How to Clean & Maintain Your Double Edge Safety Razor
by Nathan GareauLast updated: March 24, 2022
So, you’ve started shaving with a safety razor - congratulations! Welcome to the best shave of your life, not to mention a much more affordable and environmentally friendly shave! But now that you’re a couple of weeks in, your razor is looking somewhat gross, not quite the bastion of cleanliness it was when you got it. No sweat, we’ve got some handy tips for maintaining and cleaning your safety razor!
How to Clean & Maintain a Double Edge Safety Razor
An old adage goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As we’re in Canada, it’s more likely 28.4 grams of prevention and 454 grams of cure. Pendantry aside, it holds up: take good care of your razor, and it’ll rarely need any serious work.
Start by rinsing your razor thoroughly after each shave: loosen the head a little, and run it under the tap for several seconds to wash away built-up shaving cream and stubble. You’ll notice this is far easier to do with a safety razor than a cartridge! Then tighten that baby back up, and store it in its stand in a relatively dry place. Lacking a stand, you can certainly store a razor on its side, but try to avoid keeping it somewhere humid. While you can keep it in the shower, you’ll notice the head will build up rust where it contacts the blade, which you’ll want to deal with if it happens.
Even with proper care, a safety razor can build up soap scum and scale.
Beyond proper rinsing and storage, your razor won’t need much routine maintenance! If you share a bathroom with other people, just keep it somewhere safe (like a stand), so it won’t get bumped around or dropped on the floor. If you have kids, snag yourself a razor head cover and a blade bank for safety’s sake.
Cleaning soap scum off of your razor
Over time, gunk will build up, as gunk does. In the name of aesthetics, let’s de-gunk your razor! First, take it apart and set the blade aside out of the way, or dispose of it in a blade bank. Then, grab an old toothbrush, squirt a little dish soap into your sink and fill it part way with warm water. Dip your toothbrush in the water and carefully scrub each part of your razor, getting all the nooks and crannies where gunk can hide.
Give your razor a good rinse, and allow it to dry thoroughly before re-assembling it. If you perform this cleaning process every month or two, you shouldn’t need to do any more substantial cleaning than this!
While soap and water do the trick very well, some of us live in areas with very hard water, such as Calgary, Alberta. I find the minerals in the water can build up in a thick coat on my razor that really looks unpleasant. Like a tea kettle, this can be easily solved with a little vinegar, but you want to use vinegar sparingly because safety razors have a reasonably thin chrome coating.
Dilute 1 part vinegar in 4 parts water, disassemble your razor as before, and allow the parts to soak for 20-30 minutes. Remove them from the vinegar bath, give them a gentle scrub with that old toothbrush, and a thorough rinse. Allow them to dry thoroughly before re-assembling your razor.
If life gets away from you at times as it does for me, you may forget regular maintenance and resort to this more intensive cleaning less often. If so, keep a close eye on your razor to watch for corrosion. In addition to vinegar, I've found both toothpaste or a baking soda and water paste to be very effective at removing scale from my safety razor. I would avoid using anything more abrasive than this to not damage the plating.
Removing rust from a safety razor
Let’s assume you’ve been following all of my advice PERFECTLY, but life gets in the way, and your razor ends up rusty. Maybe it sat in the shower too long, or you grew a beard and didn’t change the razor for six months. I’m not here to judge; it’s happened to me too! Luckily, rust on a safety razor is pretty easy to deal with.
Long-term storage in the shower is the leading cause of rusty razors. If possible, store your razor outside of the shower.
First, try the steps above. A gentle toothbrush may be enough to remove it, and vinegar or baking soda will definitely do the trick. But if somehow they’re just not cutting it, there’s a magical powder that works every time: Barkeepers Friend. This stuff is miraculous at cleaning pots and pans, but it also works a treat for removing rust from knives and razors without scratching them up badly. Just dampen a cloth or that old toothbrush, rub a tiny spot in some Barkeepers Friend, and gently scrub away the rust. Like magic, that pesky oxidization will vanish!
Sanitizing your safety razor
Finally, the issue of sanitizing. We get asked this one a LOT, and put simply, you shouldn’t worry about disinfecting your own razors. Sure, if a blade is being used on multiple people, it should ALWAYS be sanitized from person to person, but that shouldn’t be an issue outside the barbershop. And if someone in your house is sneakily using your razor, maybe it’s time to get them one as a gift!
That said, for the genuinely germophobic, it is absolutely fine to sanitize your razor - but it isn’t required.
I hope this helped your get more comfortable with your new shaving buddy! With a bit of care, a quality razor can last decades, even lifetimes, so the investment of a few minutes here and there is worth it. If you are more concerned about things like rust or want a razor you can let hang for longer with maintenance, snag yourself a stainless steel razor; they can handle more abuse and likely won’t show water spots as badly!
A famed cocktologist and axe man, Nathan opened the first Kent of Inglewood store in Calgary, and now spends his days writing most of what you are reading here and teaching straight razor shaving classes. Ask him about his world-famous Three Cherry Manhattan. In his spare time Nathan can be found sharpening his axe, making fermented foods, or practicing his amateur butchering hobby. He doesn't slur his words, he speaks in cursive.