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Knowing how to keep razor blades sharp can make a huge difference to your full shaving operation. Offering sweet and satisfying shaving strokes while graciously letting you keep more of your money, shaving with a laser-sharp high quality razor blade is one of the key points to having a great shaving experience with a safety razor.

The Hidden Cost of a Shave With a Dull Razor

 The ultimate, number-one reason to keep blades sharp is obvious - if shaving with a finely tuned razor blade across your face with shaving cream isn’t a little piece of heaven to you, then shaving with a dull and rusty blade is still no better reality.

But there’s also simple economics. Razor blades can add up, especially for men who shave daily.

The longer you keep your blades sharp, the less it costs to keep replacing them, the less impact you have on the environment. Shaving with a double edge safety razor can save you more than if you use a disposable. For example, Gillette Fusion disposable razor refills cost about $3 each -- the same price for five Feather Hi Stainless Double Edge Razors, one of the finest safety blades money can buy.

That savings can turn into even more free money if you learn the secret to keeping razor blades lazer sharp for longer.

The Reasons Razor Blades Get Dull

There’s no such thing as a blade that lasts forever. All razor brands can get dull, even high-quality razor brands get dull after continued use. However there are techniques you can do to make your blades last a long time. 

There are two main factors: 

  • Air and water – Even though your razor blade gets washed with water and is likely stored in the open air of your bathroom, prolonged exposure to both results in oxidation on the metal, causing rust and corroding the quality of the blade. The combination of air and water droplets causes the metal to flake off and causes the edge to grow blunt and jagged.
  • Your hairEven with shaving cream, pre-shave oils, and regular beard conditioning, the friction caused by cutting through hair reduces the sharpness of a razor blade’s edge, increasing dullness. The more blades are used - and the coarser the stubble they cut - the faster it loses its bite.

The good news is that solving for razor sharpness is not too hard.

The Code of Razor Blades--Key Concepts For Extending Blade Life Sharpness

There are just two main principles to follow:

  • Maintaining Your Safety Razor
  • Sharpening

Maintenance refers to how the razor blade is cleaned, cared for, and stored, extending or retracts the life of a safety razor. Sharpening keeps the blade’s hair-scything glory days going strong, well into old-age.

First, we’ll go over some things that can be done regularly to keep your blade from dulling, then we’ll dive into how it’s possible to sharpen the edge of your razor blade.

Maintenance--How Do You Keep A Razor Blade Sharp?

If you’re hoping for the same blade to last longer, make care and maintenance a part of your shaving ritual. Here are the main tips to follow:

Clean the Blade

    Razor Blade

    To keep the razor sharp, clean it thoroughly after each use and follow these steps:

    1. Rinse it with warm water. Running it under the faucet or swishing it around a bowl both make sense.
    2. A touch of soap with water can be used but be sure to rinse it off fully with plain water.
    3. The blade can also be cleared of any debris such as shaving cream, oil, hairs, dirt, or particles with the gentle rub of an old toothbrush or cotton swab
    4. Once the razor has been washed, it’s time to wipe it down to prevent rust.

    Dry the Blade

      Use a thick, clean cloth and lightly pat or blot it down. Blades can also be air dried by letting them sit on a clean towel. A hair dryer can be used if you are in a rush, just give the blade time to cool down before it gets handled.

      Drying Razor Blades

      Disinfect

      Dab the blade with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). This part of the cleaning process disinfects the razor from any bacteria and drives out any remaining water to help prevent rust. Apply alcohol on a cotton pad, cotton ball, or a swab to get hard-to-reach places.

      Disinfect a razor blade

      Use an Oil

        Coating the blade in baby oil and mineral oil is your best bet to keep it separated from water and prevent rusting. Afterall, oil and water do not mix.

        Here’s what to look for in a blade oil:

        1. Doesn’t spoil
        2. Safe for finishes like wood
        3. Safe for skin interactions
        4. Stays in liquid form
        5. Strong enough to displace water

        Multipurpose lubricants like Ballistol, baby oil, vegetable oil, almond oil and mineral oil work in a pinch, but the best quality is pure Camellia oil. A fine oil traditionally used by the Japanese to protect knives from rusting, it’s also filled with nutrients that are good for the skin so it also doubles as a beard softener or face moisturizer.

        Apply a small amount to a cotton ball or paper towel and brush over the blade from side to side. Those of you with cartridge razors that come with a moisture strip be forewarned: the oil will rub it away.

        oiling razor blades to extend blade life

        Store it Away from Moisture

        Though bathrooms have a higher humidity level than other rooms, you don’t have to keep your blade elsewhere. Even if you’re the proud owner of a gorgeous shaving instrument and want to show it off, try not to keep it out in the open, like in the shower or on the counter. Tuck it away on a stand inside a cabinet or in a travel case inside a drawer. Some guys also leave their razors in a glass jar sitting in oil, just make sure it doesn’t get knocked over.

