How to make your own Braun shaver cleaner

Wondering how to make your own Braun shaver cleaner? Turns out it’s really easy

How to make your own Braun cleaning solution

How to make your own Braun cleaning solution — just clean out the cartridge and replace with isopropyl alcohol.

It wasn’t long after the first Earth Day in the 1970s that a nascent environmental movement began growing from a tiny group of committed citizens and started spreading into the mainstream. I was in grade school at the time and looking back it was easy to see the very early stages of environmental enlightenment seeping into our lives.

I remember stickers (stuck on everything in sight, walls, poles, bus seats, you name it) shouting “Don’t be a litterbug!” I remember some hippie visiting our classroom with her acoustic guitar and teaching us Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Rolling on the River” except the lyrics were changed to be “Rolling, rolling in pollution.” Then there was the guest speaker from the local energy company reminding us to take shorter showers. And of course our teacher spent a lot of time explaining why overpopulation was the biggest environmental problem of our generation (using math to show the compounding nature of population growth). A lot of those lessons stuck and while I don’t claim to live a sustainably perfect life, I do try to make reasonably good environmental choices.

One of the lessons that stuck with me was from a large school assembly. I think the presentation was from the local nuclear power plant (ironic given how awful nuclear power is for the planet). Anyway, the only takeaway I remember at all was that the speaker asked the audience which shaver used more resources: the electric version in his left hand or the disposable razor in his right hand.

Many of the kids shouted that the electric shaver used more resources, because it uses electricity. The speaker, enjoying tricking the kids with his question, explained that while the electric razor certainly did use power (he was from the power company after all), disposable razors had to be manufactured, wrapped, shipped, purchased then replaced. Over and over again. While I was still years away from the arrival of my first peach fuzz, I imagined a lifetime of disposable razors accumulating in a mountain behind me. It may have been one of the first moments that I became aware of the heartbreaking waste of our disposable society.

When my first soft, breezy whiskers arrived, I scraped together a few dollars and bought myself my first electric razor (like all my coming-of-age rituals, it was strictly DIY.) The tiny bits of blond hair were washed down the sink with the rest of my childhood. I used that trusty razor right up until the day I caught my stepmom using it on her nasty legs. (Ew)

In the decades since that horrible image was burned into my eyes like white fire, I’ve only owned maybe three or four other razors. I have never shaved with a blade. My current electric razor is just a few years old. Unfortunately in recent years I’m either seeing a sharp downturn in product quality or an increase in stubble strength as I reach middle age. Probably both.

On the other hand, one of the innovations I really like has been the advent of built-in cleaning mechanisms so your razor stays clean and sharp and ready to go. Before the self-cleaning versions came out, you had to delicately clean the cutter with a little brush and it never really got as clean as you’d want. Now you click a button and the next day, voila! clean razor! My current one is an older version of the Braun Series 5.

There is a problem, though. In the business world, there’s a famous saying that the money is in the blades, not the razor. It’s the classic replenishment business model. Printer ink is another great example. Give the razor (or printer) away for cheap and people will pay a lot more for the blades (or ink). Braun sells replacement cartridge refills but here we are again on the replenishment treadmill again! The price has really come down on these lately so it’s not as annoying as it used to be, but still! Plus here we are again with more plastic for the landfill.

The design of the Braun is also very annoying because the cleaning solution isn’t used up in the cleaning process. Most of it just evaporates! I tried putting the little cover over the cartridge holes but it basically had no effect on evaporation unless I sealed it on tight, which is not practical on a daily basis. (I’d say a cartridge maybe lasts two months when used normally.)

So I wondered: How can you make your own Braun shaver cleaner? Was there a way to hack my Braun to give me the sweet cleaning power I desire without the waste of buying replacement cartridges all the time? I looked around for bulk cleaning solution, but didn’t find much out there. I did find this Sandalwood Tree Cleaner that I have not yet tried, but may in the future just to see if I like it. But surprisingly the choices were pretty scarce.

I did finally try a solution that has been working well so far. It was simple and I’m very happy so far. Here’s what you do:

Once the razor solution is too low to do any cleaning, dump it out in the sink and rinse out the container as best you can. It doesn’t need to be completely spotless.

