This blog will help with some basic polishing and cleaning tips and tricks to help you take care of your shaving gear and investment in addition to help in the enjoyment of a close shave, clean shave and a comfortable shave. Keeping your single edge razor clean and polished has multiple benefits besides just the aesthetics of a beautiful tool on the shelf. Keeping bacteria out of the shave and keeping your razor clean will help keep your skin healthy, reduce shaving burn and shaving irritation in addition to protecting your razor. Cleaning, polishing and maintaining your high-quality stainless steel, titanium, brass or copper safety razor is not as daunting as it sounds, if you know what to do.
Here are some things that you will need to clean and polish your safety razor:
- Toothbrush – I actually prefer a denture cleaner brush as they have a bigger brush with longer bristles and a small detail brush for hard-to-reach areas.
- Nail brush (plastic bristles are ideal – soft) – For this brush I like the 2 lengths or double-sided style. The Short bristles are good for cleaning knurling. The long stiffer bristles work well under the cap. Plastic bristles are recommended as they are less inclined to scratch the surface. A boar brush will also work but the bristles are a little more aggressive, expensive and will wear quicker.
- A few Small pieces of balsa wood – You can pick these up at a hobby or hardware store. This is a very soft wood and will help clean hard-to-reach areas like under the cap and the cap threads with out scratching the metal surface. Birch wood is another harder alternative
- A soft micro fiber cloth(I'll use a less "fluffy" microfiber to work the polish but the one picture below works great for a final buff).
- Hot Water - for soaking, rinsing, and washing off any dirt.
- Dish Soap - a great way to de-grease any oils and stuck on shaving soap.
- Isopropyl Alcohol – This works great to help kill bacteria and clean off oil, polish and fingerprints.
- Polish #1 - A slightly more aggressive polish (I recommend “Simichrome”)
- Polish #2 - A gentle polish (“Cape Cod” or “NEVR-Dull”)
Optional cleaning equipment and solutions for cleaning a safety razor:
- “Barbaside” – This is the Green liquid used at barber shops to help sterilize combs and scissors.
- Sonic Cleaner – Nice tool for the house, cleans jewellery in addition to cleaning a double edge safety razor.
- Jewellery steam cleaner – Most jewelers will have a commercial version, you can buy one on Amazon for +/-$80. I clean a lot of razors after polishing and this is a wonderful tool as it sprays high-pressure steam with no chemicals needed.
Cleaning a Stainless steel or Titanium single edge safety razor
I am going to assume that like me, you are not very good at cleaning your razor after every shave, so let's assume you have used it for a few months and it is caked in soap!
If you like to keep your razor clean after every shave, a simple rinse with fresh water followed by a bath in alcohol (or Barbaside) will be enough to keep your razor clean combined with a periodic brush with a soft toothbrush! Wiping after a soak in alcohol one or 2 times with soft synthetic microfiber works well.
Back to the dirty razor, one key element about our safety razors is we only offer a polished finish. A polished finish has many benefits including 1) The smooth surface has fewer cracks and crevices for debris and bacteria to collect 2) A polished surface is less likely to corrode 3) A polished surface is slicker on the face 4) Aesthetics…nothing like a bright high-polish finish. I talk in detail about surface finishes in this blog.
Another design consideration in our Cx models is we have no dead-end holes(except the handle) where shaving debris will collect. All our holes are “through-holes” especially our web plate which allows for the free flow of debri and water.
(Picture: All the holes on our web plate are "Through-holes", no dead end holes for easy cleaning, flow of water, debri and air)
Here are the steps I follow in cleaning up all our Cx safety razors:
- Step #1: In 3 small cups mix hot water and a few drops of dish soap. In each cup place 1 of the 3 pieces of your safety razor into each cup separately. Metal touching metal is the biggest reason for scratches appearing on your razor...a glass or plastic container will work. Don’t use a metal container!
- Step #2: Let soak until the water can be touched and used without scolding you. Use your denture brush or your toothbrush to gently scrub off the soap scum. This step might need to be repeated depending on how thick the shaving soap residue is. What is important in this step is the softness of the brush, a soft cloth can be used but I would recommend a gentle synthetic micro fiber, similar to what you clean your eye glasses with. Think of a cloth you would wipe a car exterior paint with. The softer the better. A cotton cloth or a paper towel will actually scratch a mirror finish.
- Step #3: The final step to clean is a soak in Isopropyl Alcohol or Barbaside. At this time your razor should be clean, assuming it is a polished surface. If you have a “Machine Finish” or a “Bead Blasted finish”, you will need to scrub more...a rough surface will collect more dirt and bacteria at a micro level. In this step, soak your parts in the alcohol or “Barbacide”, I'll soak it overnight if I can...if you have separate containers, that works. Just make sure you don’t bang the metal pieces together.
