How can I keep my blades from going dull or blunt?
You cannot 100% stop blades from becoming dull over time, that’s normal expected wear and tear. A dog or horse's coat will blunt a blade far faster than human hair does - however you can extend a blade’s life and keep your blades sharper for longer. Here are 9 common reasons blades become dull, and what you can do about them...
1. Never clip before a bath
Always freshly wash the coat right before you clip. A dog or horse's coat quickly picks up dirt and dust, and traps sand, dander, grit, oils, flea dirt and more, all which can dull or blunt your blade much faster than many people realize. Think of it like cutting sandpaper with scissors!
Clipping a dirty coat is best avoided, even if only slightly dirty or dusty, unless you want to sharpen your blade more often! A matted or knotted coat in particular can trap a lot of dirt and oils within the knotted fur. Some groomers choose to do an initial pre-clip before the bath to save time and the amount of product required, which means more frequent blade sharpening or replacement will be required.
We do sharpen blades at AllGroom, and you'll likely find other suppliers locally. Keep in mind blades are not covered by clipper warranties if they have become dull or blunt - that's considered normal wear and tear - so it's best to follow all these steps when you can.
2. Only clip a dry coat
Only clip a completely dry coat. Never clip a wet coat. To speed up the ideal process - which is brush > wash > dry > brush > clip - use a proper pet dryer. They dry the coat significantly faster than a human hair dryer can, and have a safer heat level. If you dry hands-free and use a line-brushing technique, that will also help by straightening the coat and removing any remaining tangles, for a much easier clip and smoother finish.
3. Avoid clipping knotted or tangled coats
If a grooming comb cannot get through the coat without snagging, your blade will probably struggle also, especially longer blades, or a blade with a comb attachment fitted on. Thick, dense, double or curly coats can also cause a blade to 'chew' instead of cut. TIP: If you've removed all knots, then using a de-shedder to thin the undercoat and remove dead, stuck coat first can help if you find your blade is getting clogged or not getting through the coat.
To prepare knot-prone or difficult coats before you clip:
Whenever possible, brush before you wash (washing a knotted coat can make it worse). If you have knots you can't remove even with the help of detangler spray and a comb, brush or slicker, try a de-matting rake to break it in to smaller, workable sections. Knots that have become felted mats, may have to be clipped out, or cut out, for the animal's comfort and safety.
After you shampoo a knot-prone coat, don't skip conditioner. Conditioner helps close and smooth the hair cuticle to reduce tangles and knots forming and makes brushing easier. Pat dry with a towel or chamois. TIP: don't 'rub dry' or more tangles can form. Finish drying with a pet dryer. Brush again to remove any missed tangles. Now you're ready to clip!
4. Choose the right blade for removing knots
Sometimes knots become too bad to be able to brush out, or the dog dislikes being brushed, or brushing them out would cause discomfort, so you have no choice but to clip them out. In that case you'll need to use a blade that is short enough to go under the knots.
If the knots have got so bad that they've formed mats close to the skin, you will need a short blade. You may be able to remove mats with a #7FC blade, if the mats are more than 3mm from the skin. If the matting is too close to the skin, you will need to use a #10 blade. If the #10 blade wont go under the matting, a shorter blade will be required. It is not recommended to shave a full coat shorter than 1.5mm unless necessary. If the matting is too severe that a #10 blade cannot remove it, it is advisable to take your dog to a professional veterinarian or groomer to remove the matting for you. They will likely need to use a #15 or #30 blade to get close enough to the skin to go under the matting. Shaving the coat with a very short blade, such as a #30, is more dangerous as there is an increased risk of blade burn as well as accidental cuts or nicks. Depending on the dog, shaving the coat too short can cause hair not to grow back properly (mainly double coated dogs), and can cause skin irritation. Its best to consult a professional before shaving shorter than a #10 blade.
When removing matting, always take it slowly and carefully - just clip a little at a time - to avoid hurting the dog. Mats can pull on the skin which can form sores, and skin can be pulled up with the fur when clipping. If the matting was too close to the skin, shaving the mats can cause the skin to bleed once removed. Unless experienced, it's recommended only a groomer or Vet shaves a very matted dog.
5. Always oil before you clip
A little oil can make a huge difference to a blade cutting well instead of chewing. Always oil before you clip. If your blade overheats - which is normal depending on a number of factors - apply a coolant spray or dip, but remember to then reapply oil again before you keep clipping.
Watch the 'how to oil' video below...
6. Keep your blades clean
Blades will get fur stuck between the teeth, and between the two blades. Stuck fur can get impacted if not removed, causing a blade to 'chew' as if it's dull even when sharp. Fur can also get stuck between the comb attachment and the blade.
How to give a blade a proper clean:
To extend the life of your blade, always clean your blade after every use
- Take off a comb attachment first if you were using one, then take the blade off your clippers. See how to remove a clipper blade > For most clippers you do not have to unscrew anything.
- Use a toothbrush, paintbrush or similar to brush fur out from between the teeth, or use an old soft towel without loops. Look for hidden fur by pushing the smaller blade to one side with your thumb - don't push it all the way off though! Brush out any stuck fur. Push it to the other side and check again.
- Put the blade back on your clipper. Spray or dip the blade in blade cleaner. Avoid getting any liquid inside your clipper (tip: tip the blade and clipper downwards when applying cleaner). Run the blade for a few seconds to clear out any remaining stuck coat and wipe the blade clean.
- Apply oil and keep clipping!
How to store a blade:
After use, do the same 4 steps above to give your blade a thorough clean, but make sure you re-apply oil before storage. Watch the 'how to oil' video above. See more about storage below.
7. Only store an oiled blade
Blades are made of stainless steel, but stainless steel is rust resistant, NOT rust proof. Blades can oxidize and corrode over time, especially in warmer or more humid climates, even faster if left with fur or build-up on the surface when stored. Rust can hide in areas hard to see, like between teeth, and cause the blade to cut as if dull, even if it's a brand new sharp blade.
It's important to always thoroughly clean then oil all blades before storage. Avoid storing blades in warm or humid areas. You want a cool, dry (ideally air-conditioned) environment. To protect stored blades - whether storing overnight or for months - always apply oil. When storing blades for a longer time, set a reminder to check and re-apply oil to stored blades every 4 to 6 weeks or so.
8. Be kind to your blades!
Don't make blades work harder than they have to. Choose the right blade for the job (don't try forcing a long blade through a knotted coat for example). If all your blades seem to be chewing instead of cutting like normal, your blade drive may need replacing. How to know when your blade drive needs replacing >
Don't keep clipping with a hot blade (extremes in temperature can warp and prematurely blunt a blade).
9. Have your blades professionally sharpened
Last, but not least, is the all-important sharpening. When your blade is dull, get it sharpened before it goes blunt, so less needs to be removed to return the sharp edge. Get it professionally sharpened and it will stay sharper for longer. Part of being done professionally ensures the correct angle and tension is retained (you have to hollow ground dog and horse blades). We offer professional blade sharpening at AllGroom, which you can find here.