All tools need care to maintain their performance levels, that’s why they call it ‘maintenance’. You’ve got to get rid of the hair clogging up your clipper, keep the blade oiled, and clean out the internals every once in a while. A well-maintained clipper can last you for years, or even decades; if you can keep up with its needs.
So what does ‘well-maintained’ mean, when it comes to hair clippers? That’s what I’ll get into. In this article, I’ll guide you through both everyday maintenance and deep cleaning. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know exactly how to look after your clippers and keep them clean and ready for anything.
How To Clean Your Hair Clippers
As you use your clippers, hair and grime will build on an uncleaned clipper. Leave it uncleaned for long enough, and two things happen as a result. First, cutting performance drops, as the hair and grime interfere with the clipper’s mechanisms. Second, it’s unsanitary. Would you trust someone who doesn’t look after their tools? This goes double if you’re a professional or trying to be one. An unsanitary clipper might give a customer a skin condition, or it might worsen a nick on your customer’s scalp. Neither is something you want to happen.
Several different cleaning procedures will take care of these problems before they arise and keep your clipper in top shape. I’ve arranged them in order, from least to most intensive.
- Brushing the clipper
- Oiling the blades
- Washing the combs
- Cleaning the blades
- Cleaning the internals
- Adjusting the power screw
Brushing Your Clipper
This is the most basic of cleaning procedures, and the one I do most often. When in doubt, brush your clipper. Whether it’s before, during, or after use, I always brush my clippers, just to be on the safe side. You should get into a similar habit.
I recommend two brushes. Use a large, soft brush like a clothes brush to get rid of most of the obvious hair. This will handle the majority of your brushing. Pair that with a smaller, stiffer brush to get more stubborn hairs out of the tight places they get wedged in. If you don’t have a dedicated clipper brush, an old toothbrush or wire brush will do fine.
Oiling Your Blade
I oil my blades every two cuts, since I get a lot of use over the week. If you’re only cutting your own hair or aren’t using it more than a few times per week, then you can get by with oiling once a week. If you’re using your clippers once a day or more frequently, you’re better off oiling as frequently as I do.
Oiling is simple enough. Make sure you have your oil nearby, and that your clipper is assembled, dry, and plugged in. Tilt the clipper downwards, with the flat side of the head away from you. I do this over a sink or a paper towel so that any spillage is easy to clean up.
Put 2 or 3 drops of oil on the blade, spaced evenly across its length. Just 2 or 3 drops and no more, because that’s all you need. Then turn your clipper on. The blade movement will spread the oil for you. Give it a few seconds to do that, then turn it off and use a paper towel to wipe away any excess oil.
I only use my manufacturer’s specific blade oil for best results. In case you run short and need to substitute another type of oil, I suggest using mineral oil, as it’s most similar to blade oil. Failing that, any low-viscosity oil that can handle high temperatures will do. Do not use motor oil or WD-40, as they both smell bad and they’ll gum up your blades.
Washing The Guide Combs
You should also brush your guide combs to get hair off them, and this will suffice for everyday cleaning. However, you’ll also want to give them a more thorough cleaning every so often. Repeated use builds up grime, and that’s quite unsanitary. I usually do this once a week, though I’d advise doing it a bit more often if you’ve got a heavy workload.
Cleaning your combs is simple enough. Run some hot water and add lots of soap of your choice. Hand-wash them for a few minutes with the soapy water and scrub with a cloth. Once you’re done with that, leave them on a towel to dry before their next use.
Cleaning Your Clipper Blades
I regularly see clipper blades last over a year of heavy use. With less regular usage, you can expect an even longer service life. To keep your blades in serviceable condition, giving them a good clean is necessary. You’ll need more than just soap and water here, though. Dismount your blade from the clipper (you may need a screwdriver or you might have a clipper with a detachable blade), and cleanse it with a cleaning product.
What product you should use depends on your preferences and your workload. If you’ve got a lot of customers to handle, it’s best to use blade wash. If you’re only clipping for yourself or your friends and family and don’t use your clipper that frequently, a DIY solution may be easier on your wallet.
If you’re going DIY, I recommend white vinegar, as it’s cheap, common, and an excellent cleaning acid. Mix one part white vinegar to one part water, and let your blade soak in it for about 20 to 30 minutes. That will kill bacteria and loosen most of the grime. Then rinse the blades and wipe them down with a cloth. Set the blades onto a towel to dry out. Once dry, reattach your blades and oil them as above.
In case you have a clipper that doesn’t let you dismount the blade, you can still use the same method. Dip the clipper head into the bowl you put the vinegar into, then run your clippers for about 30 seconds. Then throw out the bowl you just used and replace it with a fresh bowl of vinegar, and repeat these two steps until no more hairs and grime come out into the bowl. Once that’s done, same deal: Wipe down with a cloth, set your clippers aside to dry, and then oil the blades.
Cleaning The Internals
Brushing and oiling are my everyday cleaning procedures. About once or twice a month, I also open up my clipper to get the dirt and debris that’s managed to build up inside.
It’s a fairly simple procedure. Dismount your blade and care for it as above. Brush out the little compartment behind the blade and ensure it’s completely free of hair. Then remove the screws that hold the clipper housing in place and brush out the inside of the body. You’ll want a small brush for this, to ensure you can get into every possible corner. Alternatively, a can of compressed air can clean out the tight spaces without getting in its own way.
Then take a paper towel to soak up any excess oil and dirt that’s built up inside your clipper. Once you’re done with that, screw the housing back on and remount the blade. Give it an oiling, and you’re ready to go.
Reducing Your Clipper Noise
Sometimes I get a clipper that makes a loud buzzing noise when I turn it on. This isn’t a mechanical fault, it’s just that the clippers are out of tune.
Clippers are calibrated to run at the correct voltage while they’re in the factory. However, because of complicated matters of electrical supply, the voltage at the point of use may not be exactly the same as that in the factory. This means that your clippers may be out of tune, even if they were correctly tuned when they were made.
The manufacturers know this, which is why most professional clippers have a power screw to adjust the voltage. It’s usually on the side, but check your manual to be sure. Do your typical cleaning and oiling as I detailed above. Then grab a screwdriver or a thin coin and turn the screw forward or backward until the buzzing stops. Note that the buzzing may reoccur if you go into hair, so try a test cut to make sure that you’re tuned properly and have no buzz once you start cutting.
Make sure to do this about every week, so that power output remains constant. Also, if you turn the screw inwards too far, the blade stops moving. Just turn it back out if this happens.