Polishing a Stainless or Titanium Safety Razor
(Picture: Highly reflective polish finish on top cap))
I won’t be able to cover all the topics of polishing in this blog, maybe a separate blog at a later date but I will try to cover the basics, make sure to check out our "Tips and Tricks" section at the bottom. One caveat I should point out is our earlier models were laser "marked" and not laser "engraved". Specifically, 2019-2021 were laser marked. It is easier to polish off these marks so be careful around these areas during the polishing step. In 2022 we changed to “laser engraved” serial numbers which are deeper and harder to polish off.
Microfiber and balsa wood are your friends for polishing! The steps are as follows:
- Step #1: Polishing the base plate - Start with polish #2 (“Cape Cod” or NEVR-DULL”), the mild polish. The instruction is pretty clear on the label. Wipe polish on surface using the pads provided, after you wipe and buff the surface, the key is not to let the polish dry and always use a clean part of the rag as you polish the surface. If you still see scratches or stains...consider repeating or using polish #2! Use the Balsa wood to polish inside corners and the lather holes.
- Step #2: Polishing the cap - Start with under the cap first. This surface might need an aggressive polish and often requires you to handle the piece more with your fingers. The balsa wood comes in handy! Use a small piece of wood to push the mild polish on the surface under the cap. Use the balsa wood to clean the threads and remove any soap scum your brush didn’t get. The beauty of balsa wood is it is very soft and won’t scratch the surface. Trim the dirty balsa wood with a knife or scissors and you have a new clean surface to help remove the polish. Finally, polish the remaining surfaces on the safety razor cap, finishing with a clean micro-fiber.
- Step #3: Polishing the handle – Start with the knurling first. Knurling is harder to clean so do your best to spread the polish gently with the pads provided. Use the nail brush (short bristles) to scrub the knurling with polish, avoid the smooth sections with the brush. Finish the non-knurled high-polish surface with the pads and then a final buff with the microfiber.
- Step #4: If you don’t like the finish and still see scratches...repeat the process above with the #1 polish(more aggressive polish) mentioned above. “Simichrome” is slightly more aggressive and can help blend larger scratches. After you have finished with #1 polish....follow up with a final polish with #2. This will help to smooth out the polish marks from “Simichrome”.
If you have deeper scratches you are likely going to need to do a more aggressive polish….the basics of polishing involve using finer and finer polish to remove the prior polishing marks. It really depends on how deep the scratch is. I will advise that it is always better(although more work) to use more effort vs using a more aggressive polishing grit in order to protect critical dimensions and maintain a smooth surface.
Cleaning a Copper or Brass Safety Razor:
Cleaning and polishing a Copper or Brass Carbon single edge safety razor is a little different. The thing about brass and copper is it is a very soft metal, I talk a little about the metal hardness in this blog here.
Both of these materials are much easier to polish and require less elbow work but be careful! on the edges, be careful around the engraving under the base plate as you can polish off these markings. Be particularly careful on critical dimensions including the clamp of the head and the safety bar itself.
Copper and brass will naturally oxidize with a patina and will develop a darker color depending on the conditions(hard water, salt air, use, etc...) but you can bring it back to a polished state. The tarnishing can remain in the knurling valleys while the smooth surfaces can polish up easier to a mirror finish. Part of the enjoyment of your razor, outside of the shave feel, are the aesthetics and your personal choice of how you want it to wear and age...it is up to you.
Additional things that you need to polish and clean copper and brass safety razors include:
- White Distilled Vinegar – Some claim to have had success with Ketchup which makes sense as it is mostly vinegar. Some suggest using lemon juice and salt, in my experience the salt will sometimes scratch the soft copper and brass material.
- Distilled water – Not mineral water but distilled water is needed to neutralize the vinegar. Mineral or tap water will likely leave mineral deposits on the surface after drying.
- Rubber gloves(optional) – If you are looking to add a patina, you should use a clean pair prior to handling the razor, your finger prints can impact the patina. The oil on your skin will cause a patina to develop under the patina you applied
- Renaissance Wax (optional) – Some folks use this wax to coat copper to prevent tarnishing, a common practice with copper jewellery. I don’t coat my pieces, the coating will extend the polished surface but dull the finish slightly. I have heard mixed responses on its safety.
If you are planning to apply a patina or wax coating use rubber gloves!
- Step #1: Use the cleaning steps #1 through #3 for cleaning a stainless or titanium razor of shaving soap debris, however, don’t soak in the alcohol after completing.
