Introducing our Merkur 180 review: With renewed interest in wet shaving and old school safety razors, I felt like I was missing out by relying on my electric one. I needed a blade I could get comfortable with that was affordable and could let me get my feet wet without fully committing. Sure, I tried cartridge blades too. They’re nice, but not exactly what I was going for.
I searched high and low. I found a lot of safety razors out there. So many, it seemed intimidating. Ultimately I settled on the Merkur 180 safety razor. I knew there would be some other guys out there having the same struggles. That’s why I’m writing this Merkur 180 review, to help you out!
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Buying a Safety Razor? Consider This
Part of my early apprehension came from safety razors themselves, and some of the downsides that come with them. First off, the learning curve. Full disclosure, up until now, I’d never used a safety razor before in my life. This was going to be like learning how to shave all over again.
Secondly, store purchased disposables are designed to follow the natural curves of your face. Some pivot, others spin, and all are generally easy and convenient. Double edged safety razor blades, however, have no such luxuries.
Those blades have to be replaced frequently. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Those who swear by safety razors swear that you wind up saving on the back end since cartridge replacements are far more expensive. If changing the blade frequently wasn’t appealing, saving money over those darn Fusion Proglide cartridges definitely was!
Safety razors also take a little longer if you don’t want to remove half of your face. I knew this was going to be like learning a different kind of shaving so I was prepared for this. Also, they work best with traditional shaving soap, not quick and easy bottled shave gel.
There were also going to be a few added expense like a good badger brush, bowl, and that shave soap I mentioned. All in all, I knew that I was in for a bit of an investment if I was serious about switching to a safety razor. I guess there wouldn’t be a Merkur 180 review for me to write if I didn't soldier through, though!
The Merkur 180 Review: My First Thoughts
In finally taking the plunge and trying out a safety razor, I kept hearing that the Merkur 180 is a good place to start. It’s reasonably priced, comes from an established brand, is supposedly easy to use, and it even comes with an additional ten blades, which is a good incentive to give it a try.
The razor itself isn’t that large but has been given an "extra-long” handle for about four inches in length. It does have a grip, so maybe if I'm brave I'll give it a go in the shower sometime. It's also advertised as being easily loaded and unloaded. That’s a plus since I’m pretty clumsy and wasn’t looking forward to investing in bandages.
All in all, I was ready to take the plunge and go for it. I knew I wanted to give wet shaving with a safety razor a try and after looking at other options, this seemed to be the way to go.
Merkur 180 Review: Features and Benefits
The first thing that’s obvious about the Merkur 180 is the body. I’m a sucker for an all-chrome finish, so this appealed to me instantly. I also liked that the handle was gripped which gave it a nice, secure feel. From reviews of other safety razors, I’ve seen a lot of complaints about sleek, slippery finishes with no grip. Like I said, I’m clumsy, so this is definitely one in the “plus” column.
I checked the handle again, and I'm not the only one noticing that the "four-inch" handle is actually closer to 3.75 inches; I don’t know if Merkur is including top-to-bottom measurements that include the head, or if a German company doesn’t quite get measuring in inches. Either way, that missing quarter of an inch wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
Other safety razors have an adjustment feature which lengthens or shortens the blade. With the 180, what you see is what you get. That said, it’s well made, the chrome looks high quality, and it really feels like it’s going to last a lifetime. This gives me more confidence that I’m not simply throwing money away.
The second item I was eager to inspect was the handle. In addition to being gripped and only slightly weighted, it also unscrews for easy blade replacements. Unfortunately, this only detaches the head off of the handle. Replacing the blade is a bit more of a process than I was anticipating.
The head still has to be unsnapped, old blade removed, new one put in, and then snapped back into place. I can tell that this isn’t a huge deal once a guy gets used to the safety razor life. For now, however, it’s a little like working with a power tool for the first time. A little awkward, and in the back of your mind you know that accidents do happen. Have I mentioned I’m clumsy?
Thankfully, loading the blade wasn’t as harrowing as I originally thought, with the three pieces easily coming apart. The blade snapped into place, the housing unit went back on and the handle screwed back together. I think I’m ready for the pros now.
Many have mimicked my opinion on the grip design; it’s very solid. The way the Merkur 180 has been designed, there’s almost a sharpness to the gripped texture. In fact, I can safely say I am filled with confidence that I'm not accidentally dropping it anytime soon. Other razors can leave a lot to be desired in the grip. This handle, despite the extra “long” length you might be expecting, is well made for holding onto.