Then refill the container with Isopropyl Alcohol, inexpensive and available at any drugstore. I don’t know if the percentage makes a difference. I used 91 percent since that’s what we already had on-hand. I imagine the lower percentages might be gentler on the shaver. Don’t fill it up to the brim. Just fill it as full as the new ones, about two-thirds of the way full. Put the cartridge back into the device and you’re ready to clean. It does smell like rubbing alcohol but not so much that it’s overpowering. Adding some lemon essential oil would probably help, but I haven’t tried that so far either. The cleaning solution you buy also supposedly lubricates your shaver, which could be a problem long-term, but so far I haven’t noticed any difference. I may buy one new cartridge a year or so just so I can occasionally start with a clean one (it’s impossible to get all the hair trimmings out of a used cartridge). That might help if I did need some lubrication help. If it becomes a problem, I might add a little baby oil in as well to see if that makes a difference, but so far so good.

Before I tried my new homemade Braun shaver cleaner, I was thinking I was probably due for a new cutting head because the razor just wasn’t getting the job done. After enjoying a nice, crisp shave with this cheap solution, I think my cutting head is fine for awhile longer. So far I’m saving a little bit of money and the mountain of plastic behind me will be a little smaller because of it. And that alone makes it all worth it!

UPDATE 2/13/14: I founds some essential oil around the house so I dropped 3 or 4 drops into my reservoir to see what happened. OMG, it was the final piece! The Braun razor ran much smoother and was less abrasive on my skin. I’d say this mixture is AT LEAST as good as the store-bought version now! 

Disclaimer: Alcohol is flammable. Be careful when refilling and using this technique. Also, I’m sure Braun does not recommend using anything but their own solution. You could severely damage your razor by using a product other than what the manufacturer recommends. Try it at your own risk. Also, links in this post are affiliate links so I may get a few pennies if you make a purchase.

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31 Thoughts on “How to make your own Braun shaver cleaner

  1. Well you are just a wealth of information PreTired Nick! I’ve never been a fan of electric razors because they don’t seem to cut as close…..and as you pointed out, there is the grime. But, I am very opposed to plastic in our landfills. Unfortunately, we are essentially a “disposable” society.

    To that end, did you use disposable diapers with the little guy? A couple friends went cloth and said it saved a fortune… all the plastic. We’re thinking of going cloth when at home……and disposable when visiting family.
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    • Pretired Nick on December 2, 2013 at 8:53 am said:

      Thanks, Bryan! I think you might be surprised how well some of the electric models do nowadays. Although I’m blond so I don’t need as close a shave as some.
      We do use cloth diapers. I have a post I’m working on for that, too. We use disposable when on trips and one at nighttime. It’s totally the way to go.

      • Guess what? After our kids grew up, we now use their (thoroughly cleaned) disposable diapers to wipe counters, appliances, and a million other uses! They are soft and EXTREMELY absorbent! Less paper towels – we prefer our forests alive.

  2. Good tip Nicholas. I get a lot of mileage out of my disposable razors, being the thrifty man that I am, and a soapy badger brush helps soften my Fred Flinstone-like beard, but the real secret to blade life is cleaning it after use and allowing it to dry thoroughly.
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    • Pretired Nick on December 2, 2013 at 10:53 am said:

      You are the master of all things frugal. Good call on the cleaning and drying. Even with this electric shaver, you can rinse it with water, but even a microscopic amount of corrosion will turn a formerly sharp cutter into sandpaper.

  3. I personally use disposable razors, but I’m lucky enough to have super fine hair that I might buy a new razor every 2-3 years….

    Dad uses a double edged safety razor with disposable blades. He tried the old straight razor, but couldn’t get it sharp enough for him, so he went back to the safety razor. The blades last him 4 shaves (2 shaves on each edge), so he goes through them pretty quickly – but he spends about $5 on 100 blades and $3 every other year or so for a new blade safe (for safe disposal).
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  4. I can’t remember the last time I paid for razors. I bought 2 bags at walmart a few years ago (and made a few cents on each $1.97 package with a $2 off coupon for each). I’ve only used a couple of razors since then. Maybe I just don’t mind shaving with a dull razor?

    And I switched to shaving every 2-3 days. While working it gave me that eccentric, educated, hipster vibe. Now that I’m no longer working, every 3-4 days seems to be the magic balance between looking homeless and looking early retired at 33. 🙂
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  5. I use disposables and I can get at least 6 months from one razor. Granted I just shave my neck and even then average twice a week. By the time I’m ready for refills the manufacturer changes something so their not compatible and end up buying another set of disposables.

  6. We, for better or worse, still use the disposable razors. But, being that Christmas is right around the corner, there’s a reasonably good chance that I’ll get one in a month or so.

