Knowing how to clean a straight razor should be a top concern if you use one. Cleaning your blade properly will help preserve the life of it. These razors will last a lifetime is taken care of and maintained. Proper cleaning is also essential for the safety of use. It helps to ensure a clean, close shave and avoid infection on accidental nicks and cuts. Over time soap residue, bacteria and other gunk can collect on your blade. So regular cleaning is important.
Whether you are just starting out or you have been doing it for a while, it is always good to know the proper way to something. This guide will help you clean and maintain your razor the right way; to avoid rust and infection. Here we will walk you through the process you should use when cleaning your straight razor.
We cover everything from daily cleaning to storage and maintenance. Don’t worry it’s not too complicated. Once you understand how to clean a straight razor; you’ll just have to build some healthy habits. You should always be careful when handling your razor!
You should rinse your razor with hot water and dried completely after every use. This will help to avoid soap build up and ensure a long life for your razor. Best practices recommend having two or more straight razors to switch between on a weekly or biweekly basis. Before storing your razor, you should give it a more in-depth cleaning and rub it with oil. This will help to protect your tool against corrosion and rust.
Blades can be made of conventional carbon steel or stainless steel. Depending on which type of blade you have, will determine how often your razor will need to have extra maintenance. Regular steel is more prone to rust while stainless steel won’t rust as easily. While they both can and will rust, if you have a carbon steel blade you should take extra care when exposing it to the damp.
The handle of your blade and the hinge pins should never be cleaned with water. If you accidentally get soap in the tang (hinge pin) then you will need to clean it out with a non-corrosive solution. Buildup on the scales (handle) can be avoided by wiping down them with a dry towel after every use. We cover how to clean the scales below if you find they are getting dirty.
After each shave, you should clean your blade in hot water. The hot water will help cleanse your blade of soap to avoid residue buildup. Be very careful not to get the hinge or the scales wet. The scaled of your razor can be made of a number of different materials. Many of them prone to absorbing moisture. Moisture is the catalyst of rust. The hinge pin is obviously the hardest place to dry out completely, so you should avoid getting water in it at all costs.
Dip your blade in hot water up to a quarter inch from the tang. Wipe dry on a clean towel or paper. Ensure the whole tool is completely dry before putting it away after each use. If you see buildup or rust on your blade after you clean it this way, or you are going to store your razor for some time; move on to the next steps.
Your blade needs periodic deep detailing to keep it fresh and safe. First, clean your blade with hot water and dry it thoroughly. Mild soapy water can now be used to help remove soap scum and any other gunk on the razor. Dish soap is an excellent choice because it helps cut grease but is mild and gentle.
Mix a small amount of the soap into hot water and submerge your blade into it, stopping no more than a quarter inch from the tang. Leave it there for 30 seconds then lift it out and use a corner of a clean towel dipped in the soapy water to buffer the metal. This should get off most of the gunk that is on your blade.
If some grime still remains, you can use a soft abrasive to clean the razor. An old toothbrush or a very soft scrubber sponge will work. Gently scrub off any grime on your razor in a soft circular motion using the abrasive and your soapy hot water. If you are using an old sponge or toothbrush, you should probably disinfect it first.
You can disinfect your abrasive of choice in alcohol or mild bleach solution first to avoid cross-contamination. If you use a disinfectant remember to rinse entirely before using it on your blade. Chemicals can cause the metal to rust faster.
After you have finished cleaning with soap, you should rinse the blade in clean hot water again. Remember to dry your tool completely after putting water on it. A few passes with a dry towel should do it. After a good cleaning, you should move onto the next step.
We use our straight razors to get a close, clean shave. Because of the nature of hair and how sharp the blade is cuts and nicks are inevitable. To avoid infection and unsightly ingrown hairs a disinfectant is essential. We typically shave in the bathroom where bacteria grow wild in the moist environment.
To give your blade a good disinfecting and sanitizing bath, we suggest using alcohol. The alcohol is not going to have a strong reaction to the steel, so it is safe to use. You can dip your blade into the alcohol until it is a quarter inch away from the hinge. Count slowly to ten then remove. Dry it completely with a towel before moving on. If you don’t want to dip the blade in the alcohol, then you may use a cotton ball or pad. Soak the cotton in the alcohol and wipe the blade clean with it.
Oiling your blade is essential to avoid damaging erosion and rust. There are special oils for razors on the market, but almost any oil will do. You should clean sanitise then oil your razor every few weeks and before you put it away for storage.
To oil your blade, take a cloth and dip it into the oil and pass it over the blade. Do it 2 to 3 times to make sure every bit is covered. You don’t need to cake it on, but you do need a nice thin coat to cover it. This is usually when people cut themselves so be careful when adding oil to the edge of the straight razor.
If your handle has become gunky or grimy, you may want to clean it off. As we talked about before the scales shouldn’t be wet. But it is possible to clean them if you are careful not to use too much liquid. The best course of action is to try and buff off the gunk with a slightly damp towel. Be very careful not to get moisture inside the scales.
Use a dry toothbrush scrape any gunk out of the hinge pin area. If you must use a cleaner, then find a computer cleaner spray that will avoid rust. Ensure your tool is left open to dry after wiping it down entirely with a towel. You can use a blow dryer on a low setting from far away if you have accidentally gotten any moisture inside.
Rust is inevitably going to happen on steel, even on stainless. If you get a few rust spots, you can easily get rid of them with an abrasive sponge or fine sanding paper. You may see a few scratches after you have scrubbed off the rust. You can make your straight razor looking like new. You can buff those scratches off with fine grain sanding paper. Decrease the grain until you can barely see the scratches and finish a polishing cloth. Remember to treat your tool with oil afterward to prevent the rust from forming again.
Knowing how to clean a straight razor should also be followed by mastering stropping.
So you have cleaned, sanitised and oiled your straight razor. You now need to hone it. As anyone who used a straight razor knows we should be stropping before every shave to maintain a sharp edge and lengthen the time between sharpening. But after a more in-depth cleaning and sanitising and before you store it you should strop it one more time. You should wait 24 to 48 hours after sharpening before you strop the blade. The fin or the fine edge of your razor needs time to straighten and relax before you strop it.
After you ensure your razor is completely dry and cleaned you should put it away. Whether you are switching between razors or not, you should choose the correct place to store your tool. I keep mine in my sock drawer. Others keep theirs in an office closet. You want to select a spot that is dry and not too hot or cold with low air circulation. Room temperature is ideal, and bone-dry is essential. Do not keep it in the bathroom. It is too damp and will cause your razor to rust.
Straight razors are a great way to get a close shave and avoid buying disposable razors. With a little maintenance and know-how, you can keep your razor looking new and working correctly for a lifetime. Follow our handy guide, and you shouldn’t have any issues cleaning your tool. Happy shaving!