Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Zero Waste Shaving with a Safety Razor


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I've seen quite a few zero waste hair removal articles, but I haven't one that is very comprehensive. Mr. Greenie and I are old hats at zero waste shaving, but we've had to use some trial and error to figure out the whys, how, and the five R's of zero waste shaving. If you are researching alternatives for disposable razors like we were, this article and this series on different zero waste hair removal options is for you.
  • Why use a safety razor?
A safety razor or "Grandpa" razor is cheaper (I've seen as cheap as $8 on Etsy), more environmentally friendly, and provides a more effective shave than a disposable razor. This means less ingrown hairs and closer shaves. Some other advantages are that it's not a straight razor, also known as a "cut-throat" razor, or a traditional razor. This is often a less intimidating switch than going straight from a disposable razor to a straight razor.

A "Grandpa" razor is often easy to buy offline; we've seen them at Walmart, Target, Smith's, etc. This style of razor also looks cooler than disposables and you can even buy vintage/used and not worry about who used blades before you, as the blades are replaced after a few shaves.

The advantages of a safety razor vs straight razor are upfront cost, that it is harder to cut yourself deeply than with using a straight razor, and less maintenance. With a safety razor, you do have to take care of it, but there isn't such a strong learning curve as a straight razor. For minimum care, you keep your razor clean, dry, and replace the blades every few shaves. This works fine.

With a straight razor, you have to keep your razor not only clean and dry, you also have to keep it properly sharpened and stropped or it won't work properly. This can be hard for a new user and even harder to find someone else to do it for you. If you aren't the DIY type, the safety razor is probably a better fit for you.
  • How to use a safety razor 

1. Start by washing and scrubbing the dead skin off of the area you are going to shave. This helps prepare for a closer and more effective shave and gets your lymphatic going as a bonus. You can use a natural loofah sponge, dry brushing before you wash, or just a nice homemade natural scrub.

2. If you are working with a beard, shaving oil can help soften the hair as well as the skin. You can also just skip this and use warm water and a traditional shaving soap with a badger brush and a small bowl, homemade natural shaving cream, or regular soap. Fit the blade in between the blade and the comb.

3. Shave over a bowl if you are shaving a beard and save your drains from clogging. If you are shaving in the tub or shower, collect hair away from the drain after rinsing off. Wet your safety razor and use it at a 30 degree angle to reduce nicks and cuts. Take it slow and open up the razor and take out the blade every few strokes to rinse off hair and remaining dead skin.

4. Use small strokes and don't press down much in order to reduce nicks and cuts. This blade is sharp! I prefer to switch sides of the blade for each new area. In our experience, shaving legs requires both sides of the blade vs shaving a face, so I use blades up in less shaves than Mr. Greenie.

  • Refuse:
In order to use as little packaging as we can, we buy better quality stainless razor blades in bulk in order to reduce packaging. You can also buy a vintage razor handle to refuse buying an unnecessary new razor handle. See (Why Buy It Used).
  • Reduce: 
In order to keep your razor usable and clean for as long as possible, follow these steps.:

To prevent rusting, store all of your shaving equipment outside of the damp bathroom.
After you finish shaving, take your razor apart, clean it well and dry it even better.
Apply a little bit of olive oil (refilled at Whole Foods), coconut oil, etc. on the blade after drying to make it last a little longer. Put it away on your way out of the bathroom.

Strop your blade as it dulls, this can be done using a traditional strop or on an old pair of jeans. 
About once a month,  take it apart, soak it in alcohol for about 5 minutes to get it extra clean, wash it off, dry it extra well, reapply oil, and then assemble it again.  If you are using a badger brush, wash it well with shampoo at the same time you give it the alcohol treatment.

  • Reuse: 
In order to rehone the edge for a few more shaves per blade, use stropping. 

"Run your razor along your old jeans. You'll want to do this with the direction of the blades and not against the blades. Do this about approximately 20 times in one direction with short, quick strokes. This process, called stropping, will remove burrs and irregularities from your blades, honing your razor's edge.

To evenly and completely strop your blades, you'll want perform the same motion in the opposite direction (on the same section of denim) as well. Switch directions and run the blade along the jean fabric around 20 times in the same fashion you did previously.Use light pressure when stropping. Pressing too hard can actually cause damage to the edge of your blade."-WikiHow

  • Recycle: 
How to properly recycle razor blades: Keep your used and reused until very dull blades in an old soup can, away from children and pets. When the can is full, seal to protect recycling workers and either place in metal recycling bin or take to recycling center and put the can in the steel recycling. (This is a safer option and you can even get paid if you recycle with metal recycling companies who pay by weight.)

  • Rot: 
After your shave, compost the hair and skin you collected and save your drains from oil and hair. If you use oil with shaving, use a bokashi bin to break down the oil and compost properly.

Now you have a good understanding of why a safety razor may be a good option for you, how to use it, and how to waste as little as possible by using it well. Check back for other zero waste hair removal options.

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What are your favorite ways to reduce waste with using a safety razor?