It seems harmless to reuse your beard trimmer over and over without ever cleaning it. Unlike your toothbrush or a shaving razor, the electric beard trimmer doesn’t pose as many immediate risks since it’s not going into your mouth or grazing over your open, susceptible pores. But when electric beard trimmers are repeatedly left without cleaning (or maintenance, for that matter), they slowly and steadily become bacterial hotspots, and their performance can significantly dwindle, too.
However, it takes more than a quick hot rinse to keep things in tip-top shape. Yes, that might suffice most times on a wet/dry razor, especially if you trim often. Hot water will kill many of the germs while flushing away the majority of clippings. It will flush hair and debris out of the teeth to ensure an uninhibited trim on the next go.
But it’s the deeper cleaning and maintenance that needs to be tended to—and that most men neglect—in order to assure a hygienic trim and a fully functioning device. That’s because, over time, those clippings, dead skin, dust, and debris make their way into the corners and crevices of the device, where the bacteria is then able to thrive and spread. And that is not something you want to push against your face.
Here’s how to clean it properly.
1. Check if your trimmer has wet/dry capabilities
First, even before you go for a simple rinse, you need to make sure your electric device can in fact be rinsed. (Here’s one clue: If it plugs into the wall, no, it cannot be rinsed. You will surely be zapped.) Some cordless devices aren’t designed for wet use, but a quick Google on your product model will give you an answer. And in the future, when you buy your next beard trimmer, make sure to get a wet/dry model. It’ll make this process far easier, and will allow for the quick hot-water rinse to flush the device between more ceremonious cleanings. Be sure to do so after each use.
Here’s a wet/dry trimmer set we love, from Wahl: Wahl wet/dry rechargeable beard and body trimmer + detailer kit, [$60; bestbuy.com]
2. Keep that tiny brush that comes with the device
Another thing a lot of guys do is toss the tiny brush that comes along with the trimmer. “When am I ever gonna use this?” they say to themselves, a few months before Googling “how do I clean my beard trimmer?” That little brush is included so that it can flick tiny hair and debris out of the teeth of the clipper, and between any guard combs—anything stubborn that doesn’t rinse away.
Technically, you want to do this before the trimmer is wet. But you can use the tiny brush during and after the rinse, too, to spot check for any stubborn stragglers.
3. Brush the trimmer’s teeth
In addition to the tiny brush, it’s smart to keep a spare toothbrush on hand, too. Don’t use an old, retired one with decrepit bristles. This is when you want firm, effective bristles. Once a week, or after every 2-3 trims (whichever comes first), put some hand soap or body wash on the toothbrush and gentle brush the trimmer’s teeth under warm water (in place of the general rinse you do on other days). While you’ll dedicate the tiny brush to the simple sweeping, this toothbrush is dedicated to the sudsy task of disinfecting. It might even sweep up some strays in the process. Rinse everything clean with hot water, and store as directed in the first tip.
4. Let it dry in a cool, dry space, then store it away
After a rinse or cleaning, leave it in a cool, dry space to dry before storing it away. If you stow it without letting it dry, you risk it rusting or accumulating bacteria, both of which defeat the purpose of caring for the device and your health. When you store the trimmer between uses (after it’s dry), make sure it’s away from moisture and dust. Essentially, zip it away in a designated case, or tuck it into a drawer—again, only after it is completely dry.
5. Lubricate the teeth with oil
The other thing that comes with your trimmer is a tiny vial of oil. Don’t feel bad if you tossed this at the start; it’s typically so small that you will have had to replace it soon anyway. But the oil is essential for keeping your blades from getting dull and cutting effectively. It’s exactly the same as adding grease to a bike chain: It helps prevent dust and debris accumulation, which in turn minimizes wear and maximizes efficacy.
If you ditched the oil that comes with your device, or if you need to replace it, then just fill an eye-drop vial with vegetable oil, olive oil (regular olive oil, and not extra virgin oil), or baby oil. A drop or two every month on those blades will work wonders. Do so when the blade is freshly cleaned and dried. Take the toothbrush (not the tiny brush), and brush the oil evenly to distribute it between the blades. Turn the trimmer on for 30 seconds to further distribute the oil.
You can then turn it off, wipe the additional oil drippings with your fingers, and then store the device away from debris, moisture, and dust. Avoid using toilet paper or a washcloth to clean excess oil; remember you don’t want any small particles or fibers in the trimmer’s teeth. If your fingers don’t suffice, a handkerchief or old T-shirt work well.
Some brands state in their warranty that you cannot use other oils ad hoc in order to maintain the device. Be sure to read the warranty thoroughly to make sure you don’t nullify your own insurance.
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