Learning how to clean a straight razor is the secret to keeping your traditional single-edged shaving tool in its prime. After all, it can be a hefty investment, and you do not want to see your money waste away.
The metal and wood combination of most straight razors on the market already guarantees long-term durability. But that does not 100% protect your razor from corrosion, especially if it is constantly in a humid environment.
If you clean it regularly the right way, you will save time and additional expenses while making your own shaving experience smooth and rewarding, enjoying all the benefits of using a straight razor. So, knowing how to clean straight razors is a skill all wet shaving beginners ought to know.
Here’s the best guide to cleaning straight razors in 2022:
- The Importance of Cleaning Straight Razors
- How Do Razors Become Unclean?
- Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning a Straight Razor
- How to Clean Razors
- Single Blade, Easy Clean
The Importance of Cleaning Straight Razors
Hygiene is the primary reason why cleaning a straight razor is necessary. Do know that all razors, including straight razors, can be an inoculating rod for diseases from the germ 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 infection1 caused by an accidental razor cut while shaving. The story goes that the Pharaoh’s curse for desecrating his tomb caused the razor cut. Whether or not the curse is real, one thing we can be sure of: unclean razors do not make trustworthy travel companions.
How Do Razors Become Unclean?
Lest we forget, the skin is a reservoir of skin bacteria. And not every skin bacteria is beneficial or at least harmless.
The most contagious of them is the common Staph aureus, which some 30% of the human population unknowingly has on their skin.2, 3 Other nasty germs include the fungus Candida yeast, which causes athlete’s foot, and other viruses, which cause herpes and warts.
When a razor blade shaves off your facial hair, it does not only cut off your hair, but also your skin. Micro-abrasions and nicks form, which become the entry point for blood-borne viruses like hepatitis B and C and HIV.4
Slicing your pimples and moles accidentally while shaving is also another way for germs to enter your body. You certainly will not die from a thousand cuts; a single one is all the germs need to give you nasty skin irritations.
While shaving, there is more than just lather residue that builds upon the razor blade. Those germs wanting to enter your skin’s micro-abrasions are hitching a ride on the razor blade. Hence, they can quickly transfer between different patches of skin.
This is why, at Naked Armor, we always emphasize cleaning your razor blades and never sharing them with anyone.
Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning a Straight Razor
Maintaining the cleanliness of your straight razor is not only about washing it after shaving. Follow these do’s and don'ts of how to clean a straight razor to guarantee that your razor is well-sanitized until your subsequent use.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of how to clean a straight razor:
Do’s of cleaning a straight razor:
- Do clean the razor blade regularly
- Do rinse the razor with soapy hot water
- Do get a razor stand
- Do sterilize your razor blade
- Do coat your blade with balm
Don’ts of cleaning a straight razor:
- Don’t get the scales wet.
- Don’t leave it in the sink to dry.
- Don’t forget to lubricate with oil.
- Don’t forget to strop and hone your blade.
Let’s get into the details:
DO Clean the Razor Blade Regularly
After using a straight razor, it makes sense to clean the blade 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 do not even need any particular solution; plain warm water will do. Just remember to avoid excessive moisture.
Overexposure to moisture can cause the razor blade to rust quickly, depending on the type of metal it is from.5 Carbon steel razor blades, like Dovo classics, are better at cutting because they have less alloy but they rust more quickly. Conversely, stainless steel razor blades have more alloy, so they generally resist rust easily.
We must point out that there are 150 grades of stainless steel, and some are more prone to corrosion than the rest.6 But if the blade has chromium plating, it is less likely to get rust. However, if you are going to dry the blade thoroughly anyway, rusting should be the least of your problems.
DON’T Get the Scales Wet
Unless you are cleaning a kamisori straight razor with a straight metal handle, it would be best to keep the water away from the scales. That is because scales, or the straight razor’s handle, are made from various materials that cannot tolerate excessive moisture.
Some materials absorb excess moisture that can transfer to the blade eventually. It forms water spots on the blade when it gets there, resulting in rust, especially if the blade is carbon steel.
The best way to clean the scales is to 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 are washing the blade, the water will not 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.
DO Rinse the Razor with Soapy Hot Water
The simplest and most efficient way to clean a straight razor is to wash it with soapy hot water. It does not have to be any special shaving soap; 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.7 It will also kill off the germs present on the metal—no need to scrub. You can simply rinse and dry it off with a cloth or tissue.
DON’T Leave It on the Sink to Dry
Sorry to disappoint, but the razor will not dry out entirely if you leave it lying on the sink. Instead, it will be exposed to moisture every time someone uses the sink.
