The metal and wood combination of most straight razors on the market already guarantee long-term durability, but if you clean it regularly the right way, you’ll save time and additional expenses, while making your own shaving experience smooth and rewarding.
It’s not often stressed enough but hygiene is a major reason why straight razors need to be cleaned. A straight razor, or any razor for that matter, can be an inoculating rod for diseases caused by germs on your skin.
Case in point: George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnavon. He funded the archaeological expedition that discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt. Unfortunately, months after the discovery, he died of a sepsis infection caused by an accidental razor cut while shaving. The story goes that it was the Pharaoh’s curse for desecrating his tomb that caused the razor cut. Whether or not the curse is real, one thing we can be sure of: unclean razors don’t make trustworthy travel companions.
Less we forget, the skin is a reservoir of skin bacteria. And not every skin bacteria is beneficial or at least harmless. In fact, the most contagious of them all is the common Staph areus which some 30% of the human population carry unknowingly on their skin. Other nasty germs include the fungus Candida yeast which causes athlete’s foot and the viruses which cause herpes and warts.
When a razor blade shaves off your facial hair, it does more than cut off your hair. It also cuts into the skin. This causes micro-abrasions that become the point of entry for blood-borne viruses like hepatitis B and C and HIV.
Slicing your pimples and moles accidentally while shaving is also another way for germs to enter your body. You certainly won’t die from a thousand cuts; a single one is all the germs need in order to start partying. And it doesn’t stop there.
While shaving, there’s more than just lather residue that builds up on the razor blade. Those same germs that are eager to establish a foothold on the micro-abrasions are also hitching a ride on the razor blade. Which means that germs can easily transfer between different patches of skin.
This is why, at Naked Armor, we always emphasize to clean your razor blades and never share them with anyone.
With that being said, here are some do’s and don’ts to cleaning a straight razor.
• Do Clean the Razor Blade Regularly
• Don't Get the Scales Wet
• Do Rinse the Razor with Soapy Water
• Don't Leave It on the Sink to Dry
• Do Sterilize your Razor Blade after Rinsing with Water
• Don't Forget to Lubricate with Oil
• Do Strop your Blade
It makes sense to clean the razor blade after using it because you need to wash off the lather residues or the bits of dead skin cells left on the blade. All that residue and grime can also dull the blade’s edge. You don’t even need any special solution; plain tap water will do. Just remember to avoid excessive moisture.
That’s because the razor blade can easily get rust, depending on the type of metal it is made of. Carbon steel razor blades are better at cutting because they have less alloy but they tend to rust more easily. Stainless steel razor blades, conversely, have more alloy so they generally resist rust easily.
We must point out though that there are 150 grades of stainless steel and some are more prone to corrosion than the rest. But if the blade has chromium plating, it’s less likely to get rust. However, if you’re going to dry the blade thoroughly anyway, rusting shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Unless you’re cleaning a kamisori straight razor which has a straight metal handle, you’d best keep the water away from the scales. That’s because scales, or what is commonly known as a straight razor’s handle, is made from a variety of materials, some of which cannot tolerate excessive moisture. Some materials absorb excess moisture and when that happens, it usually transfers to the blade. When it gets there, it forms water spots on the blade which can result to rust, especially if the blade is carbon steel.
The best way to clean the scales is to just use a moist, clean cloth to wipe away excess oil or dirt. You can also use the cloth to wrap the scales so that when you’re washing the blade, the water won’t spill on the handles. If you prefer rinsing, rinse the blade slanting down under running water and avoid getting the rest of the razor parts wet.
It helps to clean the razor with some soapy water. It doesn’t have to be any special shaving soap. Just an ordinary mild soap will do. The glycerin in the soap will help wash off the dead skin cells and lather residue sticking on the blade. It will also kill off the germs that maybe present on the metal. No need to scrub; just rinse and dry off with a cloth or tissue.
Sorry to disappoint, but it won’t dry out completely if you leave it lying on the sink. That’s because it will be exposed to moisture every time someone uses the sink. Plus, it’ll also come into contact with soap scum and bacteria from the sink. Use a clean cloth to dry it, instead, and set it aside in an area that’s far from moisture and well ventilated enough from constant airflow.
Here’s a tip: use an absorbent microfiber cloth to get the moisture out. Or if you don’t have that, get your wife’s hair dryer and air it dry using the lowest settings.
Don’t store it lying down. Better yet, get one of those razor stands, like our Silverback Razor Stand Kit. Not only does it look good, but it’s also made from high quality aerospace aluminum and zinc alloy. It will be durable and rust-proof, perfect for your straight razor.
If you want to go the extra mile in killing off all the germs on your straight razor blade, you can use some rubbing alcohol to do the job.
The natural disinfectant qualities of your standard isopropyl alcohol is more than enough for this purpose. For best results, use a solution that has at least 70% isopropyl.
You don’t need to pour the alcohol down the blade. Just get a clean cloth, moisten it with alcohol and use it to wipe it down the blade. The neat thing about using alcohol, aside from its germ-killing properties, is that it will actually stop rust from developing on the metal. Also, it quickly evaporates so you don’t need to wipe it again with a dry cloth.
If you happen to run out of alcohol, you can use distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide as suitable alternatives.
If you decide to store away your straight razor for a very long time, lubricate it with oil in order to maintain the sharpness of its blade. The oil helps protect the blade especially in humid environments since the thin coat of oil will serve as a barrier against the surrounding air and moisture.
For that same reason, only lubricate the blade when you are sure that it is fully dried. Otherwise, the moisture captured inside the oil layer on the blade will only ensure that the blade becomes rusty. And all your effort will be for naught.
Any mineral oil will do. The shaving enthusiasts over at Badger and Blade Forums recommend knife-grade Camilla or USP mineral oil for short to mid-length storage and high grade firearms storage oil for longer periods of storage. Just clean it off again before stropping and using the razor to shave.
This last point isn’t exactly a cleaning tip but more of a maintenance must-do. We included it here because we feel that this is what every straight razor user should be doing every time they shave.
Stropping helps maintain the sharpness of your razor edge. It lengthens the amount of time before you need to have to sharpen your razor blade again. Not only will you have a clean and hygienic razor blade to use every time, but you’ll also get a very sharp one. And this ensures that you get the smoothest and cleanest shave that a straight razor can get you.
But you’ll need stropping paste for that. Just click here to get one. Have fun cleaning your razor!
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