Razor blades can be disposed of in one of two ways. If you use disposable razors that are as one with the plastic handle or cartridge razor blades that come in a pack, these can be disposed of with the trash. Double-edged safety razor blades can be recycled as they are recyclable steel with no plastic attached.
Even when a razor blade is ‘blunt’ it will always be sharp enough to cause serious injury. If it doesn’t cause injury to yourself, it can easily cause injury to others who may not know that there are razor blades present in a consignment of trash.
Simple precautions can be taken to reduce all risks and recycling can be done with some razor blades but not all. Here’s a few options that you have if you’ve been left wondering about how to dispose of razor blades. Your choices will depend on which razor blades you use and need to dispose of.
There are 3 types of razor blades that most people use. Let’s look at them here:
The disposable razor
These types of razors have the blade moulded into the plastic handle. The blades can’t be removed from the plastic handles. The whole piece has to be disposed of with the rest of the trash but there are precautions that you can take to keep it safe for others to handle. When you dispose of these types of razor blades, because the blade is exposed, you need to attempt to cover the sharp edge.
A good way to do this would be to acquire a roll of tough sticky tape that’s made of fabric. When this is applied to the sharp edge of razor blades it will mask-off the edge enough to contain them. With this done, the razor, complete with handle can be disposed of in the trash-bin.
You could try wrapping the blade-end of the razor with newspaper and sticking this together, as some suggest, but newspaper has a habit of getting wet and soft.
Disposable razors provide a convenient source of razor blades but the plastic element makes them less attractive in the environment. Using disposable razors of this type is not a good habit as they are more expensive, over a long term, than using a razor assembly that takes replaceable razor blades.
I’ve looked around to see if there is any ‘second-life’ that could be given to these types of razor blades, given that a lot of energy goes into making them, but there’s nothing to be found.
Looking at how to dispose of razor blades
How do we dispose of cartridge razor blades?
These are the type of razor blades that fit onto specific handles which are used over and over again. The blades are set in small plastic frames, the cartridges are contained in a collective holder. There are usually a number of blade-heads that are supplied in a holder and a new razor blade cartridge can be removed for use by clipping on the handle assembly without having to touch the blade itself.
Just like the disposable razor blades, cartridge razor blades can’t be recycled because there’s too much plastic involved. The advantage of cartridge razor blades is that the used blades can be clipped back into the original container when they’re no longer sharp enough for shaving. The sharp edge is concealed and poses no risk of causing injury.
More can be done before a full container of used razor blades is finally disposed of. As a precaution it would help if the entire container, complete with used razor blades, is wrapped with sticky tape to keep them all together. This can then be disposed of in the trash.
That’s as much as you can do when you have to dispose of razor blades when using the cartridge system. Cartridge razor blades are slightly less of a problem to the environment than the full-sized disposable razor with a plastic handle.
There are razor blades that can be recycled
The best way to dispose of double-edged safety razor blades
If you are looking for razor blades that can be recycled, the only option appears to be the double-edged razor blades that have no plastic attached. They are made of steel which can be melted down and used for something else.
They are known as ‘safety’ razor blades and, in practice, they are safe when used correctly but they are, of course, seriously sharp and must be handled with care, even when they are ‘blunt’.
Double-edged razor blades can be thrown out with the trash but you need to take every precaution to make sure that there is no risk of injury to yourself or any municipal workers who may come into contact with them further down the road.
Regardless of what you intend to do with these types of razor blades, you need to be mindful when it comes to what you do next, when you remove a ‘dull’ razor from your razor holder.
It doesn’t matter whether you intend to recycle or trash your used razor blades, you need to keep them out of harm’s way and, especially, away from children.
Always label as ‘Used razor blades’
When you dispose of razor blades in a wrapped-up, faceless pack, it’s fair to others to label it with a pen.
There are ways to store double-edged razor blades that reduce the risk to everyone.
- Replace them in the original razor blades container
Some suppliers of double-edged razor blades provide a compartment in the back of the pack-container where you can slide the used blade, where it can sit, out of harm’s way. The space in the container should be big enough to take all the blades of the original full pack. This can then go in the trash.
- Set up a container just for razor blades
This could be any container but it needs to be secure and have a big enough opening to take razor blades. An ideal container would be a low plastic bottle that has a child-proof top. Some say that you can’t recycle razor blades if you collect and store them this way. I would like to see this put to the test and see what happens if you turn up at a recycling depot with a load of double-edged razor blades.
- Sharps box at med centre
These are what medical professionals use for the safe storage of needles that have been used for injections. They will have such a box at any medical centre. It may be worth enquiring to see if they will take razor blades.
- Put razor blades in your own sharps box
Professional sharps boxes or blade-banks are available to buy. They are very secure and quite capacious. It would probably take a long time to fill a sharps box and would become heavy with the weight of steel razor blades. You would need to take it to your nearest recycling centre before it gets too heavy.
When you reach the point where you want to finally dispose of razor blades that you’ve been collecting, contact your local recycling centre and ask them what their procedure is. They will most likely direct you to their scrap metals container.
They may suggest that you make a habit of filling a recyclable tin rather than plastic. The tin, together with all the razor blades, can be recycled. If the recycling centre can’t or won’t cooperate, you may need to make arrangements to put your razor blades in the trash.