    The one thing I’d really like for Christmas this year though is to stop having to confirm I’m a Seahawks fan. It kills me a little each time. I am a Steelers fan. We beat you guys in the Super Bowl already…must we suffer these insults? 😉
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    • Pretired Nick on December 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm said:

      I think you’ll be pleased with the electrics. Only problem is to try it you have to buy it. And it takes about three weeks for your skin to adjust to it, they say.
      You’ll probably get your Christmas gift from me this year, but for the record, the refs really won that one for you guys:
      Besides you guys were in the Super Bowl like every year when I was growing up. It’s time to share the wealth. I’ll just put you down as a Seahawks fan for now and we can check on things again later….

      • Oh, Nick, I didn’t take you for one of THOSE Seahawks fans.

        Did the refs make Jeremy Stephens drop all those passes?

        Did the refs make Hasselbeck throw that interception?

        Did the refs confuse the secondary into falling for the gadget play that sealed the win?

        Just ribbing you. There really were plenty of questionable calls in that one. Just part of the game…the really great teams have to overcome a lot, including bad calls.
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        • Pretired Nick on December 5, 2013 at 7:01 am said:

          Heh, Touche! You’re so right that we should never have let that get so close. Fortunately our team is WAY better this year!

          • I’m neither a Steelers fan nor a Seahawks fan, but I gotta say that was the worst officiated Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t rooting for either team, but I was rooting hard for the Seahawks because they were getting screwed. Of course the game is going to be close when it’s two closely matched teams. Absolutely hate it when bad officiating decides the winner.
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            • Pretired Nick on December 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm said:

              We always seem to get screwed by the refs. I think it comes with being a small media market. Although that superbowl had me pretty convinced there was some bribery going on because it was so blatant. I don’t think they’ll get away with it this year, though!

  7. Glad I came across this post. I hate paying so much for cleaner for my Braun’s electric razor. I will be giving this a try in the next couple weeks. Thanks for this post!

  8. Lance Tamplin on December 8, 2014 at 11:36 am said:

    This was great, I hate to pay those prices! What kind of essential oil did you use?

  9. I’m using a series 7 shaver base, and it seems to have electronics in it that detect when only isopropyl is being used in the cleaner solution. When I fill up the container, the base will detect it as “full”, start the cleaning cycle, then in a few seconds jump to “empty” and halt the cleaning.

    I noticed the base does work all right when I simply top up the official Braun C&R solution, but a complete change to isopropyl is failing to start it.

    I must figure out what the “secret” ingredient is!

    • Pretired Nick on January 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm said:

      That’s interesting! That would be some pretty impressive engineering. I still have the 5 but have been thinking I’m about due for an upgrade. I’ll post an update if I get more information about this.

      • Willy G on July 2, 2016 at 5:01 am said:

        I too have a Braun 7 with the same problem: isopropyl alcohol and essential oil alone do not fool the razor’s “are you paying Braun for this?”-o-meter.

        Try adding 4-8 drops of saline solution for contact lenses. It turns my fluid status light from red to green instantly, and it keeps working until the fluid runs down.

      • So I figured out why it would blink red when filled with alcohol, or at least how to stop it.

        Turns out the isopropyl solution wasn’t dilute enough. If I dumped some out and topped it with water, the base accepted the solution no problems whatsoever!

        I just started filling it with about 1/3 isopropyl, and the rest with water.

  10. Please forgive me for indulging in shameless self-promotion. We manufacture an alternative to Braun Clean & Renew called Shaver Shebang, which is somewhat similar to the approach mentioned in this excellent post. It’s a concentrate that can be added to a bottle of isopropyl alcohol or water, which is then used to refill a cartridge.

    I’d like to expand on a few of the points made above. We’ve extensively tested our product on a variety of Braun systems in various stages of their usable life, so we bring a unique perspective.

    I’m glad that Nick added the update recommending essential oils. As he noted earlier in the post, Braun Clean & Renew also lubricates. That does prolong equipment life. It can also create a smoother shave, however your mileage may vary considerably on how much you notice the difference. Shaver Shebang is formulated to target both lubricating goals, so for some people the difference may be more noticeable.

    The issue with showing red and not working with plain alcohol is very common. We’ve seen it with the sensors in all lines of Braun cleaning systems and we have the problem with over 40% of our test array. Actually, I’m surprised that it’s not 100% since it’s in Braun’s economic interest to prevent the use of plain alcohol or alcohol with a few drops of oil. Needless to say, Shaver Shebang has been formulated to prevent the problem in all Braun systems (remember what I said about shameless self-promotion!).

