Shave something off the price of razor blades?
December 3, 2011 1:44 PM   Subscribe

What's the best value out there for cartridge razor blades? My husband and I both use the Mach 3, but I just realized the blades cost a ridiculous amount (this time, $3.35 each). Alternatives?

Is there a cheaper safety/cartridge razor that doesn't suck? We tried going with disposable ones this month (gender specific ones, this time) and I, for one, am all rashy from it. Husband says his are ok after the second or third shave. Can we go back to a cartridge system that will cost less and shave decently? I don't want to invest in a new system for naught.

- buying online likely won't work; most cheap online sources for stuff either don't ship to canada or cost a lot to ship
- we don't want to go electric
- we don't want to use straight razors

posted by kitcat to Shopping (36 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
When you say 'safety razor', do you mean this style?

I just recently switched to that style that uses single blades instead of cartridges. You can get a pack of ten blades for under 10 dollars, depending on how often you shave, that should last you a few months at least. They really are seriously better on my skin as well.
posted by Think_Long at 1:50 PM on December 3, 2011

Another solution: use the expensive blades of your choice, but between use....rinse then leave it soaking it a tiny dish of baby or olive/vegetable oil. It's the micro rust that really diminishes the life of the blade quickly. They last heaps longer if the blades live in oil.
posted by taff at 1:53 PM on December 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

I know this isn't a perfect answer, but what I eventually did was switch to an old-fashioned safety razor (new razor, old style) made by Merkur. The razor itself was about $40 but it's a pleasantly solid chunk of steel, and the blades are less than $1 each on Amazon. (It takes old-school double-edged razor blades.) It's not a straight razor, it does have a blade guard and it uses disposable blades. And it gives a damn fine shave.

When I used a Mach 3, I used to just steal the blades from Walmart. They don't set off the scanners or anything and they're not locked up. I would just stick a pack in my pocket when nobody was looking and walk out, nobody ever caught me.
posted by Scientist at 1:54 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Another chance to repeat one of my favourite tips (that I may have originally got from Metafilter): have you tried dabbing your Mach 3 razors dry and storing them outside the bathroom? When I started doing this it extended their useful life quite literally by about 10x. (I still get active enjoyment on a regular basis from the thought of denying Gillette their obscene profits this way.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't really understand what a safety razor is, even after looking at that Wikipedia article. Since the Mach 3 is discussed there, I consider it to be one?
posted by kitcat at 1:56 PM on December 3, 2011

When I used a Mach 3, I used to just steal the blades from Walmart. They don't set off the scanners or anything and they're not locked up. I would just stick a pack in my pocket when nobody was looking and walk out, nobody ever caught me.

Not cool, man. Surely not something for AskMe.

Back to the question. Yes, definitely get the cartridge dry. Otherwise, there are basically two alternatives: go for a cheaper 3-blade brand, or go down to a twin blade system.
posted by vidur at 1:59 PM on December 3, 2011 [11 favorites]

Yeah, that WP article is not very helpful here. What people mean these days by safety razor is what is described in the "single edge" section. I use one, and I've also bought blades at Walgreens for it, which are not the best blades but it's good to know that I'd never be left high and dry in a pinch.
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2011

There's also this tip, also featured on MetaFilter: How to Sharpen and Reuse Your Razor Blades for Years
posted by ringu0 at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2011

Safety razors are where it's at. Think_Long has it: blades cost pennies.

Once you get the hang of it it doesn't take any longer to shave (at least, for a man: I have no idea whether this is true for a woman using a safety razor). With a new blade, I'm convinced I get closer than I used to with the old Mach 3.

You'll spend $30-40 on a serviceable razor, and then 10c. apiece on the blades. Over time, it's totally worth it, not to mention a more pleasant shave.

A Mach 3 is not a safety razor. A safety razor uses a single blade like a straight razor but has a "safety bar" so you are forced to angle it to your face before the blade will make contact with your skin. This was an improvement* on the old "straight razor" which was literally just a blade against your skin.

The safety razor is what your grandfather likely shaved with before the invention of the cartridge razor. The cartridge razor uses a replaceable cartridge which has one or more blades fixed at a particular angle. The Mach 3 is a cartridge razor.

* Purists may disagree but whatever.
posted by gauche at 2:02 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I meant the old fashioned safety razor that scientist is describing. Much cheaper and a finer shave (on faces at least, can't speak to other parts of the body).
posted by Think_Long at 2:02 PM on December 3, 2011

You can often order coupons from Brandsaver that will get you $2 or $3 off when you buy multiple Gilette products. I like to wait until there is a sale (Safeway sometimes has good ones on razors!) and stock up using those coupons. If we run out before there's a sale we buy our Fusion razors at Costco. I think they carry the Mach3 as well. Costco doesn't have an amazing price, but better than $3.99 a blade for sure!
posted by sanitycheck at 2:02 PM on December 3, 2011

