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Safety razor maintenance

Cleaning Safety Razors

You've recently picked up an old razor at the local flea market or antique mall. How do you clean it?

Most of the information in this version of the article comes from this sticky. As folks come across other threads related to this topic, please feel free to add additional information that might be missing from this article. If you don't have time to update this article yourself, or need help, send a PM to anyone on the wiki team.

Before we begin, a word of caution: mixing or using different cleaners together can be dangerous. Never mix a chlorine-based cleaner with an ammonia-based cleaner. To be on the safe side, simply never mix cleaning products.

Threads About Cleaning Safety Razors

What You'll Need

The tools, cleaners, and polishes that you can use to clean your razors are many and varied. This is just a representative sample to get us started.


  • Old toothbrushes - great for scrubbing and getting into corners and crevices. Electric toothbrushes can be used, but be careful on your mint condition razors
  • Brass bristle brush - The bristles are soft enough that they shouldn't scratch nickel or chrome plating
  • Q-Tips
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Micro-fiber cleaning/polishing cloths - For use when you don't want to take a chance on scratching those mint condition razors with one of the other brushes.
  • Ultrasonic cleaner - Avoid using these on painted surfaces.

Cleaners, Disinfectants, and Polishers

To avoid potentially dangerous reactions and fumes, never mix cleaning products.
Avoid exposing any razor to any harsh cleaning agent for prolonged periods of time.

Ammoniayesyes-Main ingredient in jewelry-cleaning solutions - and Windex. Good for gold-plated razors, but may damage exposed brass.
ArmorAllyes-yesGood for plastic components. Also Balistoll, 303 Aero Space Vinyl Clearer, etc.
Baking Sodayes-yes
Barbicideyesyes-Also Marvicide, etc. May damage some components: plastic, catalin, etc.
Barkeepers Friendyes--
Bleachyesyes-Not recommended: may damage finishes, plating, plastics, and paint.
Boiling Wateryesyes-Immerse the razor in near-boiling water. Boiling on a stove may cause damage.
Boraxyesyes-See the section on silver-plated razors, below.
Brasso--yesMay damage plating or finishes.
CLR (Calcium Lime Rust)yesyes-May remove painted numbers from adjustable razors. Can turn exposed brass pink.
Dish soapyes--Washing up liquid, not dishwasher soap.
Flitz--yesNot recommended for gold electroplating or lacquered brass.
Hydrogen Peroxideyesyes-
Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcoholyesyes-
Kaboomyesyes-Great for cleaning out gunk for TTO mechanism
Liquid jewelry cleaneryes--May contain strong acids or bases. May dull or damage plating. May damage plastic.
Oxicleanyesyes-Contains hydrogen peroxide. May bleach black-handle razors. May remove painted numbers from adjustable razors.
Scrubbing Bubbles (no bleach)yesyes-May remove painted numbers from adjustable razors. May damage lacquer on gold-plated razors. Prolonged exposure may damage plastics. Avoid varieties containing bleach (see the entry for "bleach" in this table).
Simple Greenyes--Dilute appropriately. Prolonged exposure may damage or remove plating.
Vinegaryesyes-Can damage or remove plating, especially nickel.

Aesthetic Cleaning

Basic cleaning

Successive soakings in warm water and dish soap will take care of most problems. Applying a tub and tile cleaner (scrubbing bubbles) and then some minor scrubbing with a soft tooth brush will clean the exterior of most razors. Watch out for paint and plastic parts, which may be damaged by cleaning products.

Avoid boiling a razor, especially razors with painted or plastic parts or razors with gold plate with lacquer. If you are unsure, just soak the razor in hot, soapy water.

Surface rust/tarnish removal

Chrome and Nickel plate

Most DE razors are either plated with nickel or chrome. The plating on these razors should not rust, but if the plating on the razor has been compromised, the underlying material (brass, zamak, aluminum, or sometimes steel) may tarnish or corrode. The only permanent solution - other than re-plating the razor - is simply removing the corrosion down to the base brass and simply living with the plate loss. If the plate is intact, then any rust stains on the surface are probably from a rusting blade left in the razor. Surface rust can be taken care of with some polish, soaking in hot soapy water or scrubbing bubbles and then brushing.

Gold-Plated Razors

Gold doesn't rust and neither will lacquer on top of gold plate, but gold plate can have the same brassing problems as the chrome and nickel plated razors (see Chrome and Nickel plate above). Care for these razors the same way you would any other gold tableware or jewelry.

It is strongly recommended that you avoid boiling gold razors. Boiling can dissolve the lacquer and could, potentially cause problems with the gold-filled razors.

