Whether electric, straight, double-edge, or cartridge, these expert tips will teach you how to keep razors sharp for as long as possible.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Do My Razors Get Dull So Fast?
- 2 How To Keep Razors Sharp For Longer
- 3 How To Keep Safety Razors Sharp For Longer
- 4 How To Keep Electric Razors Sharp For Longer
- 5 How To Keep Razors Sharp With Baby Oil
- 6 How Do I Know If My Razor Is Dull?
- 7 How Long Do Razors Stay Sharp?
Why Do My Razors Get Dull So Fast?
The simple act of using your razors makes them become dull. Dulling is a natural consequence of constantly forcing the blade to cut through your thick stubble. The thicker your beard and coarser your hair, the faster your blades will dull.
Then there’s the question of how you care for your razors. Exposure to moisture and air will cause the metal to degrade much faster, as will alkaline soap build-up. If you just leave your razor lying on the bathroom counter after you’re done with it, don’t be surprised if it loses its edge quickly.
How To Keep Razors Sharp For Longer
Razors come in all shapes and forms, but the same principles apply to keeping them sharp.
Keep Them Dry
Water is the worst culprit when it comes to dulling razors, so keep your blades dry. Don’t store them in the shower, and consider leaving them out of the bathroom altogether. After you shave and rinse your razor, pat it dry with a towel and then leave it somewhere safe and clean to air dry completely.
Keep Them Clean
Soap scum, hairs, dead skin… all of that stuff can build up on your razor blade, trapping bacteria and moisture along with it. After you shave, rinse your razor with very hot water in order to clean your razor as much as you can. Don’t wipe the razor down after – that’ll remove some of the protective coating covering your blade. When you dry it, make sure to pat gently rather than rubbing.
Try Stropping Them
With stropping, you can easily extend the life of your razor by 3-6 shaves.
It used to be a must back when all men shaved with straight razors. It’s a type of honing technique that helps to straighten the line of the blade’s edge. You’ll sometimes see it described as a sharpening method, but it’s not the same.
Straight razors need special strops, but you can strop your regular razor with nothing but an old pair of jeans.
Hold the razor so the blades touch the denim, and then, pull it in the opposite direction than if you were shaving (i.e. upwards with the direction of the blades, instead of downwards). Do this about 15-20 times, and your razor’s performance will improve.
The best time to strop is the moment you notice your razor has become a little dull, usually after you’ve already shaved with it a few times.
How To Keep Straight Razors Sharp For Longer
A straight razor is the kind of tool you buy for life, so learning to keep it sharp is non-negotiable. The same basic principles of keeping it clean, dry, and honed apply, but the methodology’s a little different.
Keeping a Straight Razor Dry
After you shave with a straight razor, rinse it with hot water and dry it with a towel. It’s pretty easy, but there’s no room for laziness.
More issues pop up after when it comes to storage. Immediately after shaving, leaving your razor open in a dry, well-ventilated area is ideal… Unless you have kids, pets, or an unintelligent roommate, in which case it can be dangerous.
Instead, you can keep it wrapped in a towel or in a moisture-wicking sock for a few hours. Once it’s 100% dry, you can fold the razor and place it in a pouch or drawer. If you live in a very humid climate, you might also want to oil up the blade with a bit of baby oil.
Stropping A Straight Razor
When you buy a straight razor, make sure to also purchase a good quality leather strop, and use it before every shave.
Hold the straight razor so the blade is flat against the textured side of the strop, near the bottom. Pull the blade against the strop, going in the direction that the spine of the razor is facing – go slow the first few times. Once you hit the top of the strop, rotate the razor with the spine still in contact with the strop, and pull it again in the opposite direction.
Repeat this around 10 times – potentially more if it’s been a while since your blade has been stropped.
Sharpening Your Straight Razor
If you notice that your straight razor doesn’t feel very sharp, even with stropping, then you’ll need to sharpen it properly. Straight razors need very delicate care when being sharpened.