It will also come into contact with soap scum and bacteria lurking around. Use a clean cloth to dry your straight razor after washing instead, and set it aside in an area far from moisture and well-ventilated from constant airflow.
Here is a tip: use an absorbent microfiber cloth to get the moisture out. If you do not have that, get a hairdryer and air it dry using the lowest settings.
DO Get a Razor Stand
A straight razor stand will help dry your razor entirely and keep it away from the moisture in your sink.
You should wet your straight razor before shaving, but it needs to be completely dry after use, and that is one of the golden rules of straight razor maintenance.
For some, drying straight razors down to the grain can be quite a chore they do not want to bother with, especially while they are on the go. When you are shopping for straight razor essentials, it would be wise to get a razor stand.
And the key to keeping your straight razor clean until your next shave is not to store it lying down. So, it would be wise to get a razor stand, like our Straight Razor Stand Kit.
Not only does it look good, but it is also from high-quality aerospace aluminum and zinc alloy. It will be durable and rust-proof, perfect for your straight razor.
Razor stands are convenient lavatory accessories that will ease the drying process of your straight razor and keep your bathroom counters clutter-free. Since it keeps your tools, like razor and shaving brush, away from the sink’s bacteria-filled surface, it is a more hygienic alternative than having them just lying around.
DON’T Forget to Lubricate with Oil
If you decide to store away your straight razor for a very long time, lubricate it with oil to maintain the blade’s sharpness. The oil helps protect the blade, especially in humid environments, serving as a barrier against the surrounding air and moisture.
For that same reason, only lubricate the blade when you are sure that it is thoroughly 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 recommend knife-grade Camilla or USP mineral oil for short to mid-length storage and high-grade firearms storage oil for more extended storage periods.8 Just clean it off again before stropping and using the razor to shave.
DO Sterilize Your Razor Blade After Rinsing with Water
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 are more than enough for this purpose. For best results, use a solution with at least 70% isopropyl.
You do not need to pour the alcohol down the blade. To disinfect and sterilize your straight razor, get a clean cloth and moisten it with alcohol to wipe it down the blade. The neat thing about using alcohol, aside from its germ-killing properties, is that it will stop rust from developing on the metal. Also, it quickly evaporates, so you do not 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 to disinfecting razor blades.9
DON’T Forget to Strop and Hone Your Blade
Stropping your razor before your every shave will help make it last longer.
This point is not exactly a cleaning tip but more of a maintenance must-do. We included it here because we feel that all straight razor shavers should be doing it every time they shave.
Stropping helps maintain the sharpness of your razor edge.10 It lengthens the amount of time before you need to resharpen your razor blade. Not only will you always have a clean and hygienic razor blade, but you will also get a very sharp one. It ensures that you get the smoothest and cleanest shave that you can get from a straight razor.
Don’t forget to hone your straight razor every three months, even if there are no visible major dents on its edge yet. Do this as a precautionary maintenance step to guarantee that your blade stays durable at all costs.
You can check out our guide on how to sharpen a razor blade through stropping if you do not know yet how to strop. Meanwhile, you will also need to get your hands on a strop sharpening paste—just in case your leather strop loses its grit.
Keeping a straight razor clean and partaking in straight razor maintenance may seem like a handful. But, nothing lasts forever without proper care. Trust us. You would want to take time following these straight razor care do’s and don’ts instead of drowning in regret once your hundred-dollar razor gets dull and rusty.
Do Coat Your Blade
Coating your blade, especially when you’ll not use it for a long time, will help prevent the formation of rust on your straight razor.
There is another way to shield your straight razor from rust and other corrosive factors: using a balm to coat your blade. Similar to what oil would do, covering your blade with a layer of balm will seal the surface of your straight razor blade and protect it from moisture and humidity.
Naked Armor offers all-in-one solutions that will cater to your post-shaving care needs—literally, from beard to balm. You can use our organic Hemp Aftershave Balm, rich in 100% pure hemp extract and oil and other natural ingredients.
Or, you can use our breakthrough Beard to Blade Balm, highlighting the magic of nature’s touch through bees. Our Beard To Blade Balm has organic beeswax, honey, pollen, jelly, and organic extra-virgin olive oil packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits while soothing, healing, and hydrating your skin and facial hair, and steel.
Technically, using organic balms is the most natural way to protect your blade and treat your skin well. Forget about synthetic and mineral oils that may have harmful ingredients that can irritate your skin.
How to Clean Razors
Even if you're using a cartridge razor, you need to know how to properly clean it.