What are the main players saying about how to dispose of razor blades?
What Gillette are doing with used razor blades
Gillette has partnered with an international organisation that can recycle razor blades. TerraCycle, who describe themselves as “ an innovative company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste”, will take used razor blades and smelt them down to be used for new metal products.
Gillette makes the point that all razor blades can be recycled, regardless of whether they’ve been damaged.
- Request an envelope from TerraCycle. These are designed to take up to 12 razor blades. The envelope will take 2 to 3 weeks to reach you. To apply for an envelope, click here.
- Collect your used razor blades and disposable razors. Keep them in a safe place, out of the reach of minors.
- Place your collection of used razor blades in the envelope and post it back to TerraCycle.
Dispose of razor blades using a blade bank
Get a blade-bank for used razor blades
There are a selection of blade-banks available that are designed for the purpose of safely storing used razor blades. They are easy and convenient to use. You can find out more about the options at executive-shaving.co.uk.
Why did people put razors in walls?
This is something that appears to have started in the 1950s when it wasn’t easy to recycle razor blades. Anyone who possesses an old house may find a hidden stash of old razor blades in the walls where there is a cavity. The usual place would be a bathroom wall. Specifically a wall that had a medicine cabinet attached.
The procedure, in those days, was to have a slot in the back of the cabinet that allowed razor blades to drop straight through into the cavity. In some cases there would be a specially designed wall-tile that had a slot which would take razor blades and make them disappear into the wall cavity.
The view that was taken in those times was that it would take decades or, hopefully, centuries before these razor blades would ever be discovered and be a problem to anyone. Until that time came, this was the nearest that people of that age came to recycle razor blades. This practice must surely be better described as ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
How often should you change your razor blade?
It isn’t so much how often you change your razor blade, as when your blade feels that it needs to be changed. Generally you can expect razor blades to last from 1 to 6 weeks depending on how often you shave.
- Shave once a day and a razor blade will last up to 2 weeks
- Every other day shavers can expect up to 3 weeks of use
- Twice a week shavers should get up to 6 weeks out of a razor blade
Razor blades only become dull and blunt if they are used. They don’t deteriorate when sitting in the cupboard. It doesn’t take long to gain experience about these matters. You will soon be able to recognise the difference between a new, sharp razor and a blunt, dull, ready to be changed razor, when you find that the performance is no longer there.
How do I make razor blades sharp again?
It is possible to sharpen razor blades, regardless of whether they are surrounded with plastic or the double-edged type. The process is simple. It involves using a pair of old jeans or just a piece of denim.
You need to hold the denim down on a flat, firm surface. Don’t allow wrinkles in the denim and rubbing the blade along, in the opposite direction to that of shaving.
Before you start any sharpening, clean the used razor thoroughly. This may mean soaking it in hot water for about 30 minutes. Using soapy water will help remove any matter that’s built up on the blade.
Before you attempt to sharpen razor blades by this method, you must dry the blade. You must avoid moisture. The best way to do this is to leave the razor blade on a radiator and allow it to air-dry. If you use cloth to dry it, you may allow fibres to collect on it that may get in the way.
When the razor blade is dry, you will be ready to attempt sharpening on the flat piece of denim.
Rub the razor along the denim, in the opposite direction to that of shaving. Using fast but short strokes, do this for at least 20 times. This process is known in the trade as ‘stropping’ and is normally done using leather rather than denim.
To achieve a good strop, it’s recommended that, after your first stropping session in one direction, you turn the denim around and continue to strop for another 20 times, in the same fashion as with the first strop.
Don’t press too hard when stropping. Just use enough force so that you feel some resistance. Too much pressure will cause damage to the blade.
Some brave souls manage to replace the denim and use their fore-arms as a means of sharpening razor blades. This isn’t a circus act. It can actually be done. The skin on your arm is much like the leather of a traditional strop.
The process involves rubbing in the same way as with denim. The blade has to move in the opposite direction to that of shaving, so, your hairs on your arm will stay intact. Great care has to be taken to ensure that you stay straight when doing this. Any sideways movement would risk cutting your arm.
If you can make this work it will reduce the need to dispose of razor blades significantly.
Can you flush razor blades down the toilet?
This has to be a big no! Razor blades are not biodegradable. If they are flushed down the toilet, they will eventually find their way to the sewage treatment works where they run the risk of causing a blockage. It could be argued that the metal of razor blades will rust eventually but this is no excuse for sending potentially dangerous items down the pipes for someone else to deal with.
Why are they called safety razors?
It’s difficult to see how anyone can call razor blades safe in any sense at all. The ‘safety’ expression about a particular type of razor blade comes from a comparison of the old way of shaving and the comparatively new.
In the early days when the conventional methods of shaving came into being, everyone relied on the classic straight edge razor. These were described as the ‘cut-throat’ razors and, therefore, weren’t particularly safe.
All the razor blade developments that came along after this type of razor could be described as safe. The double-edged blades of today are concealed in such a way that anyone can use them with ease and a much reduced risk of self-harm.
So, what we’re saying here is that modern safety razors aren’t entirely safe but they are much safer than everything that’s gone before them.