A straight razor just can’t do its job without a strop. Made from horsehide or cowhide, strops come ready to use, but a bit of maintenance will keep them in perfect shape to align your razor’s edge for that balance of sharpness and comfort on your skin.
An effective strop will realign the blade’s edge for a more precise cut, as well as remove microscopic pieces of metal that could otherwise cut your skin.
Keep reading for our best tips on how to care for your leather strop.
General strop care tips:
- Always hang your strop to maintain the strop’s shape and to prevent stiffness.
- If you have a strop composed of one leather strop and a twin mesh or linen strop, use the linen or mesh strop first, then proceed with the leather strop. But whether you use the linen or mesh component is your choice – only the leather component is absolutely necessary.
- Always strop before you shave and never after. Stropping before a shave aligns the blade and gets it in good form, whereas stropping after a shave means making microscopic breaks in the cutting edge (the cutting edge becomes slightly bent after a shave).
To care for a new strop:
To be clear, you don’t need to break in a strop before using it. You can start using a strop right after you get it.
But should you wish to increase the draw, rub a small amount of neatsfoot oil into the strop. Other good options include mink oil, William’s Shaving Soap, and leather conditioner. Start small – only use a little bit to start and let it absorb completely. You may repeat the treatment until you’re satisfied with the outcome. If your strop is particularly dry, you should add more; if it’s too oily, simply wipe off the excess with a cloth.
You can also warm the strop with the palm of your hand, which will coat the leather with natural oils to keep it strong and supple. Do this on its own or follow it up by loading the strop with neatsfoot oil, mink oil, or William’s Shaving Soap.
What to do if your strop feels stiff:
If your strop is stiff, you’ll notice it makes a slight scratching noise when you glide your razor over it. Usually, stiffness is caused by lack of use and age – the longer a strop sits there, the more dust it’ll accumulate.
Resist the urge to roll the strop in an attempt to loosen it up – this will only cause wrinkles and tears in the strop, rendering it useless.
The best thing to do is simply to condition your strop. Rub your hands on both sides, and apply one of the oils mentioned above if the strop still feels stiff. Repeat this process every time before you strop your razor.
Another method is to clean your strop with saddle soap and a soft bristle brush or sponge. After scrubbing the leather clean, wipe off the excess and let dry.
For more on strops, check out our post on the different types of strops available and the characteristics of each one.