Common Shaving Problems: Hard Water and Insufficient Lather

A sharp straight razor, brush and soap

As a wet shaver, you consciously anticipate several variables – the type of razor, the sharpness of the blade, the type of shaving cream or soap, etc. All of these pieces add up to a wet shave that suits your tastes. But have you ever considered the hardness of your water? When it comes to traditional shaving, the quality of your water has everything to do with the shaving experience and outcome.

Read on to see how hard water affects your shave, how to test for hard water, and how to remedy the situation.

What is hard water, and why does it affect shaving?

Hard water is water with high mineral content, formed when water percolates through deposits of chalk-containing minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It’s what causes soap scum and buildup on your faucets and shower heads.

If you combine hard water with shaving soap, you’ll notice a distinct lack of lather because of the minerals in the water reacting with the soap. Insufficient lather, of course, causes the blade to pull and tug at your beard rather than giving you a crisp cut.

Hard water’s affect on shaving is not as obvious if you use a shaving cream, since shaving creams already contain some water.

The ideal water for wet shaving is distilled water, which contains lots of free water (i.e. water not keeping other things in solution). Only a small amount is required for a complete shave.

How do I know if I have hard water?

To test if your water is hard, simply purchase some distilled water and try shaving with it; if you get a much better lather, you probably have hard water at home. Also, you’ll know if you have hard water if you notice slimy soap scum that clings to your sink after you shave.

In addition to producing lackluster lather, hard water can actually ruin your shaving brush and razor because the minerals will cling and erode.

Tip: Make sure that you’re lathering correctly – press your brush firmly into the soap and stroke for 20-30 seconds until all the bubbles are gone and you end up with a thick lather.

What can I do if my house/apartment has hard water?

That depends on how much time and money you’re willing to invest. For a quick and cost-effective solution, you can purchase a gallon of distilled water for about $2. It only takes about ½ cup total to soak the brush, wet the bar, wash your beard, and rinse, so that gallon can last quite a few shaves.

If you want a long term solution, you can install a water softener.

Alternatively, if neither of the above solutions sounds that great, you can always use shaving cream, which is much easier to lather than hard soaps. Our customers have given high praises for Taylor of Old Bond Street Luxury Shaving Cream Bowl.

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