The Buzz on Cleaning Hair Clippers for Home Barbers

You’ve got the right tools and the right stuff to cut your kids’ hair, clip your own and maybe even suggest a buzz cut to that kid next door. Once, twice, maybe even three times a month you set up your home-barbering operation and keep those hairlines trimmed and your kids looking spiffy.

If you're an enthusiastic amateur, you’ll need a few skills to clean and maintain your clippers. And if you’re working on several heads of hair, or sharing or loaning your equipment to friends and family, you’ll want to make sure your tools are sterile. Fortunately, it’s easier to maintain hair clippers than it is to tackle just about any other DIY project.

Use these tips to keep your hair clippers in top shape. Step 1: Remove Hair Clippings

Hair clipping buildup and dirt can dull the blades and quickly impede smooth operation of your hair clipper motor. We recommend that you remove any accumulation after each haircut. Here’s how:

  • Create a work surface to catch debris as you clean the unit. A towel spread over the sink is a simple solution.
  • Detach the comb guide.
  • Inspect the blades and surrounding area and brush away loose hair trimmings. Most clippers come with a small brush designed for this purpose. You can use a clean cosmetic brush as well.
  • If the blade unit on your clipper is detachable, follow the instruction guide to remove it. Gently brush away dust and hair clippings. Pop the blades back in place before anything else lands in there!
  • A few short bursts from a can of compressed air is an excellent way to clean the clipper without having to take apart the blade assembly.
  • Snap on the blade cover to keep them protected.

Note: Don’t insert anything between or around the blades other than a soft brush. Using loose, fibrous materials such as cotton swabs will leave you with messy fibers stuck to the blades.

Step 2: Clean Comb Guides

While it’s best to cut hair when it is clean, sometimes grease or hair products accumulate on the comb guides. Small hair trimmings often remain on the surface after a cut. Follow these steps:

  • Remove the comb guide attachments and gently hand-wash them in warm, soapy water.
  • Dry the comb guides thoroughly before putting them away. You can let them air-dry by laying them on an absorbent towel overnight.
  • Inspect the comb guides for damage and determine whether or not you need replacements. Broken teeth on the comb can lead to unpredictable haircut results (take our word for it).
  • Store them in a case or dust-free spot so they’ll be ready for the next haircut emergency.

Step 3: Lubricate the Blades

Think about any piece of equipment that has moving metal parts: Lubrication is the lifeblood that keeps them in action.

Clipper blades are exposed to air, moisture and operational friction and can degrade over time. Oiled blades stay sharper longer and resist rust. Hair runs smoothly along well-maintained blades, and avoids those nasty tugs when a strand gets caught between rough blades. As a home barber, you want to keep the experience pain free. Especially when cutting children's hair.

Some clipper manufacturers suggest oiling the blades every time you run the unit. This conservative approach takes only a minute or two:

  • Switch on your clipper and apply a drop or two of the oil on the blades. Use a very small amount of oil to avoid over-lubricating – think about overfilling the oil in your car; this creates a mess and can damage the engine.
  • Let the clipper run for a few seconds to allow the oil to be evenly distributed along each blade.
  • Wipe any excess oil from the casing.

Hair clippers often come with a small package of oil and a recommendation to treat the blades prior to first use. You’ll need to replenish your oil supply over time.

Typically, the mechanical housing of a hair clipper is sealed and maintenance free. Check your operating guide to determine whether or not the motor in your unit requires periodic mechanical lubrication; you’ll need either a small screwdriver to open the housing or a close look to find the oil insertion point indicated on the cover.

As always, check the instruction booklet for proper maintenance of your hair clippers.

Equipment Sterilization

While at the barbershop or hair salon, you’ve probably seen clusters of combs standing in glass containers filled with a clear green antiseptic fluid. Or maybe your barber spritzes his comb with an antiseptic before getting down to business.

Behind the scenes, barbers also sterilize clipper blades. Their reputations and licenses are dependent on keeping a clean, disease-free shop.

While professional equipment is designed to quickly disassemble for sterilization, home units may not be as easy to take apart. We recommend that you sterilize the blades periodically – especially if you share your equipment or give haircuts to others.

A simple method:

1. Pour ¼ inch of rubbing alcohol in a dish.

2. Brush the hair and debris from the blades.

3. Submerge the blades (be careful not to submerge any other parts).

4. Run the unit for 10 to 30 seconds. (You’ll see loose hairs and dirt accumulate in the alcohol.)

5. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 using fresh alcohol until the liquid remains clean.

6. Wipe with a soft, dry cloth and allow to air-dry.

7. Follow by oiling the blades as indicated above.

If you own a trimmer with detachable blades: Remove the blade unit according to instructions and soak it in a dish of alcohol or antiseptic, replacing the liquid until it remains clean.

This method has the advantage of dissolving any grease and grime and, if you’re lucky, whatever else got stuck in your kids’ hair.

There are a variety of professional barber antiseptics available online and at beauty supply stores. Many are alcohol free. Be sure to follow the instructions when cleaning your hair clipper blades with these products.