Silver and Silver-Plated Razors

Many of Gillette's earliest razors (Double Ring, Single Ring) were plated in silver, and a few (ABC) were sterling. Tarnish can be removed from these razors with a simple procedure:
  • Put the razor(s) in an old pot/pan lined with aluminum foil.
  • Mix about 2-T powdered Borax and 1-t salt in almost-boiling water. Instead of borax and salt you can also use 1-T baking soda per cup water.
  • Pour the very-hot water over the razors, completely submerging them, and let soak for about 30-45 mins. You may smell sulfur, which means that it is working.
  • Rinse the razors in hot water.
  • Repeat if needed, until all the tarnish is gone.

This treatment moves the sulfur in the silver tarnish off the silver and onto the aluminum foil. There is a photo tutorial in this thread: http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthr...-Silver-Razors

Exposed Brass

Many razors have brass as their base material. Typically the easiest way to clean brass is using a mild dish soap in warm water. If the razor's plating is damaged or missing and the underlying brass shows green corrosion, that can be removed. See the table of cleaning products above. Be cautious if the razor still has any plating, because many cleaning products can damage or strip that plating. Also be aware that the brass will corrode again, unless protected by a new finish.

What About Germs?

Worried about bugs on your razor? What can you do to make sure they don't creep off the razor and into your bloodstream? Do you need to sanitize, disinfect, or sterilize a used razor?

One of our members, an Emergency Room MD with over ten years of experience, wrote a [post=2760207]post on this topic[/post]. You can also read what OSHA has to say. The short answer is that cleaning with Lysol will kill almost everything. In health-care settings, Lysol is used for ultrasound probes, stethoscopes, and other items that are considered external but still come into contact with bodily fluids on a regular basis. That is a fair description of a razor, too.

Even without Lysol cleaning, most bloodborne pathogens can't survive on a clean, dry surface for more than a few hours. The needlestick injuries described by OSHA and in studies of health-care professionals involve relatively fresh, whole blood. Any particles of old, dried-up body fluids on a used razor are extremely unlikely to contain any viable disease. But even if they do, cleaning with soapy water will remove them. Cleaning with Lysol will kill anything that remains.

If you are still worried, get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. You should do that anyway, whether you buy used razors or not.

Still worried? You could use what our MD member called a solution soak decontamination. Soak the razor in a 5% aqueous solution of a phenolic germicidal detergent (e.g. industrial strength Lysol or Amphyl) for at least 1 hour.

To summarize, remove any heavy dirt on the razor and then clean the razor with Lysol in normal household concentration (for example, 1.25-oz in 1-gal water). If you aren't satisfied, then soak it in 5% Lysol. Household Lysol concentrate is generally mixed with water for a 1% solution, so use five times that. For example, 1.25-oz Lysol in 1-gal water becomes 6.25-oz Lysol in 1-gal water.

Mechanical Cleaning

This section really only applies to razors which are TTO.


All TTO razors, including adjustables, were designed to work without lubrication.

Stiff Mechanism

If the TTO or adjustment mechanism is stiff, generally that means it is full of hardened soap deposits and shaving debris. Repeated soaks in hot water and dish soap will soften this crud, allowing the mechanism to move freely. If one overnight soak is not enough, repeat as needed.

Inability of the TTO doors to lock

Some TTO razors like the Adjustable Fatboy and Slim have a spring in the base which will compress when the knob is turned fully and will lock the TTO doors in place. As with the TTO mechanism, soap deposits and other shaving debris can accumulate here. Repeated soaks in hot water and dish soap will soften this crud, allowing the mechanism to move freely. If one overnight soak is not enough, repeat as needed.

TTO knob has dropped

This thread describes a repair technique for TTO razors that have too much play in the shaft.

Step by step instructions that illustrate aesthetic and mechanical cleaning process described above

  1. If open/close/lock mechanism isn't freely moving, try a long soak in hot water and dish soap. Repeat as needed.
  2. General clean up. Scrubbing bubbles soak seems to get off the majority of the shave gunk. Scrub with a medium tooth brush which seems to work well on the flat surfaces but is not too soft to get into the detail work on many handles.
  3. Stuff still stuck in handle detail? Pick at it with a tooth pick. Soak and brush with scrubbing bubbles again.
  4. Once clean, see "Germs" above for advice on sanitation. Do this before polishing because many metal polishes have a film or protectant layer they leave behind.
  5. Polish, for example with Maas and a microfiber cloth. See the table on "Cleaners, Disinfectants, and Polishes" for advice on specific products.

Split handle

Hairline cracks are not usually a problem, but for split handles see How_to_repair_a_crack_in_an_Old_Type_handle.

Names of Safety Razor parts

Name_of_Safety_Razor_Parts features a comprehensive list of all the razor parts, with annotated photos. This is a great resource for users who want to fix or disassemble their razors, or are struggling to describe a problem.

See Also

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