How to Care for a Leather Strop

RoyalShave Red Latigo Leather Strop

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).

William’s Mug Shaving Soap

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.

Untitled-1

Straight Razor Stropping 101: Types of Strops

Stropping is the process of maintaining a razor blade, with a threefold objective of cleaning, undoing damage caused by shaving, and realigning the razor’s edge. Every time you shave, the razor blade suffers from microchips and rust. In order to keep the blade sharp and in good working order, you must consistently strop before you set blade to skin.

The material of the strop is just as essential as a solid stropping method. And when it comes to material, preference is the ultimate determinant. As with mattress firmness or the rigidity of a car’s suspension, each person has a different taste for strop material – some like it hard, others like it soft, while there are many who fall somewhere in between.

If you’re stumped about which strop to get, check out our primer on strop materials and their particularities.

Cowhide

Russian:

Cowhide made using Russian tanning methods. It has an agreeable draw that is preferred by many shavers today.

30 Degree Russian Red Leather Strop

30 Degree Russian Red Leather Strop

Latigo:

Cattle hide tanned with alum and gambier. Durable and supple, it has a greater draw than English bridle leather.

30 Degree Thin Latigo Natural Leather Strop

30 Degree Thin Latigo Natural Leather Strop

English Bridle:

Vegetable-tanned leather that is smooth and firm. A large grain pattern gives English bridle strops considerable draw.

Bison English Bridle Razor Strop in Black

Bison English Bridle Razor Strop in Black, available at Bisonmade.com

Horsehide

Natural Horsehide:

Vegetable-tanned leather from the sides of horses that has been used for stropping for over 100 years. Natural horsehide is supple but requires a relatively longer break-in period than cowhide. Horsehide has a smaller grain pattern than latigo leather and provides a medium draw.

30 Degree Horsehide Leather Strop with Handle

30 Degree Horsehide Leather Strop with Handle

Genuine Cordovan Shell:

Leather from the membrane found under the skin of a horse’s rear. Difficult sourcing and an intensive tanning process make genuine cordovan shell very expensive – albeit well worth the investment.

Bison Maroon Shell Cordovan Leather Sharpening Strop

Bison Maroon Shell Cordovan Leather Sharpening Strop, available at Bisonmade.com

Ready to make your pick? Check out RoyalShave’s extensive collection of high-quality leather strops here.

%d bloggers like this: