction between the blade and your skin (and stubble) helping to minimize irritation (which may make it a good choice in particular if you have sensitive skin).
Platinum, Chromium, and ceramic coatings help minimize corrosion of the blade which would otherwise cause the blade to become dull and increase the risk of nicks and cuts.
Sometimes coatings are combined. For example the Feather FHS blade has a PTFE coating on top of a Chromium coating.
As the blade is used the coatings wear away.
Razor blades will sometimes come in a different material such as carbon steel, but the vast majority will be made from stainless steel. This is the material of choice because it’s easy to work with and rust-resistant which helps the blade to last longer.
3. Blade Grinding
Every razor blade edge will be sharp, but some are sharper than others and this will impact how aggressive they are. Feather double edge blades, for example, are known for being some of the sharpest blades on the shaving market.
Very sharp blades could be great for you as they mean you may need fewer passes to get a close shave. However, if you have sensitive skin it could lead to more irritation if you tend to put pressure on the razor: if you’re new to using a safety razor it could lead to more nicks and cuts.
So What To Do?
Unfortunately it can be difficult to find out the precise manufacturing process so the best thing to do may be to try a number of different strategies to see which one(s) work best for you. See “Strategies For Specific Blades” below for more information.
In any case, there is plenty you can do on your end to avoid having dull shaving blades and the irritation, nicks, and cuts that go with it.
[Editor’s Note: Amazon links are Sharpologist affiliate.]
There are several simple things you can do to keep a blade clean:
Rinse after every use
While shaving hair and the shaving cream can get stuck in the blades. Over time, this makes the blades gunky and rusts, rendering it useless. An undeniable solution for this is rinsing the razor after every use. To get better results at this, rinse between shaves with running water instead of blowing off whatever jams inside the blades.
Stropping your shaving blade is a proven way of making it remain sharp for longer. Traditional shaving blades used to have a sharpening tool, unlike most modern razors. Stropping is quite easy, and you only need a pair of jeans to get it done. Firmly hold the denim and push the blade along the surface of your denim in the reverse direction you are shaving for about 20 strokes.
Cleaning with a cotton ball
Besides rinsing the shaving blade after use, clean the blade using a cotton ball. Even with the regular rinsing, there are still hair strands and shaving cream that gets jammed in between the blades making the razor seem blunt. To rid yourself of this problem, use cotton balls to clean the shaving blade because they get into the spaces between the blades and remove all the dirt there.
A commercial option is to use a cleaning pad like Razorpit:
“The dullness of the blade is not because of the hairs between the blade it is caused by particles of hair, soap and dead skin cells left on the edge of the blade. RazorPit removes this like a charm”
Moisture is a significant cause of blade life as it corrodes the blades making the sharp edges ineffective.
Water and metal are not a good match as the blades rust over an extended time. This means you want to keep your shaving blade dry. Before you put the shaving blade away after rinsing, use a dry piece of cloth to wipe down the shaving blade with a “blotting” action. Be sure to use a thick fabric to prevent damage from the blades. Many just use a towel as it is made from a thick and sturdy material.
You also want to keep your shaving blade free from bacteria to protect yourself from getting any infections or the blade from becoming ineffective after weeks of regular use. The best component to use for sterilization is alcohol. Alcohol kills bacteria and hastens the drying process. Dip your shaving blade in alcohol after use to dry quickly plus you also get a very clean and shiny edge.
A commercial alternative is Blew:
“It’s not the act of repeated shaving that causes blades to quickly dull. It’s corrosion. Caused when water mixes with salt from the skin leading to rusting and chipping of the blade.
How it Works:
By placing your razor in BLEW after each use, you can effectively prevent razor-rusting oxidation. BLEW dries your razor with a heated fan (similar to that of a hair dryer) and during the drying process, a UV light will help sanitize your razor. All of this is done with an automatic shut off feature that lets you drop in your razor and go on with the rest of your morning routine.”
Keeping The Blade Edge Away From Air
Water and oil do not mix, and this means using oil is an excellent way of preventing the shaving blade from corroding. This keeps your shaving blade sharp for a longer time by preventing moisture from oxidizing the metal. Pour some pre-shave oil, vegetable oil, mineral oil, or baby oil in a small pot or glass and leave your razor head down after every use. Another strategy some use is to coat a blade with aftershave balm after drying.
Besides all your other efforts to maintain a sharp shaving blade, where you store the shaving razor can play an important role. The idea behind the proper storage of shaving blades is to keep them away from air and moisture. It makes a lot of sense to have your shaving blade in the bathroom, but this is the wrong place to keep it. The bathroom is moist most of the time, and that means leaving the shaving blade in the bathroom exposes it to a lot of moisture.
Go slow with the shaving cream
If you prefer using shaving cream to get a smoother shave, then you need to be cautious with the amounts that you use. There are different brands of shaving blades and creams, and all have a different effect on each other. Too much shaving cream clogs the blades making it blunt and leads to nicks and cuts. When shaving, ensure you use just enough of the cream. Remember to rinse in between shaves to clear the spaces between the blades.
Strategies For Specific Blades (by “Mantic59”)
As mentioned earlier, the strategies for extending blade life do not seem to be cumulative. I’ve spent the last year observing how different strategies affect specific types of blades.
Many “thicker” blades like Injector, GEM, barber blades (like Feather Professional), and Feather FHS (for OneBlade razors) seem to benefit most from a heavy oil coating on the blade edge after the shave to keep it away from air. In my own trials I have doubled the life of a Feather FHS blade with a heavy oil coating–vegetable oils or pre-shave oils work well. Save-My-Blades works well too (interestingly, it worked better for cartridge razors than it did for thick blades Why? I have no idea, but that was my observation).
Many thinner double edge blades seem to benefit most from a good cleaning and “stropping” strategy.
Cartridge razors seem to benefit most from a drying strategy. The Blew dryer mentioned above actually seems to work pretty well for me in this respect and the UV light sanitizes the razor to boot.
Depending on how often you shave, you may need to replace your shaving blades often. Either way, you must take care of the razor and keep it sharp while its service to you. I hope these techniques will be of great help to you no matter the shaving blade brand you use.
David Barker is the founder of Grooming Corp, a male grooming and self-care site. He founded the site to provide easy grooming techniques and products to help men improve their lifestyles and achieve the kind of confidence that he did through personal care. The techniques and products he features are all derived from his experience practicing different self-care techniques on himself for the last 7 years.