All veteran barbers keep a dropper vial of blade oil near their clippers and make sure that their blades are always well lubricated. Oiling your clippers helps them run smoother and last longer.
Oiling is such an important part of clipper care, but almost no-one knows how to do it properly. Thankfully, this guide will cover everything you need to know about properly oiling hair clippers. I’ll go over why you should oil, a guide on the procedure of oiling, and some alternatives in case you run out of oil.
Read on to find out how to oil hair clippers!
Table Of Contents
Why Is Oiling Your Clippers Important?
Clippers have two blades with multiple teeth. These blades slide horizontally against each other, with the teeth acting in the same fashion as scissors, except a lot smaller and at a much higher speed. This is where oil comes in. The two blades need to be lubricated where they touch so that their movement remains smooth and fast. Frequent re-oiling is needed because that much friction also generates a lot of heat, so the oil gets consumed fairly quickly.
What happens if you don’t oil? All sorts of bad things. You get reduced performance since the blades aren’t moving as quickly or as smoothly as they should. Blade lifespan decreases, because they get worn down faster rubbing against each other while unlubricated. Rust can form on the blades because the oil isn’t protecting the surfaces. Noise and heat levels increase since the blades are rubbing together without enough lubrication to protect them. Regular oiling is enough to avoid all these problems.
How often you should oil depends on your workload. Generally speaking, I recommend oiling once a week if you’re only using it for part of the week. If you’re cutting once a day or more frequently, oil after every two cuts. For truly heavy workloads, oiling after every cut may be necessary.
Clipper Oiling: A Step By Step Guide
Now that we’ve covered why and how often, let’s get into the actual process of doing it. You’ll need your clippers and your oil, and a nearby outlet to plug your clippers into. Oiling has to be done with your clippers running. It’s also helpful to either do it over a sink or otherwise have a paper towel placed beneath your clippers to catch any oil that drips off. Speaking of paper towels, place several of them nearby for cleaning purposes. And don’t forget your clipper cleaning brush.
Step 1: Set Up
Choose your preferred spot, whether that’s at the sink or somewhere you prefer, with an outlet nearby. Make sure that you’ve got your clippers and oil, and that your clippers are plugged in. Also, ensure that your cleaning supplies are there, and that excess oil has somewhere to go. You don’t want to spend a whole hour cleaning up after you oil.
Step 2: Clean Your Clipper
Never oil dirty clippers! Oiling with dirt or other debris still on the clipper can lead to the dirt mixing with the oil and gunking up the blades. This is the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Give your blade a pass with a blade brush. In case of stubborn dirt, a small toothbrush will usually suffice to remove it. You could also give your clipper a thorough cleaning at this stage and use blade wash or clipper spray if you feel the need.
Step 3: Apply Oil
Take your oil vial and squeeze oil onto the blade. 2 or 3 drops will do, depending on just how large your blade is. Space these drops evenly along the length of your blade. If in doubt, less is better. Don’t over-oil your clippers, because that can attract dirt and hair clippings that will gum up the blades.
Step 4: Run Your Clipper
This is why your clipper needs to be plugged in. Turn your clipper on and let it run for a few seconds, no more than 20 seconds maximum. This will spread the oil throughout the blade. If your clipper has a taper lever, move it a few times as well to help the oil work in.
Step 5: Clean Up
After you turn your clipper off, wipe the blade with a paper towel to remove any excess oil. Remember, over-oiling your clippers can get dirt stuck that’ll interfere with the blades. A good wipe will ensure that no excess oil remains to cause this problem. Do the same for your workspace if there was any spillage.
And voila! You have successfully oiled your clippers. You’ll get used to doing it, especially if you’ve got a heavy workload, but overall it’s pretty simple. Remember above all to never oil your clippers while they’re dirty, and never to over-oil. If in doubt, use less oil. Some barbers use just one drop and it works out quite well for them.
To save time and effort, I recommend giving your clippers a thorough clean before oiling. For more on that, read my article about how to clean hair clippers.
Alternatives To Clipper Oil
If you’ve run out of your usual clipper oil and can’t source a replacement bottle, you can substitute other types of oil. Some types are better suited for our purposes than others. However, note carefully that some manufacturers may be void if you lubricate the clipper with an oil that isn’t their product. Check your warranty first before you look for alternatives.
The best substitute is any type of mineral oil. Blade oil is just a specialized type of mineral oil, so you’re already mostly there. Baby oil is mineral oil refined until it’s safe for skincare application, so it’s our top recommendation in case you can’t get any clipper oil.
Olive oil and other vegetable oils will do in a pinch but be advised that they are not made to hold up under high temperature. They can also go rancid and emit a bad smell if you leave your clippers unused after applying. So you can use them for an immediate cut, but you really should hold out for better oils, especially if your workload is low. Use the lightest possible oil to avoid gumming up the blades.
Avoid WD-40, motor oil, and any similar heavy oil, lubricant, or grease. They’re fit for other parts, but not for clipper blades. Moreover, they smell bad and will transmit that foulness to the hair you’ve just cut. Assuming your blades will even work, as applying such products to your blades can cause the blades to stick and stop running. Some may even harm the skin.
The main problem with some of these alternatives is that they don’t come in a convenient dropper and can be hard to apply. I recommend just using your finger. Apply the smallest possible quantity you can put onto your fingertip, or dip it into the container, and then spread the oil onto the cutting surface, making sure to cover as much ground as you can. Then turn on the clipper as normal.
Clippers need oiling to maintain optimum performance, and it pays to know how best to do the process and what you can use in case you run out. There are all sorts of downsides you can avoid simply by oiling your clippers, and regular oiling makes all your haircuts a lot easier. Keep in mind that a little counts for a lot in oiling, and if in doubt, you should apply less.
The blade does most of the work on a clipper and can last a long time as long as it’s properly maintained. Regular oiling is part of that maintenance. Keep your clippers well-oiled, and they’ll take care of you.