Soap on. Soap Off.

How to clean your straight razor during a shave.

Have you ever wondered about the best way to wipe the shaving soap off your straight razor while you shave?  Perhaps you have. It's important.


This post is about how, once you’ve got the soap on your razor, you can clean the blade ready for the next swipe at your beard.


Trust me, I am not short of inspiration for topics to write about. This issue is important for your shave and for the continued wellbeing of your razor. Why? Read on!


Take it from me, prolonged contact with soap and water will damage your razor. It is important that a razor is cleaned and dried as soon as possible after a shave.  That seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Ok, here’s another obvious fact.

Most straight razor users alive today have learned to shave with a plastic cartridge razor and canned shaving gloop-foam. Oh, yes, one other necessary factor: running water.

Like our bodies, a safety razor can't function without H2O.


A safety razor needs water, preferably running water to be effective; the whole thing gets clogged otherwise.  Especially if you’re shaving with proper shaving soap. 

When we consider the entire history of shaving, having hot running water, or even having water available indoors (without having to carry it in) is a very recent innovation. Most men who ever shaved did not have running water in their homes.  Most Barbers did not have running water in their business premises either. 

Have a look at this lovely painting of a man about to start his shave. Look closely and you’ll see his soap, strop (a paddle-strop) and his brush.  Like me, he face-lathers, building his lather on his face, not a bowl or mug.  What we don’t spot is the sink and running water. How would he have cleaned his blade?


So, there’s the issue. As the straight razor is different in concept and use to a safety razor, should we think twice before transferring modern habits to its use?

I would argue yes, possibly. Or, to put it another way, we ought to consider the alternatives. Why? Well, for one thing, the number of damaged razors sent to me for repair suggests that we need to look back and learn.

After all, the straight razor is the ultimate shave anywhere tool. Once your lather is made, you don't need water to shave. 


Straight razor: the ultimate shave anywhere tool.


Ok, here are all the methods that I can think of to get the soap off your trusty razor:


    1. The running water method.

      This is a very recent method, but it seems very natural for us. 


      How to do it:

      Hold your razor under the running water.


      • It’s simple


      • It wets your razor and hands (not good). Who needs a slippy razor?
      • It increases the risks of introducing the razor to the tap or fawcett.
      • It’s not very effective – good quality shaving soap is more sticky than canned-gloop and it tends to stick around the blade surface.


        2. Your hand (yes, your hand)


          How to do it:

          Simple, just wipe the razor’s face (not edge) on your hand or top of your wrist. I’ve seen a lot of Turkish barbers use this method, particularly on the back of the hand or the wrist.

          Pros: If you’re not afraid of your razor and can hand-strop your razor, it feels particularly natural. You can always wipe the soap off on a cloth or even running water. Better your wrist or palm than your prize razor, right?

          Cons: You’ll probably need to use the palm of your hand to stretch the skin as soon as you’ve wiped the soap off. Messy?


            3. A flannel or towel.


              How to do it:

              Again, it’s simple, just wipe the face of the blade backwards towards you on a face flannel or towel.

              Pros: A great way to clean your blade.

              Cons: You could harm your edge if you move the blade forward (spine towards the edge).


                4. A sponge.


                  How to do it:

                  Like the flannel method, just wipe the soap off by moving the razor (spine backwards).

                  Pros: Probably the best way to clean your razor

                  Cons: Again, you could harm your razor or the sponge if you move the razor edge forward.


                  Ultimately, irrespective of how you wipe off the soap, the really important thing is to make sure that the razor is clean and dry before it is stored away. 


                  Ultimately, irrespective of how you wipe off the soap, the really important thing is to make sure that the razor is clean and dry before it is stored away.  One way to get this vital stage done is to fold a piece of toilet tissue place the spine of your razor in the tissue, carefully fold up and, with your thumb and forefinger, move the tissue along the blade faces, making sure that you do it carefully.

                  Top tip: don’t forget to wipe inside the scales of your razor too, particularly if you’ve rinsed your razor under running water!

                  Folded toilet tissue inserted in the gap between the scales (with your razor open) is a great way to dry your scales. Then use a drop of oil, especially around the pivot.


                  Need oil? I can help!





                  How do you wipe the soap off during a shave? Let me know!


                   The razor featured is a 7/8 (14) square point by Guillermo Hoppe.

                  The lather shown is either the excellent Coldriver Soap Company or Wickam Soaps. Fine soaps contribute at least 60% to a great shave.


                  1 comment

                  • Great article, informative and well written! Full of useful info and helpful tips. Love the picture of the old man preparing his shave.


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