Polishing a Copper or Brass Safety Razor:
- Step #2: After you have removed the soap scum and rinsed, start your polishing of copper, brass or Mokume with a short soaking in vinegar. I’ll use the short bristle of the nail brush to scrub the knurling with vinegar. This will remove patina and leave a dull, matte, clean finish.
(Picture: Both parts had the same patina, the part on the right is the finish after a 6 minute soak in vinegar
- Step #3: Immediately soak in distilled water to neutralize the vinegar! Make sure you gently brush the surface with a toothbrush to remove all traces of vinegar. You will get “pits” if you let the vinegar dry on the surface.
- Step #4: The steps involved with polishing copper are similar to polishing a stainless or titanium DE razor. Polish the surface using Polish #2(Milder polish), a small piece of Balsa wood for under the cap, inside corners and stubborn areas. Finish with a clean microfiber cloth to bring it to a high polish. With copper and brass you do not need to apply as much pressure. A Qtip also works well for this step.
- Step #5: After all the polish has been removed and your piece is shiny, soak and submerge it in alcohol. Wipe gently...
Now you need to decide which direction you want to go:
- Let it develop a patina naturally (recommended)
- Apply a forced patina (I touch on patina recipes in my Mokume Blog here)
- Apply a wax to protect the polished surface.
(4 copper patinas - Left: Vinegar and salt solution, 2nd Left: Vinegar and salt lumps, 2nd right: 1 month natural patina, Right: Polished)
If you decide on a forced patina or you want to coat it with wax, take it out of the alcohol with fresh new, clean rubber gloves. As mentioned the oil on your hands or oil from the polish will cause a patina to develop. This is particularly important with Mokume.
That should do it for keeping your razor clean! Tell me how you clean and polish your safety razors in the comments below. Reach out if you want any help or advice...contact us here!
Some additional tips and tricks on cleaning and polishing your safety razor:
- A Dremel tool is handy but be careful...I would recommend using the slowest speed with the mildest polish to starting. Be very careful about the polish or “rouge” provided with the kit, it is likely very aggressive.
- Be careful when polishing critical dimensions, edges and around engraving, especially with copper, brass or Mokume.
- For hand finishing consider exploring “diamond pastes”. These are particularly helpful to remove deeper scratches. More elbow grease is better then a more aggressive grit. I would stick with 10K grit and above unless you are trying to remove machine marks or a bead blasted surface. In this case you will need to have a much lower grit.
- Keep your wood and polishing rags separate by the polish type. Don’t use the same cloth you used with Polish #1 and Polish #2. Use 2 different cloths…
- Don’t use the same polishing tools on copper and stainless steel, especially if you are polishing a razor made from 303 or 304 stainless steel. The steel will rust on your copper!
- Don’t use a steel brush or steel wool pad...please don’t!! It will contaminate the surface of brass, copper, mokume and stainless!
- A polished surface isn’t always the best for patinas...patinas are a rabbit hole of exploration but I have had better luck with a 2000 grit finish with a forced patina. I have wasted a lot of safety razors exploring this so if you are unsure...stay with a polished finish. Consider experimenting on scrap copper…
- Brass doesn’t develop a patina as quick as copper. 316L stainless steel and titanium will not hold a patina.
- Most patinas are not durable and will change, age and wear. Its one of the beautiful elements about this material…
- You should NOT polish Damtanium or titanium Damascus as you will remove the anodizing colors. An alchol wipe is a better solution.
- A steam cleaner works magic for stainless steel Damascus...most local jewellers will be able to sonic clean and steam clean your Damascus razor. Very satisfying to watch!
- An Antique finish on a bronze safety razor will require similar prep.
Misc. At CarbonShavingCo notes: Wet shaving is a bit of an art form. It is personal to your skin type, which dictates the type of soap and shaving brush you will be using. Opting between a straight razor or safety razor (disposable razors won't be the best of experiences at all). The use of some hot water to open up your pores and soften the facial hair is a good thing. When it comes to skin conditions, such as sensitive skin, razor bumps, and at times hair growth in multiple directions extra care and consideration must be taken and avoid razor burn caused by dry shaving, lack of lubrication, wrong direction, ingrown hairs, etc. At CarbonShavingCo, the construction of our razors aims to be bacteria-free as much as possible to help avoid allergic reactions by being polished with easy to clean surface, the design maximizes the flow of debris, the pinch design reduces gaps for the collection of debris and germs, we aim to help people with sensitive skin and prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs. We believe that wet shaving is the best approach with a good shaving soap as opposed to using men's disposable razors. This also applies to safety razors for women. Keeping your gear clean is so important if you are sensitive. Join the community of wet shavers today to learn more so you can enjoy your personal spa experience.