Restoring a Vintage Safety Razor

Gilette Fatboy Length

The wet shaving method has made a smooth comeback these days, with more guys than ever reaching for a classic safety razor in lieu of cheap disposables. I recently started using a vintage double edge Gillette 195 Fatboy Adjustable myself. It took me weeks to stop cutting chunks out of my face, but once I figured it out, I felt like a new man. Literally.

Traditional razors were once passed down from father to son. This made every shaving implement that much more special, the kind of thing that bridges generations. This particular Fatboy of mine belonged to my girlfriend’s grandfather and was produced exclusively in the short period between 1958 and 1961. It languished in a medicine cabinet unused for years until it came into my possession caked with grime, soap and tarnish.

Chances are that if you find an antique razor of your own, it will be in similar shape. The good news is that restoring a razor to safe working condition is fairly simple, no matter how many years it has been.

Prepare the razor

I began by soaking my razor in boiling hot water to loosen the remaining soap. The heat won’t hurt the razor. I left it in for roughly 10 minutes before fishing it out. If your razor still has a blade inside, I suggest using this opportunity to sterilize it before removing it from its housing. (Just in case).

Use a brush

Scrubbing the razor with an old toothbrush worked wonders to get most of the gunk off. I used dish soap and warm water as a gentle cleaning agent, but some guides suggest using a hard nylon brush and whitening toothpaste for tougher grime. Avoid metal brushes that may scratch the razor’s surface.

Clean the nooks and crannies

Next I used cotton swabs to get into the tighter spots. The swabs were particularly handy for cleaning inside the razor housing. Some guides suggest using toothpicks for chipping off the really stubborn stuff.

Polish it up

After rinsing and drying the razor thoroughly, you can use a polishing agent to give it some shine. I didn’t feel the need to do this, but you can use practically any store-bought solution. Just ensure that it’s safe for your razor’s finish. Some polishes don’t play well with brass or nickel plating.

Disinfect it one last time

Boiling water, barbicide, Lysol — whatever method you choose, you need to give your razor at least one more round of sterilization before taking it to your face.

After grabbing a five-pack of razor blades from MenEssentials around the corner, I was ready to go. Speaking from experience, I’d like to add that practice and patience makes perfect, as does having a great pre-shave regimen.

Look below for more photos of my restored Fatboy.


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