How Long Do Disposable Razors REALLY Last?

The razor industry is known for a marketing strategy in which the seller takes a loss on the device, the razor handle, and makes money on refills, the blades. That model is also used by video-game consoles and games, inkjet printers and cartridges, and mobile phones and wireless service, among others.

This strategy has lead to loads of misinformation being spread around regarding the true lifespan of a razor cartridge.  Today, I'd like to shed some light how how long you should actually use your razor cartridge and give you some tips to extend it's life.

Blade Life

A few years ago, actor Brandon Quinn begins telling users online that Gillette sent him around the world to see how long he could shave with a single ProGlide cartridge.

After traveling through what looks like the some pretty extreme environments including African Savanna, Paris, and some Asian rainforests, he tells viewers what Gillette never had: That the company's blades last up to five weeks.  Now although Gillette has said their blades last 5 weeks, how accurate is this claim?

There are countless articles and comments online with people saying they have extended their blade life anywhere from 5 months to 5 years!  I know 5 years seems like a bit of a stretch but lets take a closer look at what exactly they are doing to achieve such longevity.

Tips To Increase Blade

One very simple method has great allure: dry your razor blades after shaving.

The idea is that: Razor blade dullness stems more from oxidation, microscopic rusting, than from contact with whiskers. Water that sits on blades between shaves causes the oxidation.

Corrosion can cause metal on the blade to flake off and the edge to become blunted and jagged. That results in blades pulling and tearing hairs instead of cleanly slicing through them.

Degraded performance prompts most people to ditch the blade for a new one.

If water causes rusting, and rusting is the main culprit of blade dullness, then, presumably, drying your razor blades could increase the life of blades. 

Stroping

The most common and also most effective method to sharpen your blade is by stoping.  

Unlike honing or sharpening a blade, in which a removes metal bent out of alignment from the blade's edge, stropping the blade re-aligns the indentations without removing any material. Wikipedia

I stumbled across an experiment where a shaver documented is experience with this method.  He starts with a brand new blade with no uses at all, then tracks the blades sharpness over the span of 3 months using a 500x digital microscope to see exactly what the blades edge looked like.

The results where interesting to say the least.  Check out the images below!
 
This is a brand new blade no uses at all.
 
Brand new blade. Microscope image at 100X.
Brand new blade. Microscope image at 500X.
Close up of the used blade after approx 80 uses.
Microscope picture at 100X before sharpening.
Microscope picture at 500X before sharpening. You can easily notice the mineral deposits and uneven blade surface.
Microscope picture at 100X after sharpening.
Microscope picture at 500X after sharpening. As you can see  much smoother blade surface. Almost like the new one.

As you can see above, proper maintenance to your blade can allow you to greatly extend its life.  By drying after use, applying oils to prevent mineral deposits, and stroping the blade you can easily get a few months uses from your cartridge.

So How Long Should I Keep My Cartridge?

There is no clear cut answer to this for it depends on how often you shave and how well you maintain your razor.  

By frequently maintaining your razor before and after each shave, you can extend its lifespan up to a few years in some cases, but easily a few months which is much longer than what the razor companies tell you.  It is definitely longer than "once a week" like Dollar Shave Club advertises though!

You will know when you need to change your cartridge and I would definitely recommend changing them pretty frequently if you are an avid against the grain shaver.

What seems to work best for you? Please share your experience with razor longevity in the comments.  I'd love to get more feedback on what has been working for others so we can help out our other fellow wet shavers!

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