Help me shave without a sink!
January 14, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

How do I shave without a sink?

My bathroom sink won't drain at the moment. After a few seconds of water coming out of the faucet I have standing water that doesn't go down for a couple of hours. The landlord is coming out to fix this (supposedly) but it's been a couple weeks, and he told me he'd be here on Monday, but I don't think he was here Monday, and I need a shave today.

I use the badger brush and high quality soap as well as the double-edged single blade safety razor, so when I do shave I actually look forward to it and enjoy it a lot.

The other part of the problem is that I can't shave in the shower because there's barely enough hot water in this place to take a shower, much less shower + shave. (I live in a house that's been converted to two apartments, there's a family beneath me and basically a hot water heater big enough for one household, not two) So, overarching problems with the apartment aside, how can I shave without a sink?

Usually I run hot water, lather up the face, and after each pass of the blade, clean it with running water and put blade to face again. I tried keeping a mug of hot water next to the sink and rinsing the blade in it, but all the soap and hairs would float on the top after a couple passes, so I wasn't really cleaning my blade and everything was getting kind of gross.

So what's the solution? I know gentlemen have shaved for centuries without the benefit of running water, but how can *I* do it today? My google-fu has failed me spectacularly in this area. Thanks, as always, in advance! MeFi is the best.
posted by indiebass to Home & Garden (29 answers total)
Scrape a blade across your face with no water involved. Bang it against the side of the trash can to dislodge all the hairs. Start light for the first couple of passes, like it's a watercolor, and then apply more pressure on the last pass.

This is how I shaved up through most of college. I later found out from a friend that at his Catholic high school that the boys were forced to do this as punishment if they didn't keep a clean-shaven face at school. So I call this way of shaving "Catholic Style".

Alternatively, if you can't do it without your precious Protestant "water", why not just keep four or five mugs in front of you, and use each one sequentially?
posted by Greg Nog at 6:59 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I saw you tried a cup but using a basin is how people did it for many many years before the more common running water you are used to.

You can take a bowl, a large bowl, and fill it with clean water. Moisten and lather up your face, and then dip the razor in the bowl and shake it to clean the razor blades.

Is it gross? Yes. Is there hair floating? Yes, but your razor still gets clean by the shaking motion and quick removal. Then you dispose of the water down the shower drain (and never use that bowl for food).
posted by arniec at 7:00 AM on January 14, 2009

You can skip the high quality soap and badger brush and just use the blade. It's not as nice but the blade will cut. I do this occasionally if I'm late for work while driving.

Alternatively, you could heat water on your stove, but...
posted by Pants! at 7:00 AM on January 14, 2009

A big bowl of water.

I used to do as you, using running water, but since hair sinks and soap floats, there's actually a whole lot of clean water in the middle of a closed sink (or bowl) and you can get just as good results by shaking your blade under the water. Saves a lot of water, too.

For best results, warm water on face but cold water on blade. Two bowls.
posted by rokusan at 7:02 AM on January 14, 2009

You can get a cheep electric shaver. And you'll still have it if anything like this ever happens again.
posted by originalname37 at 7:02 AM on January 14, 2009

As someone who lived without running water for three months, I recommend growing a beard for now.

If that is impossible, instead of a small cup of warm water, consider a big bowl-full of it.
Another option, if your sink in the kitchen can make hot water, take a mirror there.
posted by mateuslee at 7:03 AM on January 14, 2009

Do you have a sink in your kitchen that works? Bring a towel and a hand mirror in there.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2009

I shave in the shower. I have a goatee and shave my whole head. You can get a shower mirror and just feel things out blindly.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:08 AM on January 14, 2009

A big bowl of water.

The bonus being that you can just sort of fill your slow-draining sink halfway and use it (just wipe it out once the sink does drain). This is how I shave. Not with a slow-draining sink, but I do fill the sink partway and use it as rinsewater.

Have you tried using a plunger on the sink, though? My sink was slow for ages, and no amount of drain cleaner would open it up for more than a week or two. Then, one day, I filled it partway, plugged the overflow drain, and plungered gently for a few minutes. It hasn't run slow since.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:10 AM on January 14, 2009

(and never use that bowl for food)

WTF? soap and hair wash away pretty easily.