If you’re new to wet shaving, I recommend you send your razor to your local honemeister (that’s what we call professionals who sharpen, restore, and maintain straight razors). If you have a good quality straight razor, sharpening usually only costs around $25.
If you’re the DIY type, you can learn how to sharpen your straight razor by yourself. A regular knife sharpener will destroy your razor, so make sure to pick up a double-sided whetstone with a rough 3000 or 4000 grit on one side for sharpening and a milder 8000 or 10000 on the other for polishing.
How To Keep Safety Razors Sharp For Longer
The principles behind keeping a safety razor blade sharp are the same as with other blades, but with two small caveats: Instead of just rinsing your razor head, open your razor and give the blades themselves a rinse (especially if you have a butterfly or closed-comb razor). Don’t wipe them, as that will remove some of their coating prematurely.
Second, you can strop a double-edge razor blade on a pair of jeans, but you’ll need to flip it over back and forth instead of just in one direction, to make sure you hit all sides of the blade.
How To Keep Electric Razors Sharp For Longer
Aside from keeping it clean and dry, here are a few more ways to keep your electric razor in top shape.
In general, avoid wet shaving as much as you can, even if your razor is waterproof. The occasional contact with water, if your machine is built for it, is okay, but less is better.
Give the blades a deep clean at least once or twice a month. Always disassemble the razor first, and clean the blades individually. You can use dish soap, warm water, and a brush.
After, always leave the blades somewhere safe to dry completely. Once they’re dry, oil ‘em up. In general, you’ll want to apply oil to the blades at least once or twice a week.
Finally, if you use a flat rotary razor, you can attempt to sharpen the blades themselves with a whetstone or a mirror and diamond paste. I don’t vouch for these methods, but there’s no harm in trying it if you’re ready to replace the blades anyway.
How To Keep Razors Sharp With Baby Oil
If you use a straight razor or electric shaver, baby oil can help keep your blades sharp. A coating of oil on the blade will reduce friction and act like a waterproofing shield that repels water and prevents oxidation.
The best time to apply the oil is when your razor is clean, dry, and has been recently stropped.
If you’re using an electric razor, squeeze a few drops on the foils or blades. Then, let the machine do the hard work by turning the razor on. You can also use a small brush to spread the oil around. Finally, wipe off any excess oil with a tissue.
If you’re using a straight razor, oiling it is simple – just squeeze out a small drop, and spread it around with a cotton pad or cloth.
Some people also try this method for other types of razors, but I don’t think it’s useful. With cartridge razors, you’ll have a very hard time guaranteeing they’re dry enough before putting mineral oil on them. With safety razor blades… I just think it’s overkill, although the practice might add another shave to your blade if you live in a humid climate.
How Do I Know If My Razor Is Dull?
Pay attention to the quality of your shave.
If you can feel the blade pulling or tugging on the hairs instead of cutting them cleanly, that’s your surest sign. If you have to apply a lot of pressure or it doesn’t cut at all, that’s a sign that your blade has been dull for a long time.
Other hints include increased irritation or shallow nicks and cuts, and just an overall uncomfortable feeling both during and after your shave.
How Long Do Razors Stay Sharp?
Assuming you take good care of your razors but you don’t go out of your way with special measures, this is what you can expect.
- Most decent cartridge razors will stay sharp for around 5-10 shaves, but there are some duds out there that go dull after 2 or 3 shaves.
- Carbon steel straight razors usually need sharpening 3-4 times a year, while stainless steel ones can be sharpened just once or twice a year. Both require regular stropping, though.
- Safety razors tend to stay sharp for 3-6 shaves, although this depends on a few factors.
- Foil and rotary razors stay sharp between 6 months and up to two years. Most brands give precise recommendations for when you should buy replacement heads.
Note that these estimates are for guys who only shave their face and neck. If you deal with more real estate, assume your blades will go dull faster, while if you only shave your neck and cheeks, they’ll keep their edge for longer.