Back to the heaviness, that’s a bit of a misnomer. Yes, there is a bit of a heft to it, as all safety razors have. Learning to wet shave, it becomes apparent that a little weight is a good thing. You basically let gravity do its thing and guide the blade down your face, rather than pulling it.
The Merkur 180 is certainly heavier than your run of the mill cartridge razors or disposables. This is a good thing. It feels solid and powerful in your hand like it isn't going to run away from you. This was actually a fear of mine. I mentioned I was clumsy, right?
Down to the important part, the quality of the shave. The Merkur 180 definitely works well. Many Merkur razors have been said to give a close, smooth shave, and the 180 was no exception. It provided a clean, close shave that was far and away better than any electric or cartridge razor.
It was a little weird to switch to short strokes since I can typically get away with long, slow strokes. But that’s the old way of doing things. I’m a wet shaver now. Even though it took a little longer to get through, I was impressed with how close it got.
Mistakes Were Made
One of the biggest adjustments for me was not pressing down while using the blade. With disposables, I'm used to having to lay down some pressure to get everything. I nicked myself almost immediately trying to shave the same way that I’m used to.
In life, I find that most lessons are learned quickly once there’s a little bit of blood drawn. It wasn’t a bad cut, and it didn’t slow me down as much as I originally thought that it would. This is not a knock on the Merkur 180 itself, just a warning: wet shaving is a different game.
So yes, it’s a longer shave than you might be used to, but not as long as you might expect. At least I don’t think it’s going to cause me to be late in the morning, just an additional couple of minutes. I’m sure I can get it down to a science with some practice.
What I did enjoy about the 180 is that it wasn’t as aggressive as other models, even by the same company. It was difficult to keep myself from holding the handle too high, which, as it turns out, adds pressure to the sharp point which is less than ideal for your skin.
It Seems I’m Not Alone
I’m not the only one impressed by the 180. I checked a lot of sites, looking for a solid Merkur 180 review. The opinions generally seemed to match up with my own:
- Although a close shave, many found fewer irritations and bumps with the 180 than similar safety razors.
- The model is easy to clean, with running water usually being sufficient.
- The replacement blades are inexpensive enough that you do, in fact, save money in the long run compared to cartridge blades.
There are a few alternates I found that would also be solid candidates for an introductory safety blade:
- Parker 29L Women's Long Handle Butterfly
- Parker 76R Butterfly Open Double Edge Safety Razor
- Mehaz Solingen Germany Double Edge Safety Razor
These three were chosen for their style, as well as price point and difficult of use.
Parker 29L Women's Long Handle Butterfly
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The Parker 29L is a little odd from a marketing standpoint. Parker claims that this is a “unisex” model, despite having the word “Women’s” in the title and coming in two colors, Pink, and Dark Pink (which they call “Lavender”).
Luckily, the blade still performs well no matter what gender you may be. Obviously, Parker is making strides to cash in on women safety razor users, but it’s still a safety razor that gets a smooth shave.
It has a nice grip from bottom to top, and I never felt like I was taking my life in my hands swapping blades out. The model comes with five replacement blades and costs about ten dollars cheaper than the Merkur 180.
Parker 76R Butterfly Open DE Safety Razor
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Another Parker butterfly razor, except this one has a more “manly” safety razor look and feel to it. It has a black grip and the razor is roughly the same size as the 180. One thing to note about the 76R is Parker has it listed as a “heavyweight” razor. This means it will feel more aggressive than the lighter 180 and other lighter razors.
The grip is merely painted, not plastic, and it, too, comes with five additional blades. Unlike the others, this one is probably not the best choice for beginners.
Mehaz Solingen Germany DE Safety Razor
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Like the Merkur 180, the Mehaz Solingen is a German designed double edged razor. The grip has a metallic studded look, given it a Mad Max “leather armor” look than the 180’s more functional-looking design. This razor is a little less expensive, but it doesn’t include replacement blades, a razor stand, or anything other than the box it comes in.
Also, if you’re into the long-handle, It’s a little more petite than the 180. Although good, it would make a better "first-time" safety razor than your permanent wet shave solution.
- Also check out the Merkur 34C HD.
Merkur 180 Review: Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoyed our Merkur 180 review! If you’ve ever wanted a better shave without spending a fortune, the Merkur 180 is a good place to start. Affordable, simple, and effective, it’s a great introductory razor that certainly doesn’t perform like a cheap model.
The additional blades make it a great value, and switching from electric razors or disposable isn’t as difficult as it seemed at first blush. If you’re interested in trying to switch to wet shaving, the Merkur 180 is a solid choice, and I would highly recommend trying it for yourself.
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