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Proper maintenance of hair clippers is essential for their longevity. For that reason, we have decided to put together this article that will teach you how to sharpen hair clippers effectively to get the most out of them.
Hair clippers blades need to be sharp to make smooth and precise movements and cut the hair properly. If they become dull, they won’t cut evenly, and you won’t get the look you want to achieve.
For many people sharpening hair clippers seems complicated, but the truth is that it’s incredibly easy. You don’t need expensive products or too much time to get it done. Only a few minutes of your time and some tools you probably already have at home are enough to sharpen your hair clipper’s blades.
Keep reading our step-by-step guide to sharpening your hair clippers without the hassle and get a better cutting experience.
Why sharpen the hair clippers?
Sharp hair clippers are reliable hair clippers. If you don’t sharpen them, the clippers blades become blunt and dull over time. They may nick your skin, pull your hair, and fail to make precise cuts. Overall they become less precise and a lot slower.
Like any other device, a hair clipper lasts as long as you maintain it. Sharpening the blades ensures durability and longevity. It’s something you need to do to make sure your hair clippers do their job properly for a long time.
How to sharpen hair clipper blades
If you’ve never sharpened hair clipper blades, it’s not too late to start. Keep reading to see how it’s done.
Step 1: Gather all the tools you’re going to need
The biggest mistake when it comes to sharpening hair clippers is failing to gather all the tools first. If you don’t gather everything you’re going to need, the whole process will be more time-consuming and chaotic.
So, the very first thing you need to do is to prepare and lay the following tools on the table or any other surface in front of you:
- Water in a container – to prepare the whetstone.
- Whetstones, i.e., sharpening stones – to sharpen the hair clippers.
- Screwdriver – make sure it fits the screws on the blade to unscrew them.
- Blade wash – to clean the blade.
- Toothbrush – to remove hair and dirt.
- Marker – to know how much you need to sharpen (use a permanent red or black marker).
- Microfiber rag or paper towels – to dry the blade.
- Clipper oil (or a beard oil alternative) – to oil the blades after sharpening them.
Once you have acquired these, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Prepare the whetstones
Once you gather all the tools, you must ensure your whetstone is ready for use. There are several options, including diamond, water, and oil whetstones.
The ideal choice for stainless steel blades is water whetstones. These sharpening stones should be used wet after being soaked in water for a few hours. So, soak your wet stones in a water container until bubbles stop coming out. When bubbles stop coming out, it means the stones have absorbed the quantity of water they need and are ready for use.
But keep in mind that not all whetstones are equal. So, what kind of whetstones are the best for sharpening hair clippers?
Before talking about the best whetstones for clippers blades, we should first take a look at the different types of them. The main difference between them is the grid size. The higher the grid size of a whetstone, the finer, smoother, and more precise it will be. The grid numbers start from 100 (very coarse) and go up to 30,000 (very fine).
Now that you know a bit about the different types of whetstones let’s see what grid number is the best for clippers blades.
Ideally, you should opt for the 400 and 600 grid combinations. The reason is simple; it is about the shape you want to give to the blades and not the refinement.
Keep in mind that the results you want to achieve are completely different from those you want when sharpening a knife, which aims for maximum refinement. When sharpening clipper blades, you just want to give them the appropriate shape and not make them finer and more refined because the finer you make them, the more friction and heat will be generated when in use.
We won’t get into more details about why this happens because we will need an entire article to explain it, but what you should remember is that it has to do with the movement of the blades when cutting.
Step 3: Disassemble the blades
You can do this simple task while your whetstones are soaking. The process is pretty straightforward. You just need to use a screwdriver to loosen and remove the screws on the blades. Make sure to place the screws somewhere you can easily see them. Keep in mind they’re tiny, and it’s not that difficult to lose them (so please don’t).
But not all hair-clipper blades have screws. For example, detachable blades don’t have screws. In this case, you don’t need a screwdriver, obviously. Instead, just follow the manual instructions to detach or remove the blades.
Step 4: Clean the hair clipper blade
Generally, you need to clean hair clippers regularly because a lot of oil residue and hair accumulate on the blades. That’s why it’s also necessary to clean the blades before you start sharpening them.
Without cleaning, the whole process will become very messy. Plus, it’s difficult to sharpen the blades when there’s a buildup of hair and dirt. Cleaning makes everything a lot easier and more convenient.
Use a toothbrush and blade wash to remove hair and grime from the blades. Once the blades are clean, take a paper towel or a piece of cloth to dry them thoroughly.
When it comes to cleaning, it’s useful to know that some hair clippers are waterproof, and you can clean their blades by placing them under running water.
TIP: If you don’t have a professional blade wash, do not worry. You can use rubbing alcohol or soapy water and rinse the blades right after with clean water. Another option is to use distilled white vinegar that you will mix with water (50:50 ratio). Allow the blades to soak for 15 to 20 minutes, and then clean them with clean water.
Step 5: Test the hair clipper blades (optional)
Accumulation of grime and excess hair often makes it seem that the clippers are blunt while they’re actually not. Now that you have cleaned the blades assemble them again and oil them. Test the hair clipper to see whether it’s sharp or not. If the hair clipper is not sharp and feels blunt, it means you definitely need to sharpen it.
While this step is optional, it can be of huge help. If the blades cut better after cleaning, it means they don’t need sharpening, and your job is done. But if it doesn’t, proceed to the next steps.