    You may have noted above that Shaver Shebang can also be mixed with water. The main advantage is more pronounced lubrication and of course, the savings. The first version of Shaver Shebang was a water based fluid. The link to the Sandalwood Tree Cleaner above is to Shaver Shebang (thanks Nick!). It was first posted when Shaver Shebang was water based, but the link now goes to the new concentrate.

    Water works well as long as the Braun system is in good shape, but highlights flaws when it is not. That taught us a tremendous amount about Braun systems and how to correct some of the problems. If you have one of the issues, you probably have been using Clean & Renew faster than necessary and your cleanings may not be as good as they should be. That may be part of Nick’s fast evaporation problem.

    The most common flaw is seals that have deteriorated over time, for which Braun discontinued the replacements kits that they used to sell. There can also be seals not seated properly during manufacturing, hard to find clogs or under-performing pumps. Contact us for instructions on how to fix these issues, except the under-performing pumps.

    When formulating the new concentrated version of Shaver Shebang, we collaborated with scientists at a leading private label cleaning products manufacturer to make what we think is a better product than Clean & Renew. Clean & Renew is simply alcohol, water, a little oil and minor undisclosed ingredients to feed the sensors. The alcohol in that kind of concentration is a sufficient disinfectant, but since there are no detergents, the system relies solely on the force of circulation to clean. Shaver Shebang brings detergents to the party as well as a stronger disinfectant, which is why it can also be mixed with water. Okay, no more shameless self-promotion!

    One last comment on cartridge life since Nick was thinking of replacing his every year. We’ve had enough reorders to confirm that most cartridges will last through 24 refills. We also have reorders to demonstrate over 30 and we’ve done over 40 in the lab, but those numbers are not statistically significant. One key is proper rinsing and refilling. (Complete instructions are on our site). The other is to make sure that you do not mess with the filter, which is the only vulnerable part of the cartridge.

    Edit by Pretired Nick: In case anyone wants to check this product out on Amazon, here you go: Shaver Shebang

  11. Awesome tip! Thank you.

    But, isn’t isopropyl alcohol dangerous, depending on what other ingredients it might contain? I am concerned with that option, too. I wish I could use pure water in the container.

    • If you get the isopropyl alcohol from the pharmacy, it’s perfectly fine to use on your skin.

      I actually managed to get a catridge with “pure” isopropyl alcohol from the pharmacy to work fine in my C&R base unit. Not sure why it didn’t accept it previously. I’m looking to add a few drops of lemon oil or d-lemonene if I can find some for a reasonable price.

  12. Hi.
    Living in the UK, I can’t get the Shebang stuff, so was wondering what the “essential oils” were.
    I bought my shaver recently. and just used the cartridge supplied and was disheartened when a couple of hours after it’s first clean, the light went yellow and I only had 20% solution left.
    Do I have a big leak, or am I just meant to unplug the damn thing afterwards?

  13. Just what exactly happens in the Braun cleaning system anyway? It seems like the shaver is running and the fluid cycles through. Is it complicated? I have been rinsing the shaver and blade with faucet water. Then I spray with Andis Cool Care and let it dry. Seems fine.
    How will I know it isn’t fine? How will I know I need a new blade?

  14. Pingback: Braun Series 7 Differences: 790cc vs 760cc vs 799cc vs 7865cc • ShaverCheck

  15. David Siegel on May 26, 2017 at 3:28 pm said:

    I used to own a Braun and I used denatured alcohol (that’s what Braun actually used then) to refill the plastic containers and a few drops of men’s fragrance. I used the original Bijan, because I bought it and hated the fragrance, but rather than throw it away (I liked the bottle), I tried adding a little into the solution and it was great. It actually smelled nice in solution, go figure. It worked perfectly for me. I just bought a Norelco Series 9000 and the cleaning solution contains phenoxyethanol (a known toxin, but used in many lotions and shampoos and other products) and also ethylhexylglycerin, a lesser toxin but can cause skin irritation. It also has perfume and an anionic surfactant (to lower friction, I guess), so I’m considering going back to my denatured alcohol trick. It used to be very inexpensive and came in a gallon size only so it was a little difficult to pour out. But at that price it was worth it. I bought a cheap plastic funnel to lessen splash. I’m just a little afraid that the alcohol might harm the shaver, since the phenoxyethanol is technically not an alcohol, but the shaver head is totally replaceable if need be.

  16. Jorabi on October 24, 2017 at 7:19 am said:

    What is essential oil? What should the label say?

  17. daniel on October 6, 2018 at 8:36 am said:

    i use williams electric pre-shave on my face. i place several of drops williams in the container with the alcohol when refilling the container. easier than finding essential oils & having another container in the medicine cabinet since i already have the williams

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