Why Are Razor Blades Coated?
As you may have noticed above, most of the razor blades advertise their products as being coated with various materials. Some may claim that this provides a closer shave whilst others use the fancy wording as a marketing gimmick.
However, there is a lot of science and economics that goes into these little strips of metal. When King Camp Gillette first introduced their own safety razors, they used a business model known as “bait and hook”. Today, this is aptly referred to the “razor and blades” approach on which the company still depends today. However, in 1901 it was an entirely new concept.
In short, this consisted of selling the razors themselves very cheaply and practically at a loss in order to attract customers en masse. However, once they obtained a new customer the blades themselves would be sold at a considerable profit.
In order to cheaply manufacture blades and ensure consistent sales, they were made from carbon steel. As carbon steel is prone to rust, this guaranteed a short lifespan for the blades and customers would often replace them everyday.
Introduction Of Different Metals & Coatings
Some decades later, brands began standardising razor blade designs to fit on any device. Eventually, Wilkinson Sword introduced stainless steel razor blades in 1960, which lasted far longer.
Similarly, other brands began to coat their razor blades with different materials. Most coatings ensure that the razor blades don’t rust too soon when left in a humid environment. However, others improve sharpness at a lower cost and can even reduce friction with Teflon-style substances.
Many brands tried experimenting with different metals such as tungsten steel but because they lasted so long, they couldn’t sell enough to stay in business. Even diamond blades exist today but their cost is so great that they’re rare to find.
Nevertheless, Gillette still profit from their original approach today with their patented multi-bladed cartridge razors and mechanisms. However, wet shaving enthusiasts can enjoy the plethora of razor blades now widely available from a host of different manufacturers.
How Many Shaves Before Replacing My Razor Blade?
A frequent question asked by newcomers is how many shaves you can expect in a single blade. After all, this is something we mentioned in our list above. However, it’s not a simple question to answer.
On average, you can expect 5 good shaves with a single blade but you could likely achieve up to 10 if you have fine hair. Men with thicker hair may struggle to go beyond the former. If you’re an average person and shave every day, a single 100 pack could easily last you over a year.
Nevertheless, every blade is different and the end user considerably varies a blade’s lifespan . The way a blade is handled from the applied pressure to the shaving angle can affect this. However, you shouldn’t apply any pressure really. Furthermore, the thickness of your beard and number of shaving passes will also affect the lifespan of your blade.
Don’t forget that personal preference plays a factor in how long a blade is still usable. Whilst most people are satisfied with at least 5 shaves from a blade, others will try to get over 10. There are also some wet shavers who prefer their blade to be perfectly sharp. Consequently, they may only use a blade for 1 or 2 shaves before disposing it.
Finally, the way a blade is stored can impact the life of a razor blade. You can learn about how to properly store your razor blades in the next section.
How Do I Know When To Replace The Blade?
As previously mentioned, this again boils down to personal preference. As a general rule, a blade needs replacing when it’s dull. This can be detected by the razor blade tugging and pulling at your hairs, which may cause nicks and irritation.
In short, if you feel any discomfort, you’ll know it’s time to change the blade. Your hair and skin are the best indicators for this as it’s different for everyone.
How Does This Compare To Cartridge Razors?
Although they contain more blades, cartridge razors aren’t all that different. In fact, some argue that they don’t even last as long and dull after the first few shaves. However, some say that they can be used for about a week or more.
Furthermore, many multi-bladed cartridge razors come with so-called glide strips that contain aloe vera and other substances. These are supposedly designed to reduce friction and improve the shave.
Another use for them is to indicate when the blade needs replacing as they will disappear over time. This tends to happen sooner than when the blades are dull but shaving without it increases friction and tends to be uncomfortable.
Resharpening & Recycling Your Razor Blades
Aside from stitching a used razor blade to your cap like in Peaky Blinders, there are ways to recycle old razor blades at home. In fact, you can actually increase their lifespan very easily by effectively stropping them.