Holy crap! Just checked for the Merkur mentioned above ( .com generally doesn't ship non-book items here) - and they sell the Mach 3 blades at $13.49, rather than the $26.99 I just paid at Shopper's Drug Mart. Yay! Finally, amazon is starting to sell the non-book stuff to Canadians!!
posted by kitcat at 2:02 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I used a Mach 3, I used to just steal the blades from Walmart. They don't set off the scanners or anything and they're not locked up

You certainly weren't the only one. I've only ever seen them locked up.
posted by kitcat at 2:05 PM on December 3, 2011

I'm with gauche--I use a safety razor, and it is so, so cheap, and I get a great shave. I recently bought something like 100 blades for less than $10 off of eBay. I have a beard and tend to change a blade every 3 weeks to a month or so. So that's what--8 years of shaving for less than $10? a great deal!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:15 PM on December 3, 2011

The only thing I can add is that safety razors have never worked for me for legs. It's like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and those cuts are serious.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:29 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use Gillette sensor and I buy $5 replacement packs at Krogers. The brand name replacements cost about $20 a pack, but Kroger (and only Kroger, for some reason) has generics. They generally last me about 6 months per cartridge so not so bad. I have plans to go buy 4 packs, will last me a couple years. But I have pretty negligible stubble so your mileage may vary.
posted by natteringnabob at 2:40 PM on December 3, 2011

Try looking at disposable razors. As Gillette and Schick have moved onto marketing better and more expensive products, the older tech gets moved into the disposables. You can now buy what is identical to the Mach 3 as a disposable.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:08 PM on December 3, 2011

Another vote for safety razors – I use my grandfather’s one and it’s a much easier shave than I ever had with the Mach 3. If I want a very close shave I’ll use the safety then finish with the Mach 3. I buy packs of 10 blades for a few dollars and use a fresh one each time (I only shave every few weeks – if you’re shaving daily you wouldn’t need to toss them so soon).

A girlfriend once asked me to shave her legs for her, so I gave her the badger brush and shaving foam treatment and went at it with the safety razor. She found it was a closer shave than with her cartridge razor, but I did give her a small cut on the shin – less margin for error, so be careful.
posted by twirlypen at 3:09 PM on December 3, 2011

Costco and Amazon have good prices on cartridges. Schick cartridges are cheaper than Gillette cartridges.
posted by twblalock at 3:13 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if Amazon has this in Canada but in the US they have a "subscription" service for certain products - you set it up to automatically bill and send you the item on a regular basis, and you get an extra x% off. Plus, as you discovered, drugstore stuff is way cheaper on Amazon. Also I would look and see if has a Canadian equivalent because they have good prices.
posted by radioamy at 3:16 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I tried using safety razors but ultimately returned to the Mach 3 because I kept getting nasty cuts. Like, every time I used a safety razor. More cuts in a two month period than I had in the previous ten years.

Just sharing my experience. I hope you find something that works for you.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:25 PM on December 3, 2011

I used to use a Mach 3 and would get 5 maybe 6 shaves with a cartridge but the last shave was always more of a scrape than a shave. Now I'm using Schick Hydro and I'm getting several weeks out of each cartridge and they are cheaper than the Mach 3 cartridges. And that is without taking any special storage precautions. I shave in the shower and my razors (and replacement cartridges) live in the shower.
posted by Mitheral at 3:28 PM on December 3, 2011

I recently switched from the Gillette Sensor cartridge razor that I've been using since college to a Merkur Futur, and want to nth the safety razor love here - the blades I'm using (Derby Extras) are ~20 cents apiece and good for 3-4 much closer, much more comfortable shaves.

With a good quality, old-fashioned shave cream (I'm using J.M. Fraser's) there is no comparison: the shaving technology of 50 years ago works better, is much more cost effective, and generates a lot less waste. Shaving is something that I actually look forward to now - a ritual rather than a chore.

There are some useful video introductions to safety razor shaving on YouTube - mantic69's are what convinced me to give it a go.
posted by ryanshepard at 3:47 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need yourselves a Merkur razor/whatever blades. Not necessarily merkur brand blades, there are many brands for different price points- quality varies as does individual suitability, but cost isn't necessarily an indicator. We like the merkur blades, but I think my husband favours the cheaper Astra brand. I don't shave much, so I don't really have enough experience to notice a difference between blades.

A good online shoppe in Canada (you mentioned shopper's drug mart?) to order products from is Fendrihan. Reliable, fast, great selection of blades, razors soap and other shaving accessories.

My husband got his merkur last year for our anniversary. I tried it and enjoy the experience so much that I've converted as well. We get away with one razor between us, but I should really get my own to use while he's away. We save a boat load of money now. Shaving is an enjoyable experience, and our razor is always clean and dry. I find machs get to a point where they're impossible to clean the hairs out of and get all scummy if you forget them in the bathroom/shower.

Consider it! You won't regret the switch.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2011

Yet another vote for safety razors. My skin is fragile and sensitive; those disposables make me break out in a rash, too. Now I use a Merkur Slant razor with a Feather blade on my legs and underarms with zero problems. (NB: this is a pretty aggressive set-up and you probably don't want to use this combination until you've developed some skill with a safety razor.) I also use a badger brush with shaving soap, which is much more pleasant than stinky canned foam and lasts for ages.

