From cutting hair to shaping beards, clippers are powerful, useful tools! They’re also surprisingly durable and long-lasting, but only as long as you take excellent care of them. A big part of that is keeping the blades clean and lubricated, which is why every clipper owner should know how to oil clippers.
In this post, we’ll help you oil your clippers with a step-by-step guide as well as quite a few tips, tricks, and suggestions for excellent clipper care.
Why You Need to Oil Your Clippers
To understand why oiling your clippers is so important, it’s good to have a basic understanding of how they actually operate.
The main role of clipper oil is to reduce friction and prevent overheating, which makes using your clippers a much more pleasant process while also prolonging their life.
Clippers blades have two plate-like blades that sit on top of each other, with rows of teeth-like protrusions at the end. The bottom row moves from side to side, while the top one is stationary. As the hair gets caught between them, the moving row trims it.
This process creates a lot of friction, which in turn generates heat. It can make clipping uncomfortable in the short term, while in the long term, the friction and heat wear away at the blades, compromising their cutting power. Eventually, your clippers will stop working as well, and instead of cutting they can even pull on your hair. By oiling them, you prevent this disaster, and you can prolong the life of your clippers blades by years.
Another bonus of oiling your blades is that it prevents rusting and degradation from moisture. The thin layer of oil repels water, keeping your blades dry. It’s an especially important practice if you live in a humid area or if you keep your clippers in the bathroom, where things can get damp.
We don’t want to lay it on too thick, but oiling the blades of your clippers is really important. Even the best-made, highest-performing hair clippers will fall into disrepair if you don’t take care of them.
What Should You Use?
You’re going to need a few things in order to oil your clippers. First of all, oil is a must! It’s best to go with a clipper oil from any of the major clipper brands, like Wahl, Andis, or Oster.
These oils are designed to be safe for the skin and to have the perfect level of thickness so as to be effective without gumming up or clogging the blades. There are a few clipper oil substitutes you can try if you’re in a pinch, but it’s always better to go with a specialized product.
Additionally, you’ll want to have a small plastic cleaning brush or old toothbrush, tissue or a very soft towel, and clipper disinfectant or 70%-90% alcohol solution.
How to Oil Clippers, Step by Step
The best time to oil your clippers is immediately after you’ve finished using them. Here’s how to do it correctly, with everything you need to keep in mind for before and after, as well. Keep in mind, these tips apply to whatever type of clipper you’re using—be it a Wahl, an Andis, an Oster, or whatever you’ve got.
1. Wipe away hairs. It’s important to remove all stubble and clippings that may have gotten lodged in your clipper blades (and this is especially true if you’re executing detailed looks like fades, which tend to produce a TON of teeny tiny hairs). You can use a toothbrush or even a pipe cleaner to wipe away all of those hairs—to make sure you’re done, give the blades a close look to confirm all hairs are gone. On some models, you can remove the head to make sure the model is hair-less, as you see here:
2. Clean and dry. Next, you might want to clean your clippers, especially if you use them on others and not just on yourself. Spraying them with an antibacterial clipper spray is the best way to clean them since the spray will kill all germs and dislodge any very persistent hairs. If you don’t have a spray, you can wipe your blades down with some alcohol, instead. Wait for the alcohol to evaporate completely before moving on to the next step.
3. Oil. Finally, you’re ready to oil them! Turn on your clippers, and hold them so that the blades face slightly downwards—this will prevent any of the oil from running into the mechanism. You can jump to the video below if you’d like to see what this looks like, at about 6:10 or so.
Then carefully dispense the oil 3 or so drops along the bottom of the blade. Some manufacturers also recommend adding two drops along the side, in the space between the top and bottom parts of the blade.
Since the clipper is on, the blades will do most of the work of moving the oil around and making sure everything is evenly coated! Let the clipper run for a few seconds, and then shut it off. We’ve seen some sources recommend leaving it running for 20 seconds, but we think that’s overkill.
If you want to really overdo it, you can remove the clipper head after all this, like so:
…and give them a very light coating—just a drop or two.
4. Rub. Finally, use a clean tissue or microfiber cloth to wipe off any excess oil from the blade. This will help ensure the coating isn’t too thick, since too much oil can clog up the blades a little bit.
5. Store. That’s all there’s to it! Now that your clipper is all oiled up, the last step in your “how to oil clippers” process is to leave it somewhere clean, dry, and quiet until the next time you need to use it. If you’re using a cordless model, you can put it in your cabinet or a storage closet, and if you’ve using a corded model, you might want to put a loop on your bathroom wall or ceiling where you can hang it.
To see this process in action, we really like the explanation below from Larry the Barberman! Just keep in mind that he’s a professional, so his advice also focuses on details that are more relevant to barbers than average guys. You can jump to 6:10 or thereabouts to get right to the spot where he oils the clippers:
How Often Should You Oil Your Clippers?
Most clipper manufacturers recommend that you oil your clippers following every one to two uses. Your blades should always be protected with a thin layer of oil before you store them away.
In a professional salon, most barbers will oil their clippers a few times a day! The disinfectant used to clean the clippers can remove the coating of previously-applied oil, and since a professional must disinfect their clippers in between clients, that also means constant oiling.
However, if you’re just using your clippers at home, chances are you’re only using them once a week or a few times a month, so that’s how often you’ll need to oil them.
If you’re using trimmers designed for home use, you might be able to oil them a little less frequently. Blades on trimmers like that are often designed with a special coating that helps them retain sharpness for longer and reduces the need for maintenance. To be certain, always follow the guidance from the manufacturer.
Things to Watch Out For
Oiling clippers is pretty simple, especially compared to the process of learning to use them! That said, there are a few things to watch out for, especially when you do it for the first time.
- Over-oiling. More oil isn’t better! Applying too much oil can actually make your clipper blades gunky and gross. Just 3 to 5 drops are enough, and even then, you’ll still probably need to wipe off the excess.
- Oiling a damp clipper. Some clippers and trimmers have rinseable blades, which makes for convenient cleaning but can cause issues when it’s time to add oil. If you’ve rinsed your blades to clean them, make sure that they’re thoroughly dry before you add oil. Otherwise, the oil can trap the water against the blades, leading to rusting.
- One way to make sure your blades are totally dry is to spray them with a disinfectant or alcohol solution after wiping them down since those will speed up water evaporation.
- Wiping roughly. Speaking of wiping, don’t wipe your blades too roughly since you don’t want the friction from a towel to rough them up or cause dullness. Whether you’re wiping off moisture or oil, we recommend using a soft microfiber cloth or tissue. Be careful, and don’t use too much pressure when doing it.
- Careful with plugs. It’s good to be aware when you’re operating a mechanical tool with blades. Make sure to unplug your clippers if you plan to rinse them, whereas you can actually keep them running while disinfecting them. Turn them on again just as you’re about to add the oil, but then don’t forget to turn them off and unplug them before wiping and putting them away. A little bit of extra mindfulness is important for keeping you and your clippers safe!
Oiled clippers are happy clippers. For guys using their clippers at home, oiling them can give you years of added use, not to mention excellent performance throughout. There’s not much to it—you just gotta do it. Happy clipping!
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.