See also: Safety razor maintenance
I started working on this razor cleaning and restoration guide back when I first joined B&B so it even predates my foray into the wetshaving business with Superlather. Unfortunately, it kept getting pushed to the back burner for a variety of reasons and I never did manage to finish it in a timely fashion. When I first joined, my main focus in the forums was collecting wetshaving hardware and I was eager to find out and collect in one place the best way or ways to go about cleaning and returning those "rode hard and literally put away wet" razors I was getting off of Ebay to like new condition. I quickly learned that different razors required different approaches. This is particularly true of gold plated razors. This guide is very much a work in progress and feedback is welcome. One thing though this is NOT a replating guide as I consider that outside the scope of faithful cleaning and restoration and a bit more akin to deliberate fraud particularly when it is undeclared in a future sale.
I did not make this guide on my own and I have tried to acknowledge those who assisted me by answering my many questions. Their first names and B&B forum handles follow at the end of this guide--thanks guys for the help. I just hope I didn't forget anyone.
For plated razors:
Most Gillettes and Gems are made of brass. In the case of the Gillettes many are impressed with a knurled pattern to facilitate grip when wet. On the Gems the knurled pattern is usually replaced with some delicate raised scrollwork which is meant to accomplish the same thing. The scrollwork on the Gems is a little more aesthetic and the knurled pattern on the Gillettes is more utilitarian in appearance regardless both are very good at catching and holding years of accumulated gunk and sullying the appearance of what may be a very fine looking razor indeed.
The first thing to do is to give it a good hot water soaking. Some guys boil their razors but I have never done this and I never will. Boiling can irreparably damage your razor. For those that are concerned about killing the bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic nasties residing on your razor rest easy as by the time you reach the end of this guide they will be good and dead.
Note: I now have a new cleaning process detailed later in this document but I have also included the way I used to do it as it works well enough if you don't have or don't wish to purchase the Metalwax products.
Afterwards I will take some Scrubbing Bubbles and spray them down and let them sit in a small plastic tray and soak. Gladware containers are ideal for this. Get some standard adult toothbrushes in soft, medium, and firm. These are the ideal tools for cleaning and scrubbing your razors regardless of the finish. Also pick up some pipestem cleaners so you can get in those nooks and crannies. Adjustable razors have more nooks and crannies than you can shake a stick or pipestem cleaner at!
One recommendation, even if you can do it, NEVER take your razor apart to clean it. You may very well find yourself buying another one in short order.
Especially gunky razors may require the Scrubbing Bubbles step two or even three times. Ordinarily there is a noticeable difference after the first time. I have used Scrubbing Bubbles on gold plated razors with no ill effects however I make no guarantees as one can never tell what state the lacquer is in. The last few gold plated razors I've acquired I have subjected to my new cleaning process again detailed later in this document.
After this step you may place your razor in an ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning. I usually add a touch of white vinegar to the water when I use mine. Please note that I do not recommend putting gold finish razors in your ultrasonic cleaner because they can be damaged.
After the cleaning comes the polishing process. Some use MAAS or Flitz. I have used these with no problems however the new cleaner and polisher I switched to some time ago is safe for all finishes and works really well. NOTE: DO NOT use MAAS on gold finishes. It can strip your lacquer. Simichrome is also a good non-abrasive polish that can also be used to test whether or not a handle is truly made of bakelite although I've never had occasion to use it for this purpose.
And just what is the new procedure I keep alluding to? Read on and find out!
For both cleaning and polishing I now use Metalwax. You can purchase it online and I recommend their Tri-Pak. Their customer service is very responsive and I have no affiliation with the company.
Metalwax Tri-Pak includes a one step spray-on cleaner/polisher that works remarkably well but I usually go with the liquid cleaner and the paste polish. It's amazing the filth these pull off of what appears to be a clean razor much less a patently nasty one. And the shine it leaves is truly remarkable. For the cleaning I use the toothbrushes and the soft terrycloths and I use microfiber cloths for the polishing process.
I now do the following for all of my razors:
1. Soak in hot water.
2. Clean with Metalwax cleaner with toothbrush and pipestems in the first pass and the terrycloths on the second pass.
3. Dip in Hydrocide or Mar-V-Cide. Cheaper or the same price as Barbicide, kills more, and can be bought in the same place as Barbicide.
4. Rinse off and then polish with the Metalwax paste.
5. Buff to a high shine.
6. Put on sunglasses. <grin>
Not to sound like a commercial but the Metalwax works so well I usually don't use the Scrubbing Bubbles at all anymore. Another cleaner that some people recommend is Bon Ami. Bon Ami is a delicate cleaner which should be safe for all steel razors. I would be wary of the gold plate though as it is lightly abrasive.
I also use the above procedure when cleaning the Schick injectors. Remember that gold heads on the Schicks are often lacquer coated too. I treat Schick and all largely plastic (later model Superspeeds) or bakelite razors like gold plated ones--handle with care.
Note if you have a Gillette that is genuine silver or gold plate then clean it like you would a piece of fine jewellery. I use the Metalwax cleaner and polish and then follow it up with silver or gold polish. If you receive an old tarnished Gillette I highly recommend you remove the tarnish straightaway. There are two schools of thought as to whether or not tarnish protects the metal. Besides being ugly as sin I don't believe it does and I've even read reports and talked to people who believe that it can damage the underlying silver with the passage of time.
Severely pitted finishes on razors are usually beyond hope. They may still be good shavers but they will never be anything more than that. But in some cases that's enough. You don't want to travel with your pristine Big Fellow do you?
Regarding the old wooden cases that the early Gillettes came in. Any of the products used for furniture repair, cleaning, and restoration can be used on them. They clean up remarkably well and a bit of TLC can work wonders with a box that at first glance you might be tempted to deposit in the rubbish bin.
Occasionally you may come across a razor that is in really nice shape but has a touch of rust on it. This can be carefully removed using a paste made from water and Barkeeper's Friend and the finest steel wool out there (0000 I think). Rub in a circular fashion using light pressure. This will dull the finish but when you clean and polish it that should restore it. Remember no gold plated razors need apply and you do this at your own risk but it does work. If using steel wool no matter how fine it is upsets you, just use the shiny side of some aluminium foil.
Your plastic razor cases should never be cleaned in your ultrasonic cleaner. This will cause heat stress cracks. Clean these with any of the plastic polishing compounds you can pick up in your local auto parts retailer and a microfiber cloth. Be very careful when taking your cases apart if you must do so. They are polystyrene and they weren't meant to last 50+ years. They often come apart well enough but reassembly is usually their undoing. When you are fifty years old and made of plastic you don't flex and bend like you used to. If you can avoid it don't take them apart. If one of the hinges should pop off and you have two good mating surfaces pick up some of the Loctite two part plastic cement. It dries clear and has phenomenal holding power.
That in a nutshell is my approach to cleaning all types of DE and SE razors. I want to thank the following for assisting with this guide:
- Alfred (Barbarosa)
- Dennis (confortablynumb)
- David (polod)
- Nick (papasmurf)
- Don (Taz)
- Chris (MTgrayling)