The main trick to using a safety razor is to use a very light touch; instead of pressing down on the razor, you pretty much let the weight of the razor head do the work for you. If you've been using light plastic razors for years, it might take a little while to get used to, and you'll want to play around a little with various brands of blades before you settle on one you like. It's not rocket science, though.

Mefi's Own Leisureguy has written a guide to shaving with safety razors that's worth reading.
posted by sculpin at 5:05 PM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

kitcat: your profile says you're in Canada, so Fendrihan should see you right if you want to try safety razors. Their razor blade sampler packs are a great way to try a few different blades to see what you like, and they really do cost a fraction of what drugstore gillette blades cost.

I'm not associated with them beyond being a happy customer, but I'm extremely happy I switched to using safety razors a few years ago. Like many other people here, I think it's turned an expensive chore into something of a ceremonial pleasure.
posted by mhoye at 5:07 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

+1 on ringu0's answer - I saw a post serval months ago on AskMe about sharpening your razor. The linked video showed sharpening the cartridge against your arm, but one of the comments mentioned sharpening it on the back side of a belt. The arm sharpening did not work for me, but the belt sharpening works GREAT and I've been using the same Gillette mach whatever their latest and greatest is for about 3 months.

Shave is a tad less close than a factory fresh blade, but after a sharpening or two, I never ever get cuts anymore, and that use to be a frequent problem (neck).

In a nutshell, shave the back side of a belt in the opposite direction you would use to shave. I do 10 passes backwards on the belt whenever the blade starts to feel dull/scratchy (every 10-14 days or so).
posted by walmerhoz at 5:26 PM on December 3, 2011

I've heard that storing the blade in a bowl filled with silica desiccant extends the life quite nicely as well, though I haven't attempted it.
posted by Jacob G at 6:11 PM on December 3, 2011

I can't answer specifically about this brand/refill, but I've had luck with Amazon (as you recently did), when they have sales, and getting coupons off of eBay.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:39 PM on December 3, 2011

I bought a vintage (1960's) Lady Gillette on eBay a couple of years ago, and have only just bought a new batch of 100 blades. And that's only because my husband converted to a safety razor and wiped out the remainder of my supply. I LOVE it. It's a closer shave than the Mach 3, though it took about a week of practice to be able to shave my ankles without a nick. (Hint: the first week, I didn't shave in the shower, which made it easier to concentrate.)

Plus, I feel like a Bond girl when I pull out my glam powder blue razor.
posted by instamatic at 6:46 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cartridge and disposables are safety razors.

I use double edge safety razors mostly. But I'll use anything that's cheap, as long as it works. And they pretty much all do. I even used one of the five blade razors, when Gilette sent me one for free. It worked great, but I wasn't about to spring for new cartridges.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:29 PM on December 3, 2011

From what I've read, one good choice for a solid, less-expensive cartridge razor is the Trac 2 (Trac II?) system. Never tried them myself, though. There's more information in the forums on They have two blades, instead of three, which translates to cheaper and less irritation. I think there are good, cheaper-still off-brand cartridges that work in the Trac 2 handles, also. If you want to explore your cartridge-razor options, that might be something to check out.

Like some others here, I also swear by the double-edged safety razor. I like the Gillette Superspeeds, my favorite being the mid-60's metal handled ones, like this. I love the Feather blades, which at $0.40 per blade are more expensive than most blades but are incredibly sharp and smooth. Everything with shaving varies person to person, and some find Feathers too aggressive, so YMMV.

Brush+soap (or cream, they serve the same function) can make a big difference; the gel shit in a can is pretty bad but somehow it's just not common knowledge anymore that there's a better way. Here's my favorite soap, cream, and brush. Brushes can be expensive, especially badger hair; boar hair brushes are much cheaper with only minor drawbacks.
posted by kprincehouse at 11:00 PM on December 3, 2011

1. When I used a Mach 3, I used to just steal the blades from Walmart. They don't set off the scanners or anything and they're not locked up. I would just stick a pack in my pocket when nobody was looking and walk out, nobody ever caught me.
posted by Scientist at 1:54 PM on December 3 [3 favorites +] [!]

My heart just skipped a beat. I love you for stealing from walmart.

2. A few years ago, I read something crazy about mach3 blades. If you THOROUGHLY dry them (no moisture) after each use...they last for a LOT more shaves. Try it before switching.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:15 AM on December 4, 2011

When I used a Mach 3, I used to just steal the blades from Walmart.

Awesome. I pay for your Mach 3s. You're welcome.
posted by massysett at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I used gillete sensor excel for a long time. i took a punt on ALDI razor blades, and they are just as effective but far far cheaper.
posted by wilful at 5:38 PM on December 4, 2011

I'm not the type of person who will do all those things (even if they are easy) to extend the life of my blades, sharpening? storing somewhere special? probably not going to happen with me. BUT I was reading a similar post on consumerist and a guy in the comments mentioned that the HEB store brand version were better than the gillette ones. I live somewhere with HEBs so I tried it out. They cost about half as much and last about twice as long.

Start trying any generic store brands in your area.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2011

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