Anyway, a basin will work fine. You can even put one in your bathroom sink and run water into it if the sink will accommodate one of sufficient size that you don't have to empty it into the shower ever 30 seconds. You aren't currently shaving by running water during the whole time you shave are you? That is extremely wasteful. Probably the most energy efficient way to shave would be with an electric razor and it would avoid your drainage problems. It won't however provide the tactile joy of a good shaving soap and blade razor.
posted by caddis at 7:12 AM on January 14, 2009

Thanks for all the quick responses! A couple of follow-ups:

The electric is, alas, not an option for me. I've burned out the motors on a couple, and when I do use them I come out looking worse than Homer Simpson. Needless to say I have a tough beard. I went to get a straight-razor shave with some guys before a wedding last month and the guys that finished first said they looked over and saw the guy really leaning into the blade on my face. I had to tip him well, after that.

the big basin seems to be the best option. And I hope someone backs up caddis on this, but I don't really have any big disposable bowls, so I think I'm going to have to keep using whatever I use for food... arniec if you say I really should never use the bowl for food I won't, but hopefully a hand wash will do (there's no dishwasher here either)

Greg Nog, you make an interesting case and I'm inclined to try your method as well. It does sound painful, so I'm thinking I could do it that way with lather and that might help?

uncleozzy, I did get one of those tiny plungers meant for sinks, not toilets, and a couple of things happened. First, I realized I don't have an overflow drain. Or, if I do, it's inside the drain, which doesn't really make sense, but there are no holes in my sink, save the drain. And second: when I used the plunger, I got more water and crap I'd never seen before come back up into the sink than I'm pretty sure I put down there. So the water level was actually higher, which logically doesn't make any sense, and it took overnight to go down, and really left some scum in the sink. I'll give it another go, though, as your suggestion has emboldened me. But after I take care of my face, natch. =)
posted by indiebass at 7:24 AM on January 14, 2009

As to the bowl, you can hand wash it. All that is in there is soap and hair. It looks yucky, but it isn't going to hurt you. There is no magic in dishwashers. Sure, if you had face ebola you might want to sterilize it, but just use hot water and dish soap.
posted by procrastination at 7:28 AM on January 14, 2009

I can't see any reason why you shouldn't use the bowl for whatever after you've washed it. After all, you'll be able to see if there are any hairs left after you wash the bowl (and then you can get rid of them, so you won't be eating hairs...), and soap's not going to hurt you.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:31 AM on January 14, 2009

If you can spare a few dollars, you should be able to find a barber who'll shave you. I've never tried it myself, but I've heard from a few guys that being shaved by a decent barber (so, starting off with a steaming-hot towel, using a cut-throat razor, etc) is a surprisingly fun experience.

Shaving with a bowl of warm water is practical too. The blade might not look as clean but I suspect that's mostly just aesthetic - as long as the edge has been rinsed, it should work just as well. Any stray soap or hair cuttings will wash off your face easily.

I also second uncleozzy's suggestion of plunging the sink. Half-fill the sink and use a your cupped palms (or a real plunger) to push and suck water down and up the plughole a few times. Hopefully the moving water will dislodge whatever mixture of hair trimmings, soap fragments, etc. is blocking the flow. I had the same problem which no amount of bleach or running water would unclog, and this worked wonders for me.

Alternatively, my friend swears by treating blocked bathroom drains with pinapple juice (it contains protease enzymes which can break down hair and nail clippings, given a few hours to work) or live yoghurt (the yoghurt's bacteria are supposed to eat the hair and clippings overnight). I haven't tried either myself, but have seen commercial pool-filter cleaning products that claim to work on exactly the same principles.
posted by metaBugs at 7:33 AM on January 14, 2009

Oops, I should've previewed!

indiebass - The "more water and crap" is exactly what you want to see. The solid stuff that came up into the basin is part of the blockage that's making the sink drain slowly. It's pretty disgusting (when I did this it was almost black, slimy and smelled *terrible*) but fish it out and dispose of it, then plunge some more to dislogge more of the gunk. If you let it go back down the plughole, you're just restoring the blockage to its original size.
posted by metaBugs at 7:38 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't want to move the discussion away from shaving, but for the drain, I'd recommend trying to find a Zip-It; Home Depot, etc, should have them. I first heard about it here on AskMe, and it's the only thing I found that cleared my repeatedly blocked drain (and pulled up some nasty, nasty stuff in the process).
posted by inigo2 at 7:44 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Warm your face up with hot water from the bath tub/shower, then use cold water from the bath/shower to rinse your blade off. Shower drain goes to the same place right?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:46 AM on January 14, 2009

To clarify, there's nothing wrong with the bowl. But I've been corrupted by those who think that you shouldn't mix body uses with food. I know for a fact that metal or glass will come clean of all germs if sterilized with boiling water, etc. but really our focus here isn't germs, it's hair and shaving goo.

I'm not a chemist so I don't know what chemicals from your shaving cream might be absorbed by a more porous material like plastic.