Step 6: Mark the blades
Take the marker and highlight the flat surface of the hair clipper blades. More precisely, you need to mark the side of both blades that rub together and cut your hair.
Highlighting the blades is crucial for several reasons. First, it tells you whether you have sharpened the blade enough. It also tells you whether you have done it evenly and if some spots need more sharpening.
Step 7: Start sharpening the blades
Now that you’ve disassembled, cleaned, dried, and marked the hair clipper blades, it’s time to start with the most important task – sharpening. If you’ve never sharpened clipper blades before, remember this – you’re only sharpening the interior side, i.e., the side marked with the marker.
For this, you will need that whetstone you prepared and soaked earlier. Take it out and place it on a kitchen towel or a whetstone holder.
Then, take the comb blade first. Set it in a way it’s perpendicular to the whetstone on the 400 grit side. In other words, the blade’s teeth should sharpen sideways along the stone instead of the length of it.
The entire blade should be on the whetstone, not just the teeth. If you only sharpen the blade’s teeth, you’ll get uneven wear.
Start gliding the blade across the whetstone back and forth. Apply just enough pressure to control the blade without overdoing it. The key is to create friction between the whetstone and your blade.
Also, avoid gliding the blade across a specific spot on the whetstone. Glide it over the entire surface instead. Doing so ensures the durability of the whetstone.
A good rule of thumb is to glide the blade 15 times before you use the 600-grid whetstone and do another 15 passes. When you change the sharpening stone, lubricate it with water before making those 15 passes. Check the marks on the blade. Have they worn away? If so, it’s enough. If they haven’t, try to make several passes and check again.
When you finish sharpening the comb blade, move on to the cutting blade, i.e., the smaller blade on your hair clippers. The process is the same as for the cutting blade.
Although it may seem demanding, the actual process of sharpening the blades only lasts for five minutes or so and if you follow our steps messing up is basically impossible. The only way to mess up this is to lay the blades on the wrong side. That’s what the marker is for ;).
Step 8: Assemble the blades
After you’ve sharpened both blades, make sure to clean and dry them thoroughly with a piece of cloth or paper towel. Another option is to allow them to dry naturally. This can take up to an hour, but it ensures no moisture is left anywhere on the blade.
Cleaning is necessary because you want to remove all the debris that sharpening creates, so don’t skip it.
Once everything is dry, proceed to assemble the blades. After assembling, you should use hair clipper oil (or baby oil) to lubricate the blades (don’t overdo it; a couple of drops of the lubricant of your choice is enough).
Now test the hair clipper to see if it’s cutting.
TIP: Don’t forget to clean the whetstone after you’re done sharpening. Place it under running water and rub it back and forth, i.e., in the same position you used to sharpen the blades. This removes debris and ensures the durability of your sharpening stone.
Related Article: “Seven Reasons Your Hair Clipper Is Not Cutting And How to Fix It“
Hair clipper sharpening FAQ
How Often To Sharpen Hair Clippers?
There is no “one size fits all” rule regarding the frequency of sharpening. It all depends on how often you use your hair clippers. For example, if you use the hair clippers regularly, you may want to sharpen them every two months. But, if you don’t use them that often you should do it every six months or so. But because every clipper and its blades are different, you should try to “listen” to your blades. Did you notice they are no longer cutting as they used to, or maybe they are pulling your hair? In these cases, it’s time to sharpen them and restore their functionality.
What If I Don’t Have A Whetstone?
If you don’t have a sharpening stone, don’t worry, you can still sharpen the hair clippers. Sandpaper or aluminum foil can do the trick. The process is almost identical to the abovementioned steps. The only difference is that you have to lay the aluminum foil or sandpaper on a surface and move the blade back and forth continuously. Around 10 to 12 passes are usually enough. Everything else remains the same.
It’s useful to remember that it is very affordable and easy to get a sharpening stone. Just click this link to view some of the best sharpening stones on the market today.
Should I Just Replace The Blade?
Replacing the blade may seem like the best option because it eliminates the whole sharpening process. But in most cases, sharpening will be enough.
Consider replacing the blade when sharpening doesn’t eliminate the bluntness, i.e., the blade keeps pulling, tugging, and it’s not cutting properly. You should also replace the blade if you don’t have the tools to sharpen it or have no access to a professional service.
What About The Auto-Sharpening Feature?
Many hair clippers come with an auto sharpening feature, i.e., they can sharpen themselves. That being said, they will still wear out, and you will notice the blades aren’t sharp enough. To get rid of that annoying “dull” feel, you should sharpen the blades following the steps described in this post.
Hair clippers are a great investment. And while they’re easy to use, a little bit of maintenance is necessary. In addition to regular cleaning and oiling, you also need to sharpen your hair clippers blades from time to time. Just follow our step-by-step process and turn your dull blades into sharp and precise ones.
You don’t need any fancy tools or special skills to accomplish this task. All you need is a whetstone, hair clipper oil (or baby oil), and the willingness to learn!
If you still have questions or if you need help with the process, feel free to comment below. We’ll be more than happy to assist! 🙂
Russell is the founder of themensattitude.com. He is a barber a beard enthusiast and he is obsessed with trying men’s lifestyle products and blog about them. If you have any questions you can hit him up via the contact page.