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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sharpen Disposable Razor Blades and Save Money

Expensive Razor Blades

Sharpen Razor Blades, Save Money!
Sharpen Razor Blades, Save Money!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Store display of Gillette Fusion razor blades, one box is priced at over $40 for 12 razor blades
Disposable razor blades are expensive
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Disposable razor blades are expensive!  I use a Gillette Fusion razor which uses a disposable razor cartridge with 5 blades.  Since my wife usually picks up razor blades for me, I had no idea how expensive they are.  The Gillette Fusion razor costs about $10 and comes with two disposable blade cartridges.  Packs of 4 razor blade cartridges cost about $16- this is $4 for each disposable razor blade.  So the old expression "give away the razor and sell the razor blades" is almost true in this case.  I would estimate that a razor blade cartridge lasts 3 or 4 weeks.  At this rate I would use 14 per year which adds up to $56 over one year.

Razor blades are made of steel- the Fusion actually has 5 blades.  Shick Hydro is a similar multi-blade razor product in this category.  It seems like something made of steel should be able to last longer than a few weeks against my beard.  It seems wrong to throw away something so expensive after such a short time.  Can you sharpen disposable razor blades?

Sharpening Disposable Razor Blades

After some research, I think I have come up with a way to make disposable razor blades last much longer.  You can find videos on the internet that show how to sharpen a razor blade using denim blue jeans.  The technique shown in the video is to push the razor along the jean with the blades facing backward.  My initial impression was that this is nonsense.  Cotton is much softer than steel (and much softer than whiskers even) and it does not seem possible that a soft material like cotton could sharpen steel.  The process of sharpening a blade requires some of the metal from the blade to be worn away to hone the edge and make it sharp.  Blue jeans are simply not a viable way to actually sharpen a razor.

After further reading and actually testing this technique, I think that the blue jean sharpening technique works- but not by sharpening the blades.  The process of rubbing the blades against the blue jeans is similar the rubbing a straight razor on a piece of leather to sharpen it.  This method of sharpening is known as stropping.  Rubbing the blade against leather straightens out the edge of the blade and thoroughly cleans and dries it.  This is the beneficial effect that you can get using denim to "sharpen" a disposable razor blade.  The primary reason that disposable razor blades get dull is that they get build-up of dried shaving cream residue and mineral deposits.  They can also get some rust on the surface since most people put them away damp.  Rubbing the blade along denim after shaving cleans, dries, and straightens out the blades and keeps them in new condition much longer.

Close-up of sharp disposable razor blade with microscope in background
Sharp disposable razor blade- no mineral deposits, dired shaving cream residue, or surface rust to dull the blade
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Better than the Blue Jean Sharpening Technique

My mind kept going back to the image of a barber rubbing an old fashioned straight blade against a leather strap to clean and sharpen it.  I don't want to keep a pair of jeans or even a piece of denim in my bathroom.  It would get wet and dirty.  What do I have that is more like leather?  Conveniently, skin is a lot like leather.

I tried this sharpening technique and it works great- rub the razor along your forearm from your elbow to your wrist.  Press the razor so it is in contact with skin- make sure the sharp part is facing opposite to the direction you are moving the blade.  In other words, run it backward along your arm so the blades will not cut you.  You will see that the razor blades looks clean and shiny after doing this about 20 times.  Next, I run the razor in this same backward direction along a towel to make sure it is really dry before putting it away.  My razor has stayed noticeably sharper by doing this.

Picture shows how to sharpen disposable razor blade by pushing along arm
Improvised leather strop sharpening technique for disposable razor blades.
Run the razor from near your elbow toward your wrist in the direction shown.
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I think mineral deposits, hardened shaving cream residue, and surface rust cause most of the dulling effect of disposable razor blades.  Keep your blades clean and dry and they will stay sharp much longer.  I was amazed how well this works- give it a try and save money on expensive disposable razor blades.

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1 comment:

  1. I soak my mine in a cup with soapy water overnight then for about 20 minutes in distilled vinegar on the day of use. I strop on my wrist during use only because it's already so old (Jan 2013) but it still renders a comfortable nick free shave. I shave three times a week.