Any retailer that deals in quality razors will offer a wide assortment of styles, metals, and finishes. Is one metal truly superior in performance to another or are they just luxury products?
Platinum, brass, and chrome are fine choices for your safety razor but are historically luxury items sold as steel alternatives. The best choice for everyday use in terms of price, quality, and availability is stainless steel. Unlike some options, stainless steel resists corrosion and is hard enough to last a lifetime with little visible damage.
Read on to find out the pros and cons of each type of metal you can choose for your safety razor, plus some considerations you may want to keep in mind when selecting yours.
What is the best type of metal for a razor?
Prior to the 1960s carbon steel was the metal of choice for razor blades and safety razors were made of brass. Carbon steel is still renowned for holding an edge but easily stains and rusts.
Stainless steel was invented in 1913 when chromium replaced carbon in the steel alloy. In the early 1960s, Wilkinson Sword began producing stainless steel blades that were more resistant to corrosion.
Stainless steel is best suited for safety razors based on price, hardness, and resistance to damage. Stainless steel is widely available and difficult to counterfeit. Razor blades may come in many metals but the best are usually steel and are found with a variety of coatings, such as platinum.
The production of stainless steel blades led to the production of stainless steel handles and brass handles were slowly phased out.
Brass is a noble metal, and, when exposed to a base metal, such as steel, the reaction can be less than ideal. Both metals resist corrosion but can release free electrons that can stain water which is problematic when applied to skin.
Stainless steel has become synonymous with quality over the years and is used in high-quality products from your bathroom into your kitchen and beyond.
It is composed primarily of iron with other metals such as chromium, manganese, or nickel added to suit particular needs.
Stainless steel resists corrosion and absorbs heat quickly. The hardness of steel maintains an edge for a long time.
Stainless steel is harder to hone, although this is less of a concern when it comes to safety razors (although it is problematic for straight razors).
Stainless steel vs chrome
Stainless steel is less likely than chrome to show scratches and stress.
Stainless steel vs brass
Shaving forums, such as Badger and Blade, maintain several discussion threads comparing steel and brass with little drawback listed for either alloy.
Brass tends to lose its luster over time. Stainless steel is harder than brass and less prone to stress fracture.
Stainless steel vs platinum
Platinum is very hard and harder than steel. Platinum is often used to harden steel edges or to serve as a plating that adds additional protection against corrosion.
There is no wrong answer here but often platinum razors are steel at heart.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc but can also be made with lead and tin. The metals used to form brass are chosen with different uses in mind.
Brass is used for purposes ranging from musical instruments to plumbing fixtures. Brass was used often in early safety razors before the 1960s when stainless steel became popular.
Brass was often finished in gold.
Brass is antimicrobial in nature and resistant to corrosion. Many people enjoy the aesthetic of a brass razor. Brass looks very nice while shiny and some like the look a brass razor gets when it forms a patina.
Patina should not be confused with rust or corrosion as it is just the gradual loss of finish that exposes some of the bass copper or other metal. Some even use a chemical process to age the finish into a patina.
Brass tarnishes quite easily and manufacturers recommend rinsing and drying after each shave.
The process of drying and polishing helps maintain the razor’s luster. Some men love the patina that forms after extended use while others want to maintain the polish. There is no wrong answer here.
When brass is exposed to stainless steel, it can lead to some interesting metallurgic reactions. When base metals contact noble metals they do not like to share free electrons and can lead to discoloration in water. A brass razor may need specially coated blades, such as platinum blades, to prevent metal reactions.
Brass vs chrome
Brass is typically harder and heavier than chrome. Brass will also last much longer.
Brass vs platinum
Platinum is expensive and often used as a coating to prevent core metals from corrosion. Brass has a more timeless appeal but platinum will not require the same amount of care.
Chrome is an alloy based on a percentage of chromium contained in steel.
In modern times, chrome has come to refer to color and sheen rather than metallurgy. Steel containing higher percentages of chromium is true chrome and is quite lovely.
Chrome provides a very attractive appearance of polish which does resist corrosion.
Many products on the market are chrome plated. The term chrome has taken on a meaning in regard to color and shine and often products are not actually chrome in composition. Special care must be taken to ensure a product is actually chrome and not an inferior core with a shiny plating that will quickly peel away under stress.
Chrome scratches very easily as a result of the highly reflective sheen. Chrome also shows dirt and fingerprints very easily.
Chrome vs platinum
Platinum wins. Chrome is less resistant to scratches and will show wear much more quickly than platinum.
Platinum is used in everything from jewelry to pacemakers due to its resistance to corrosion and hypoallergenic properties. Platinum is known as a transition metal, like gold and silver, meaning that it bonds easily in alloys.
Platinum is a rare metal and can be quite expensive.
Hardness. Platinum, when combined with other metals, can rival stainless steel in durability. Platinum is also hypoallergenic which is quite useful for those with skin sensitivity.
Platinum, like chrome, can be plated with a platinum-colored finish and contain no platinum at all.
Many products are using platinum as an adjective to assign prestige to products ie. platinum card, platinum album, platinum member, etc. Platinum is often a buzz word and research should be conducted before committing to platinum items.