Sunday, December 18, 2011

Razor Sharp

I heard several months ago that gently tapping my razor (Gillette Mach3) on a cloth about a dozen or more times after each shave would help extend the razor's "life." The theory is that by removing the water from the blade, you reduce the likelihood of rust and corrosion. I can't say I've ever seen any of those blades become rusty--mostly because I think they are stainless steel to begin with. Nonetheless, they do become dull.

I shave about 5 days every week, and one blade lasts about 3 months (yes, 3 months, not 3 weeks). So I thought I was getting a pretty good return on my money to begin with. Just today I was at Costco and priced the blades--they had a 24-pack for $48.00, or $2.00 for each blade, or about 0.67 cents per month.

A couple nights ago I decided to search the internet for other ideas to extend razor-life. First I looked on Youtube. I decided to summarize what I found, in order to have a single reference to share with others when this subject comes up.

The advice can be broken down into a few main points:
  1. Preparing to Shave
  2. Daily Maintenance of the Razor
  3. Weekly Sharpening

Preparing to Shave
I'd never really given this process that much thought. Like most guys, I learned to shave from watching my father. He never really gave that much instruction on anything in my life--he was more of a "just do it" sort of person. So after decades of shaving, I finally learned that even getting ready to shave can help extend the blade's life. First, put a drop of oil on the blade (I use olive oil). Even though most blades come with a lubricant strip, this step helps the blades glide easier over the face. I apply it by putting a drop or two on a plate then putting the blade face down on the plate.

Second: After applying the shaving cream to your face, do not immediately start shaving. Instead, wait about 1 minute to allow the shaving cream to soften your face and stubble. You will get a much smoother shave by doing this and also reduce the stress on the blades. (By the way, putting gobs of cream on your face like they show in commercials is completely unnecessary. Commercials do that both for dramatic effect and to get you to thoughtlessly waste product so you have to buy more. Applying a thin layer is plenty. If, after waiting the minute, the cream has started to dry out, merely put another thin layer on your face, and then start shaving.)

Daily Maintenance of the Razor
Drying: As I already mentioned, gently tapping the blade on a cloth (I use just a typical facial cloth) will help remove most of the moisture. One video I watched recommended putting the blade into a bag of rice because the rice will draw out any residual moisture. It works but that means you need to come back later to apply the oil. It just is not convenient. So tapping dry is better for me. 

Protecting: After the blade is mostly dry by tapping on a cloth, once again apply some oil to the blade. The oil will dispel any residual moister and preserve the blade.

Weekly Sharpening
First off, you do not have to do this until you first start noticing your blade becoming dull. After it comes dull, this will extend the life of your blade at least another month, maybe more. It can be used with any blade, including the use-once and discard blades such as the ones pictured here.
This video recommends using jeans to sharpen the blades. I thought this was a hoax but realized I had nothing to lose by trying it. Surprisingly it does work. In fact, the blade actually seemed to give me smoother shave than when it was brand new. Another video recommends merely using your own arm to sharpen the blade. I tried it and got razor burn on my arm. I wouldn't recommend it, but maybe it won't irritate your skin.

(Updated 2011-1226)


  1. Bart,
    Good article! I use the "blade buddy" to sharpen my razors. I wondered how some very soft silicone pad could sharpen my razors again. I still don't know how it works but it works great! I can easily see how jeans would work now after using blade buddy

  2. push it back up your arm?? the blade buddy thing (how I found your site) says it bends the blade straight again... some of us have harry arms, which aren't flat...therefore... I am really skeptical of that method being any good.

    1. Yes-sir-ee. Like I said, I wouldn't recommend it. Especially for me--my leukemia has gone into advanced stages and my platelet counts have crashed. My oncologist has already told me that the time is coming soon when he wouldn't even recommend shaving at all.

  3. Haven't tried it, but a friend recommends just putting the razor head in a small bottle of mineral oil in between shaves.