Sharpening a Razor With Your Jeans (Does This Really Work?)

If you are an avid shaver, you may have heard about different ways to make your blades last longer. The cost of new blades can add up if your facial hair is thick or if it grows fast. Can you really sharpen your razor on your jeans?

In order to sharpen a blade, the sharpening material needs to be stronger than the blade, with the most common sharpening material is a whetstone. Denim does not sharpen steel blades; however, running your razor over your old jeans can make it last a little longer. This is not sharpening, but it is a mild stropping which smooths out blade burrs.

Read on to learn what exactly ‘sharpening’ with denim does and how it may help your razor blades last longer. We’ll also talk about the different blades you can use this technique on and then you can go try it and decide for yourself if it helps your blades last longer.

Can you really sharpen a razor with denim jeans?

You’ve heard that you can sharpen your razor on your jeans, which sounds convenient if true, but is it? A Blade & Badger forum asks this same question. While quite a few people use this technique and enjoy it, about half of the comments say that it does no good, if anything makes their blades duller!

Whetstone is the most common material for sharpening blades as it is stronger than the steel blades are made out of. Because denim is not stronger than steel it won’t actually sharpen your blade; however, it can remove burrs that can cause knicks on your face.

Traditional barbers used a technique called stropping. This is usually performed by dragging the blade along a stiff leather strap. The process doesn’t necessarily sharpen the blade however, it does remove burrs that are caused by shaving thick coarse hair, giving a ‘sharper’ or smoother shave.

To be more accurate, I’ll be referring to the process of running your razor over denim as stropping rather than sharpening since there are differences between the two.

Does stropping a razor with jeans make it last longer?

Now that we know the difference between sharpening and stropping, back to the question: does running your razor over your jeans make the blade last longer?

The results will depend on your technique and what type of blade you are trying to strop. Cartridge razors are usually the easiest to do this with.

Some people swear this helps their razors last longer, others notice no difference at all. 

How to ‘sharpen’ razors with denim jeans

It may be possible to extend the life of your razor by stropping it on your jeans.

To try ‘sharpening’ your razor on your denim jeans:

  1. Find an old pair of jeans or some junk denim. This process can wear out the fabric and you wouldn’t want to ruin your favorite pair of jeans. Place the jeans on a flat surface.
  2. Wash your razor blade as you don’t want any soap buildup on it before stropping. You can even soak your blade for 15-30 minutes to help clean it. You’ll also want to dry your blade completely; use a hair dryer if you have one.
  3. Once your blade is completely dry, use a light pressure to make short quick strokes with the blade along your old jeans. Do this about 20 times to smooth the burrs out. If your blade is very dull, you may want to do this a total of 40 times to ensure a smooth edge for shaving.

Check out this illustrated guide for how to strop a safety razor.

Wash off your blade after every shave to ensure it lasts as long as possible. It is also recommended to dry and apply an oily lubricant to your blade to avoid exposure to moisture in the air. Olive and mineral oil are good options that are safe for the skin.

This video shows a good technique for using alcohol and denim to strop your razor.

How often should you sharpen/strop your razor on jeans?

Now that you know how to strop your blade on jeans, how often should you do it?

If you typically get 3 shaves out of each blade, try stropping your blade after every shave. If you usually get a week or longer out of each blade, you should try stropping it after every 2nd or 3rd shave.

Your results will greatly depend on how often you shave as the more often you shave the less you dull your blade. The thickness and coarseness of your hair will also determine how often you would want to do this.

What kind of razors can you sharpen with jeans?

So far we’ve discussed the generalities of stropping your razor on jeans, but what kind of razor does this work on?

Stropping your razor on denim typically works best for disposable cartridges and safety razor blades however you can try it with a straight razor as well.

Keep reading for how to strop each kind of razor blade on your jeans.

Disposable cartridges blades

Disposable cartridge blade razors have a reusable handle and a replaceable head, typically with 3-5 blades. This type of blade is the best choice for denim stropping.

After cleaning and drying your blade cartridge, gently press the head down onto the jeans and slide it with the blade in short strokes. These strokes should be in the opposite direction you would to shave.

Do this 15-20 times for a decent blade and 30-40 for a very dull blade.

Single-edge safety razor blades

To strop your single-edge safety razor, you can remove the blade from your razor, but it’s safer to perform the action with the blade in place.

Gently press the first side down onto the jeans with the same angle you would use to shave. Slide it along the jeans with the blade in short strokes; in the opposite direction you would shave.

Do this 15-20 times for a decent blade and 30-40 for a very dull blade.

Double-edge safety razor blades

To strop a double-edge safety razor blade, you’ll do basically the same thing as for a single-edge blade. Since this blade is sharp on both sides, you should perform the action with the blade in the razor.

Gently press the first side down onto the jeans with the same angle you would use to shave. Slide it along the jeans with the blade in short strokes; in the opposite direction you would shave. Repeat the process for the second side of the blade.

Don’t forget to clean and completely dry your blade before stropping it with jeans.

Straight razors

Straight razors are going to be the most difficult to strop with jeans as it is very easy to cut your jeans if you slip. Make sure you are using a junk denim strap, a stropping leather piece, or jeans you don’t care about if you are using a straight edge.

This is going to have the same cleaning process as all the other razors. Make sure as you do this you have a good amount of tension on the outside edges of your blade.

After your razor is completely dry, you are going to press your blade against the jeans or strop leather at the same angle you would shave. Slide against the jeans with the blade, the opposite direction you would shave. Do this 15-20 times for a decent blade and 30-40 for a very dull blade.

Watch this how-to on stropping a straight razor, and replace the stropping leather with your piece of denim.