That said, at a big box store or a dollar store you can often buy a large plastic bowl for $1 or $2 if it bothers you or anyone else in your home if you don't live alone. If it doesn't bother you, then just use what you've got (It's what I'd have done when I was single)
posted by arniec at 8:08 AM on January 14, 2009

The other advantage to the bowl/basin method is that you can flush the soapy hairy water down the toilet, thus helping to prevent further sink drainage issues in the future.
posted by yarrow at 8:09 AM on January 14, 2009

slow drain, have you tried drain-o ?
posted by swbarrett at 8:19 AM on January 14, 2009

One tip about plunging, it is the up stroke that typically clears the clog. With water in the basin flex the plunger back and forth a few times to expel the air and then flex it all the way down and yank upwards violently. Yes, it will splash water everywhere.
posted by caddis at 8:32 AM on January 14, 2009

Here was the method tried today: heated up water on the stove, transferred it to a glass pyrex bowl. Used a sample of Anthony for Men Shaving Cream because it says use without water on the face, and the old safety razor... the brush was not involved today. Shook the blade in the bowl water, which seemed to work fairly well and disperse the grossness. When I was done, emptied the wastewater into the toilet and flushed away. So that all seemed to work out all right, all things considering.

The problems came when I tried to clear the sink. There was standing water in it from this morning when I washed my hands earlier. I did use a bottle of drano last week, and it helped with the standing water at the time, but within a day the whole business was back to its old tricks again. I got a pretty good seal a couple of times and I could hear water moving WAY back down in the pipes, and I did try the Caddis Violent Upsurge Method (TM) but to no avail. My sink is now really REALLY gross, brown/black standing water and dirt particles all in the bottom and there is definitely a musty, disgusting smell. I must have plunged for a good 20 minutes, which I think is a noble effort. I just moved in last month, so I couldn't have done that much to make a drain this bad in this amount of time. I am intrigued by inigo2's Zip-It product... so I may try that too.

In the meantime, I'm shaved for the day, and hopefully I can get someone out here to take a more professional look at the thing.
posted by indiebass at 8:50 AM on January 14, 2009

If your landlord is unresponsive to fixing this, tell him no problem, you'll hire someone to take care of it and deduct the cost from the next month's rent. I bet he shows up pretty quickly. :)

(YMMV depending on your state.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:20 AM on January 14, 2009

(YMMV depending on your state.)

You'd better believe it. The one time I tried this (15 years ago) on some non-lawyer's advice, I was made acutely aware this was not a legal way to go about things. After weeks of harsh words and threats, the landlord and I agreed that he'd knock off what he thought was a fair price for the repair (what he would have paid a friend of a friend to do a half-assed job) and I'd eat the difference between that and what it actually cost to fix the problem.

The kind of landlord who's a schmuck about not fixing things is quite possibly the sort who'd turn nasty if you did this kind of thing (even if it is legal to do where you are and you've crossed all your i's and dotted all your t's). Especially if it's over a trivial inconvenience like shaving.

If you can't get any free legal advice from a local government agency (look in the blue pages of the phone book), you can pretend to be a student and call the appropriate advice-office at the nearest university (if you're not a student already). If you really wanted to go with p_mcg's advice, I'd suggest you get a plumber's free estimate and then hold back that amount and write a very polite letter (or make a very polite phone call) offering the landlord one month to have his buddy fix it before you start withholding rent.
posted by K.P. at 10:22 AM on January 14, 2009

Some guys wouldn't dream of it -- but would you consider using a public bathroom? A unisex restroom with one toilet and sink would be ideal. Lots of people do involved grooming in an airport or train station restroom; you could shave in one of those if you're near one.

An easier idea: shave at home and get around the debris-in-the-rinsing-bowl problem. Instead of dunking your razor in the bowl, pour water onto it from a paper cup, a squirt bottle, a measuring cup -- any small container that will let you aim the water. Or dunk and then rinse with the clean-water pour or squirt.

Even easier: putting some dish soap or shampoo in your bowl may keep the detritis from clumping and sticking.
posted by wryly at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2009

The kind of landlord who's a schmuck about not fixing things is quite possibly the sort who'd turn nasty if you did this kind of thing (even if it is legal to do where you are and you've crossed all your i's and dotted all your t's).
This is true.

Especially if it's over a trivial inconvenience like shaving.
But this is not just over shaving--the bathroom sink is essentially inoperable, and that's probably a standard of living thing depending on state law.

OP, contact a tenant's rights' association in your state before taking my advice. If it's legal there, however, and you do it right, it should speed the process up considerably. And if it's not legal, you can always offer (not threaten) to do it his way--perhaps it's a pain for the landlord to come fix it, and he wouldn't mind deducting the price from the rent but doesn't want to be the one to suggest it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:32 AM on January 14, 2009

How about shaving at work or school?

Here's some really bad drain opening advice:
roebic drain openers
I've used several of these, you should use protective gear, they may destroy something that you didn't intended to destroy.
posted by bdc34 at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2009

make that two bowls of water, one stays clean until you wash your face in the end and the other one to clean the razor with/collect hair and foam in.

or go to a gas station. fill up and ask to use the restroom. do this at a larger gas station and don't take more than five minutes and you're golden.
posted by krautland at 11:43 AM on January 14, 2009

Just wanted to mention the good luck I've had with CLR power plumber pressurized drain cleaner. Also, a drain snake.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2009

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