Meanwhile, if you still have not switched from shaving with a replaceable or disposable razor to straight razor shaving, we have some tips on how you can clean a cartridge razor.11 You can do these steps to keep your blade debris-free until your brand new straight razor arrives.
Meanwhile, here is a quick overview of how to clean razors properly:
Rinse the Head From the Back
Let a powerful stream of water run over the back of the head of your cartridge razor. The best way to clean the gunk out of a razor is to use pressure from the water to push it out of the blades. Then, tap it on the corner of the sink to let go entirely of the excess shaving cream or foam, hair, and whatever debris is hiding between the blades.
Brush Off the Excess
The problem with multi-blade razors is that the blades are too close together.12 Hence, getting rid of whatever is in between can be challenging. You can try using a razor brush to do the job. You can use a toothpick and the bristles of an old toothbrush as an alternative to reach tight crevices.
Dry the Razor Completely
Like a straight razor, it is essential to let your cartridge razor dry out completely. You can keep it in a well-ventilated area with constant airflow. Doing so will prevent too much exposure to moisture and prevent rust from forming. You can also dry it with a hairdryer to make things simpler.
Sterilize Your Blades
Again, razor blades are an enticing environment for bacteria build-up.13 Hence, whatever kind of razor you use, it would be best to keep it sterile. You can easily do this by filling a bowl with 70% isopropyl alcohol, just enough to cover the head of your razor. Let it soak for five to ten minutes, and swirl it around to ensure that you wash every nook and cranny. After, just shake off the excess and leave it to dry.
We know that cleaning cartridge razors regularly can save you money and trips to the store. However, remember that you should dispose of or replace the blades after three to five shaves. Follow these tips if you really cannot be bothered to go out or order a new set of blades.
Single-blade, Easy Clean
If you genuinely want to bid farewell to the hassle of replacing razors all the time, then switch to a single-blade razor, like a traditional Western-style straight razor or a safety razor if you are less confident with your skills. You can learn more about and other additional information on what is a safety razor here or how to clean one here.
Nonetheless, if you choose to go with a straight edge razor, do not worry about its initial cost. You will be spending the same whenever you buy replacements for your disposable razors. Plus, you will be doing Mother Nature a big favor.
Cleaning a straight razor is more efficient than changing blades. You do not have to worry about whether you took out every gunk in the blades because you can technically see all of its surfaces.
We recommend getting one from Naked Armor’s stainless steel straight razors if you want a low-maintenance straight razor. These razors have a sleek modern design and ACRO Japanese stainless steel with a 61-62 HRC base, which is durable and will surely last.
Ease your way into cleaning a straight razor and click Add To Cart now.
More Naked Armor Reads
- Barbering and Infection Control: What You Need to Know. Barber License. https://www.barber-license.com/infection-control/
- Barbering and Infection Control: What You Need to Know. https://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/staph.html
- C. Bailey, MD. Is it Safe to Share Razors?. Dr. Bailey Skin Care. https://drbaileyskincare.com/blogs/blog/is-it-safe-to-share-razors
- How Long Does the HIV Virus Live on a Razor Blade?. The Body. https://www.thebody.com/article/how-long-does-the-hiv-virus-live-on-a-razor-blade. August 26, 2016
- A.M. Helmenstine, Ph.D.How Rust and Corrosion Work. Thought Co. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-rust-works-608461. January 22, 2020
- I have rusted stainless steel, I thought stainless steel couldn't rust?. The Rust Store. https://www.theruststore.com/Can-stainless-steel-rust-W71.aspx
- Glycerol - An Overview. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/glycerol#:~:text=Glycerin%2C%20technically%20an%20alcohol%2C%20has,different%20biological%20properties%20than%20ethanol.
- Oil for Straight Razor. What kind and when do you apply and remove. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/oil-for-straight-razor-what-kind-and-when-do-you-apply-and-remove.317321/
- Hydrogen Peroxide Solution, Non- - Uses, Side Effects, and More. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-76035/hydrogen-peroxide/details
- How often should you hone your razor?. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/how-often-should-you-hone-your-razor.34371/
- W. Lovell. How To Clean A Razor Blade. WikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/Clean-a-Razor-Blade. May 6, 2022
- Do More Blades Mean A Better Shave?. Refined Shave. https://www.refinedshave.com/do-more-blades-mean-a-better-shave/
- Germs In Your Bathroom: Everything You Need To Know. Bathroom City. https://www.bathroomcity.co.uk/blog/germs-your-bathroom-everything-you-need-know