Those with straight razor experience may know that stropping is the process of realigning a dull blade by running it across leather. We cover this extensively in the straight razor sharpening guide.
However, you don’t actually need to use a leather strop to achieve this but just a pair of jeans instead. If you do have a strop, though, you can always use this if you prefer.
How To Sharpen & Strop An Old Razor Blade
- Lie a strip of denim or jean leg on a flat surface.
- Put the used blade back in a safety razor.
- Hold it against the jean or strop at a normal shaving angle.
- Run it up the chosen surface in the opposite direction for shaving.
- Repeat this step 15-20 times.
- Open the razor and turn over the blade.
- Repeat steps 3-6.
As you will see, it’s very easy and can give you another two or three clean shaves. Additionally, this is even achievable with a cartridge razor! Just remember not to run the blade down the surface as if you were shaving. This won’t sharpen the blade but damage the leather strop or jean.
How To Store Your Razor Blades
Now that you have your razor blades and have started using them, you’ll need to take a few steps to look after them. Firstly, make sure that the razor blades are kept away from a humid environment.
Although this may be difficult given that they’re used in a bathroom, you could find a drawer or cabinet out of the way. Stainless steel may not rust like other metals but it can still oxidise over time.
New Razor Blades
New blades tend to be wrapped in wax-sealed envelopes, which should provide a little protection. Similarly, the tucks or dispensers are often sealed in a cellophane wrapper too.
Before it’s been opened, it should be fine in most areas and well-protected from the elements. However, when this is open, you should try and keep them in a dry area. Otherwise, your razor blades may begin to wear before you’ve even started using them!
As we cover in our safety razor guide, you should always thoroughly rinse your razor right after using it. A good 10-15 second blast of water should be enough to remove any debris and dried soap between the cracks. This should always be followed by drying the razor with a towel to ensure that no leftover droplets eat away at the metal between shaves.
The steps above are the basics but if you want to guarantee your blades a long life, there are some other measure you can take.
Firstly, leave your blade in a glass of alcohol or barbicide between shaves. Rubbing alcohol will disinfect the blade but also prevent any rust from gathering until your next shave.
Alternatively, you can use an oil or lubricant to coat the blade. Various oils can be swabbed onto the blade between uses, which will create a protective barrier against the outside world.
It’s true that razor blades are very inexpensive and it won’t cost much to just change it when it’s worn out. However, if you’re conscious about the environment you may want to take some extra steps to avoid unnecessary waste.
How To Dispose Of Your Used Razor Blades
Unlike cartridge razors, which are impossible to recycle, you can actually recycle your safety razor blades. Due to the plastic components of a cartridge razor, taking them apart would be a hazardous and expensive process. This is one of many reasons people have turned to shaving with a safety razor.
Firstly, you may want to check whether your local recycling centre is automated. Some recycle manually by hand and if the waste is handled, someone could get hurt. However, this is becoming rarer these days.
If your blades come in a plastic dispenser, simply tape the openings closed and you can throw it in the recycling. Easy, right? It’s certainly the safest option but may get rejected by a recycling centre because the plastic and metal are together.
If not, you can use a soda can as a razor bank. Amazingly, razor blades fit perfectly in a typical aluminium can and you’ll be able to store hundreds before it’s full. When ready, just tape the opening so they don’t fall out and dispose of it in the recycling.
The advantage of a soda can is that the contents are all metal, which may be easier for the recycling centre to handle.
Finally, even if you don’t want to recycle your razor blades, you could always throw them away. After all, you’d be throwing away a lot less than if you used a cartridge razor. Nevertheless, if the opportunity to recycle presents itself, why not?
However, just be careful to put the blades in a container. You wouldn’t want the used blades to rip the garbage bag to shreds or hurt anyone handling it!
Now that you’ve read all about the best safety razor blades, consider learning about other shaving material while you’re here! We suggest the following guides: