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A guide to cleaning and disinfecting razors (with steps)

Restaurants are required to use dishwashers that achieve far higher water temperatures than you will find in your home sink or dishwasher. Temperatures should range between 160-180 degrees F. The commercial dishwashers provide supplemental heating to reach the required temperature. That is to insure dishes and utensils are adequately disinfected. Since water temperature over 125 degrees F will scald flesh, the temperature recommended for residential water heaters is no higher than this level.
I washed dishes at a number of restaurants in high school and undergrad and all of them required me to soak utensils in a low level disinfectant rated to kill all pathogens prior to running them through their robust dishwashing system.
 
My point is, a chemical bath is not necessary to "sanitize" a vintage razor. Our tableware at home (and hands, for that matter) clean up just fine with the hot water from our tap and some soap.
Although we have a dishwasher, my wife and I normally wash our tableware in the sink since it is just the two of us. That procedure is satisfactory because over the course of our marriage, I have become immune to her normal pathogens and she to mine. If either of us contracts an illness from someone outside our household, during the course of that illness, I would take extra precautions in sanitizing the dishes.

Not knowing the history of a vintage razor, I would want to clean it more thoroughly than I clean the dinner forks.

One product often recommended for cleaning razors is "Scrubbing Bubbles". It is a household cleanser designed to clean bathrooms. It contains chemicals that are antibacterial and antiviral. The stated claim is that 99.9% of such pathogens will be killed. With the current pandemic such cleansers are in short supply.
 
I use a generic version of Listerine, Simple Green Pro D-3, and Seventh Generation Thymol disinfectant. I might also boil in a mixture of water/calendula/yarrow, for their saponins, antibacterial, antiviral and astringent properties. Soap Nuts or soap berry decoction is also used in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Do Not use iodine. I did not try it as sanitizer, but accidentally got a small splash of iodine treated drinking water on a blade. I had to reset the bevel to remove the pitting it caused.
 
One product often recommended for cleaning razors is "Scrubbing Bubbles". It is a household cleanser designed to clean bathrooms. It contains chemicals that are antibacterial and antiviral. The stated claim is that 99.9% of such pathogens will be killed. With the current pandemic such cleansers are in short supply.
I've recommended Scrubbing Bubbles myself many times in other posts regarding how to clean a vintage razor. One caveat - under no circumstances use the Scrubbing Bubbles variety containing bleach on a plated razor; the bleach can cause permanent damage to the plating. Cleaning supplies that don't contain alcohol or bleach are generally not in short supply around me, and there are generic/off-brand versions of the same product at most grocers and discount retailers. My earlier quoted comments were specifically made in response to the notion that barbicide is required to clean a razor, and i stand behind my position that it's not.
 
I've recommended Scrubbing Bubbles myself many times in other posts regarding how to clean a vintage razor. One caveat - under no circumstances use the Scrubbing Bubbles variety containing bleach on a plated razor; the bleach can cause permanent damage to the plating. Cleaning supplies that don't contain alcohol or bleach are generally not in short supply around me, and there are generic/off-brand versions of the same product at most grocers and discount retailers. My earlier quoted comments were specifically made in response to the notion that barbicide is required to clean a razor, and i stand behind my position that it's not.
It is interesting that so many folks are stocking up on alcohol and bleach containing cleaners. While certain bacteria are very hard to kill, viruses have a very simple structure that is readily attached by many chemicals, including plain hand soap. That is why we hear so many please to wash your hands often with soap and water to avoid colds, flu and other viral diseases.
 
That is why we hear so many please to wash your hands often with soap and water to avoid colds, flu and other viral diseases.
It's not just the soap, but the mechanical removal of microbes that occurs with handwashing versus, say, hand sanitizer. The latter is okay until you come across something that is spore-based, which only soap and water will take care of.
 
Who would have thought cleaning a razor could be such a touchy subject?

Anyway, I just took delivery of this delightful 1964 J3 Slim Adjustable. It's been in its box for a month since it was sent from California to Scotland and despite it looking in mint condition, as my first vintage razor, I cleaned it in the following manner - I'm a bit germphobic at the best of times, but especially at the moment.

I rested the head in a bowl of 70% isopropyl alcohol (from the last bottle in the UK ;) ) for 10 minutes.
I then swished it around and used the alcohol to clean the head and handle with a child's soft toothbrush.
With some antibacterial hand soap, I gave it another going over with the toothbrush in warm water.
I then wiped it down and air dried it.

Any germs on it now, will be mine.

IMG_20200501_105125-01.jpeg
 
Just checked on Amazon for Scrubbing Bubbles. Available from one supplier - $92 a can. Ridiculous.

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I’ll clean a newly acquired vintage razor, with green soap and toothpaste. After that it will likely never be cleaned. I have on occasion scrubbed my razors w baking soda and a toothbrush if they look dull.
 
And then there was the "Dropped my razor in the toilet" thread. For the full range of ultimate cleaning recommendations. :001_rolle

 
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I have mentioned this before, but I'll drop it here in case anybody missed it. Scrubbing Bubbles works fine on razors, but if you are cleaning a Slim, a Fatboy, or a Toggle, do NOT (I repeat, DO NOT) get Scrubbing Bubbles on the numbers of the adjusting dial.

Scrubbing Bubbles will take the paint right out of those numbers.
 
As a "newbie" i found the origonal post very informative and its commendable that the OP took the time and effort to write it.

However, a few thoughts spring to mind from reading the thread

"newbie" doesn't neccesarily equal "ignorant of the wider world" - this is a mistake made on many Internet forums .

"newbie" to DE razors perhaps, but they may well have the same or even greater wordly knowledge or experience than the person using the term "newbie" - which then allows them to make a usefull contribution.

Whenever we post any thought on any part of the interweb, we have to be ready to accept that someone might say "actually, you are wrong" or "actually, there is a different / better /cheaper way of doing that.

For example , I wouldn't likely buy Barbicide or similar, because I have used ipa at 100% and downwards in many professional workplaces to clean and sterilise equipment, for many decades, and so always have several litres to hand.

I Would probobly use dish soap and hot water in the first instance and then use ipa to remove the surficants left behind by the dish soap - which is great at cleaning, but is also great at leaving behind a shiny film which makes an object look clean, when it isnt properley clean.
 
The Barbicide Wars have been fought many times here, and never to a successful armistice. :001_smile With that preface, I add the various threads I've come across regarding cleaning and disinfecting razors, with some really useful information - this is a great place for learning - and now that we all have some extra time :001_tongu, a lit review couldn't hurt. Particularly the first link, in which post #5 by HoosierTrooper has probably everything ever written on the subject in the forum to that date. For your reading pleasure:







 
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For several decades, whenever I needed to clean watches, jewelry, razors or anything that accumulated dirt, oils & grime, I simply put it into the sink and sprayed it down with Scrubbing Bubbles. It effortlessly cuts thru oils and soap scum with only some soaking and a little brushing from a soft tooth brush. It is also a disinfectant cleaner. When finished cleaning an item, the sink can be mopped out with residual Scrubbing Bubbles to clean and diinfect it, too.
 
Agitation adds as much to any cleaning process as heat or chemicals does.

If its a delicate finish, use only warm water + gentle chemistry, but put some gloves on and just keep moving it around in the water and/or buy a soft child's toothbrush.

White vinegar is a great cleaner, but it is strong and does affect metal finishes - you can get organic bath cleaning sprays now that are great at loosening old baked on scum without being corrosive - they tend to use citrus juice as the dissolving agent.

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With all due repect I think this doesn't have to be so complicated.
We are cleaning razors. Not making rocketfuel for a spaceship
Here is my version:
-Put your razor in the dishwasher and wash it with your dishes
-If you do not have a dishwasher, because you live in a small apartment (like me) etc. was it with some dishwash detergent and use a toothbrush, you won't need more than 1 toothbrush, and I don't think it matters if it is hard or soft, so use whatever you have on hand.
-After you have washed it either by and, or in the dishwasher, go ahead and soak it in rubbing alcohol, take it out, and let it dry. Rubbing alcohol is cheap and readilyavailable, I really see no reason to use barbicide, to me it's overkill.
-Razor is now ready to use, doesn't have to be more complicated than this imo.
 
First, I applaud everyone's enthusiasm about this topic. As we can all see, hygiene is important and can make real differences in people's lives.

I recently bought a used 1930s Gillette New and just didn't know much about this whole topic. So I did a little digging and this one stood out: Safety razor maintenance - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/wiki/Safety_razor_maintenance#What_About_Germs. I also discovered that much of what many people have said jibes with the information in Chemical Disinfectants | Disinfection & Sterilization Guidelines | Guidelines Library | Infection Control | CDC - https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-methods/chemical.html.

Here were my takeaways:
  1. Soap and water is terrific stuff and kills many viruses.
  2. Alcohol kills many viruses.
  3. Lysol Disinfectant Concentrate Original Scent contains the phenolic o-benzyl-p-chorophenol, and the CDC says "Published reports on the antimicrobial efficacy of commonly used phenolics showed they were bactericidal, fungicidal, virucidal, and tuberculocidal." This is the product referred to by the above Wiki link.
  4. Barbicide, Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Liquid Cleaner, and Scrubbing Bubbles Disinfectant contain the quaternary ammonium compound alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, and the CDC says "Results from manufacturers' data sheets and from published scientific literature indicate that the quaternaries sold as hospital disinfectants are generally fungicidal, bactericidal, and virucidal against lipophilic (enveloped) viruses; they are not sporicidal and generally not tuberculocidal or virucidal against hydrophilic (nonenveloped) viruses."
Finding many of these products right now is difficult. My brother had just bought two bottles of Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Liquid Cleaner. So I ended up using dishwashing soap/liquid and Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Liquid Cleaner.

Based on the information on the Wiki and that from the CDC, I plan to buy a bottle of Lysol Disinfectant Concentrate Original Scent when it lands back on the shelves.

If you buy Scrubbing Bubbles, read the ingredients to make sure you are getting what you want.
 
Excellent points! Barbicide does make a solution that is tuberculocidal, as does Marvicide (Barbicide TB or Marvicide II), but probably similar effectiveness to Lysol or other dilute phenolic solutions, and slightly less corrosive. A little more current literature (with a useful table at the end), with some comparisons. Essentially no conventional liquid chemical sanitizing agent is effective against bacterial endospores without extremely long contact times (in excess of 24h) and even then may not be terminally effective. Endospores require high-heat steam or gas (EO) sterilization for complete inactivation. And actually it's not needed or required in the context of disinfecting nonsurgical instruments such as shaving razors or barber tools for personal use (excluding commercial use), so the general cleaning procedures outlined on the forum are sufficient. For a slightly higher level of disinfection, a Barbicide, Marvicide, Lysol or even alcohol soak should be more than adequate, and there's actually nothing wrong with that.

NCCEH
 
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