Tips and tricks for making the change to a safety razor.
Content warning: This blog contains discussion about razor blades and pictures of razor blades.
Making the switch from plastic disposable razors to a safety razor with replaceable blades is one of the best waste saving changes you can make in the bathroom. The razors are usually plastic free as they're made from metal and can last a lifetime. The blades are fully recyclable metal too and mostly come wrapped in paper and cardboard. This switch also provides money savings. After the initial investment for the safety razor, the blades themselves cost pennies to replace.
It can be a bit daunting as the blades are sharp, but with practice and care it's not much different to a usual disposable razor that might be in a plastic casing. You'll also be able to achieve a very close shave with a smooth finish, even though there is only one blade in the razor. I have particularly sensitive skin and I find I don't suffer from razor bumps (or strawberry skin) quite as much as I did before, which is an extra bonus!
What you need to get started:
There are three things you will need right at the start. These essentials are a safety razor, a pack of replacement double edge (DE) blades and a shaving soap bar. Getting these will allow you to ditch your disposable razors and get started on a low waste shaving system straight away.
There are a few optional extras that you might find useful later down the line. Investing in a shaving brush helps you to get a better and denser lather from your shaving soap bar. Also, for safely recycling your used DE blades you can get a blade bank. This is a tin box which has a small slit in the top that you post the used blade through. When the blade bank is full it can be safely sealed and sent for recycling. Do not put blades in the bin or in the recycling directly, they are very dangerous for people sorting at the other end. More on disposing of the DE blades later on.
Changing the blades:
Always take care when changing the blade. I'd recommend putting a towel on a flat surface when you do this so that you can press against it and stop the razor from slipping. The towel also means that you don't need to hold the end in your hand.
The razors that we stock here at the shop open by unscrewing the handle, it will then separate into three pieces. Carefully remove the DE blade from the paper sleeve and line the holes up with the prongs on the top part of the razor head. Universal DE blades all have these three holes and they should line up precisely so that it slips into place and doesn't move too much. It also doesn't matter which way up the blade is as both edges are the same.
Next, replace the bottom of the razor head, lining up the holes and ensuring the curved side is facing the DE blade. When the handle is tightened the DE blade is gently bent by the curved base so that the sharp edges are angled down for safer and more precise shaving. The pictures below show these instructions in action:
Disposing of old blades:
DE blades are incredibly dangerous, they shouldn't be left open in the home as they pose a high risk. As mentioned above, you can buy blade banks which you deposit the used DE blade into for safe keeping. It's also important that you dispose of them safely so that refuse workers are not at risk when they handle and sort recycling at the other end.
If you're on a budget or looking to repurpose something rather than buy new, you can create a blade bank with a few DIY tricks. There are useful instructions on creating a blade bank by recycling a tin can on the shaving forum Badger and Blade. Alternatively, old tins that you might get mints or sweets in can be repurposed as a blade bank.
The key thing is to make sure it is safe. Whatever you collect your used blades in, you must ensure the blades cannot be accessed again, especially by young children. When you go to recycle the tin, seal it and label it clearly so that refuse workers know what they are handling.
Getting the right angle:
Shaving with a safety razor can take a bit of getting used to. A good tip when you're starting out would be to practice holding it against your skin and doing the strokes without a blade in the razor. This will help you get used to holding it at the right angle and give you confidence if you're unsure about using it for the first time.
You're aiming to hold the razor so the head and handle are at 45°. Do not hold the razor so that the head is flat against your skin, or close to 90° as you'll risk hurting yourself. The picture to the left shows the razor held at roughly a 45° angle to give you an idea of what this looks like.
Extra safety tips and advice:
It almost goes without saying, but keep the razor and the spare blades away from children. Always store them securely and seal them for recycling.
Storing your new/spare DE blades in the bathroom may blunt them before you get to use them because of moisture in the air. If you do store them in the bathroom, try to keep them in an airtight container to prevent them from going dull before use.
Change the blade regularly as a dull blade can cause nicks in the skin when shaving. Between blades, clean and sanitise the safety razor parts. A good way to keep your razor looking bright and shiny is to use a mild soap diluted in warm water and scrub with an old toothbrush to remove the scum build up inside.
I hope that this little whistle-stop tour of using a safety razor has been helpful. If you have any questions at all, please do let me know as I'm always happy to share experience and tips from my own journey to zero waste living.