         Store safety razors Away from Moisture

        Trash It

        If all else fails and the razor blade gets too dull from use, water or air, safely dispose of it. Blades are cheap and cuts, infection, rashes and irritation can ruin a shaving experience.

        pro tip:  Most safety razor packages have a little slot on the bottom of them, those are for safety disposing of your razor blades.

            If your safety razor gets too dull throw it away 

            Sharpening Safety Razor Blades

            Sharpening Safety Razor Blades

            The act of sharpening a safety razor can make it last for many more shaves than it might have otherwise.

            That said a safety razor blade doesn’t technically get sharpened. Safety razors regain sharpness when they get polished -- or in shaving terms, “stropped.”

            The act of stropping straightens out the dings and dents that get built up on a blade after doing the hard work of chopping your hair. Barbers and bladesmiths have been stropping their blades for centuries because it’s an effective way to quickly regain sharpness and please their clients.

            Sharpening vs. Stropping

            Stone Sharpening-Uses stones to remove material to enhance blade sharpness

            Stropping- Uses a strop to straighten and realign thin edges of a blade to enhance the razor blades sharpness.

            Most people find a process of stropping razor blades that works for them but it’s a good idea to start with a few general tips.

            The Strop

             

            Strop material

            A strop is a material used for polishing knives and blades to maintain sharpness of razor blades. Leather – both suede and smooth - is the fabric most traditionally used and the most preferred and achieves the best results. As a matter of fact, a pair of jeans or a piece of denim ought to do the job here too in a pinch. If you don’t have anything else around, another option is to use materials like canvas or any old pair of blue jeans. The technique is simple:

            • Place the razor blade on a flat surface such as a bathroom sink or a table
            • With short quick strokes away from you, run the end or edges of the razor away from you several times
            There are two different kinds of strops:
            • Hanging strops: Good for travel, come with a handle and hook to connect to the back of a chair or door, and they roll up to fit in your bag
            Hanging strops
            • Paddle strops: Less common than hanging strops, they come with the leather mounted to a paddle or a tightening loom (and let you play air guitar as you sharpen)
            razor blades

              They both work for beginners and aficionados, but if you’re just starting out, expect your first strop to walk away looking pretty sliced up.

              How Does it Work?

              On a microscopic level, dragging the razor up the material realigns the craggy blade so it once again forms a clean, straight edge.

              But it involves technique that can best be described as an art. In this case, below are some foundational tips and methods to get you started:

              1. With the razor head pointed forward, use opposite strokes in the reverse direction you would shave

              how to strop a safety razor blade

              2. Use the razor on the suede side first then the flat leather side

              How to keep your razor blade sharp

              3. A grinding paste can be used but is not absolutely necessary for a safety or disposable razor

              how to strop a safety razor blade

              4. Sweep the razor in the same, upward direction about 15-20 strokes per side

              how to strop a safety razor blade

              5. Apply gentle but firm pressure

              how to strop a safety razor blade

              6. Hold the razor at around 30 degrees

              how to strop a safety razor blade

              The technique you develop will largely depend on your choice of razor, blade and strop so feel free to experiment.

              How Many Times Can a Blade Be Stropped?

              There’s no hard research on the number of times a blade can be polished to the point of a good shave. It’s more than a few but not indefinitely. Depending on the coarseness of your hair, how often you shave, and how well you care for the blade between shaves, eventually stropping won’t make your blade feel brand new again.

              Keeping Razor Blades Sharp Is All Part of the Ritual

              Nobody likes shaving with a dull blade. Even if you’re a “no pain no gain” kind of guy, there’s really nothing to be gained from sweeping a blunt and jagged razor down the skin of your face unless you like walking around with nicks and cuts, no thanks to the rust build-up from the razors. Luckily, reading this article should answer your question “how do you keep a safety razor blade sharp” for you.

              To recap, keep moisture, oxidation, and rusting at bay by cleaning, drying, disinfecting, oiling, and storing the blade properly each time. Then, keep the blade as sharp as the day it came out of the box by stropping.
              By putting a lot of effort into maintaining your blade, you can minimize the damage done to it over time, extend the life of your blade, save money, and have confidence to experience a smooth shave each and every time.

              Now is all of this really practical to stretch the useful life of a razor that costs .60 cents, no but it's a fun experiment that I encourage you to try out as you'll learn a lot in addition to getting a better shave.

              Have a great shave!

              How to keep a razor blade sharp