Maintain to Sustain
Regular and proper maintenance is the best way to protect valuable grooming tools from wear and tear, and to keep clippers, trimmers and shears in tip-top shape.
Clippers are among the most important tools that groomers utilize, and stylists tend to use specific clippers for different jobs. The most popular are small, lightweight trimmers for smaller jobs; larger, heavy-duty clippers for tough shave-down jobs or thick coats; and an everyday clipper. Multiple clippers can represent a substantial investment, so protecting that investment is vital.
One sure way to maximize that investment and keep clippers running at optimum levels is to keep them in good condition. Maintenance, done regularly, can increase the performance and longevity of clippers by a large margin. Manufacturers can tell you what maintenance should be done on each model and exactly how often.
Probably the number-one way to ensure smooth clipping is by regularly replacing the blade drive assembly—alternatively called the lever or drive tip, this part makes the cutter blade move back and forth. The hinge and latch mechanism that holds the blade on the clipper comes in at a close second as the part most in need of regular attention.
With today’s higher-speed clippers, though, the impact blade care can have on the clipper and its performance is often overlooked. Kendra Otto, owner of The Upscale Tail in Naperville, Ill., and an international grooming consultant for Andis, believes in good maintenance for clippers. She recommends that full-time stylists change the blade drive monthly and the hinge every two to three months or as needed. Keeping them clean can also extend their lifespan. “It’s a good idea to blow the hair out of the blades, too,” says Otto. “For cordless tools, try using a cotton swab to clean the connections on your battery itself and on the charging base. It is also good to vacuum or use an HV dryer to blow the hair out of the battery connections and blade.”
Monthly replacement of the blade drive is something Jeff Andrews, owner of Northern Tails Sharpening, Inc.—a service and repair outlet for clippers and shears—recommends, as well. He also advises that groomers keep their tools clean. “Vacuum or brush hair from blades and from around the clipper hinge every day,” he says.
According to Andrews, the most important thing groomers can do to keep their tools in good shape is to carefully read and follow the maintenance instructions given in manufacturer manuals. Northern Tails Sharpening’s website (northerntails.com) includes many short instructional videos on maintaining clippers and blades at their best, with lots of useful tips. For example, did you know that using snap-on combs can cause the screws that hold the hinge on to loosen more quickly? Or that spraying coolant while a clipper is running may allow alcohol to get under the screws and affect them?
How does blade care impact clipper performance? A dull blade or an under-lubricated blade makes a clipper work harder, which will reduce the clipper’s lifespan, not to mention cost a groomer time and leave less than perfect results on the animal’s coat.
“Taking good care of your blades can eliminate a lot of issues with your clippers. [For example,] clippers are less likely to overheat if blades are cleaned and lubricated well,” says Karen Chevalier, tradeshow coordinator for Wahl Pro Animal. “Routine blade maintenance makes such a difference. It’s one of those things you need to make time for; ideally, after each use—at least once a week, or whatever you can do.”
The process is not difficult, she points out. Start by cleaning the blade manually of hair and debris. A small brush or toothbrush is ideal for this. Then, disinfect it using a product such as Wahl’s Cliniclip, which comes in a convenient pump spray. Finally, lubricate it with clipper oil.
Just a Drop of Oil
Diane Betelak, internal grooming consultant for Andis, says that keeping blades oiled and clean will also help increase the life of the blade drive assembly. The harder the clipper needs to work, the faster the part will wear. Keeping UltraEdge, CeramicEdge and UltraEdge Plus blades oiled enables the clipper to run better with less wear and tear on the motor and parts. “A small drop of oil while the clipper is running on the teeth of the blade will help keep the blade sharper longer and help increase the time before the blade gets too warm to use,” Betelak says. “The oil will help reduce friction and prevent small hairs from getting caught between the two blades. Then, turn the clipper off and wipe any excess oil with a towel. Always use a clipper-specific oil, as other lubricants may be flammable.”
What about the other vital tool for groomers, scissors? There’s a huge variation in price, style and quality in grooming shears, but all benefit—and last longer—from using a little TLC.
44/20, manufacturer of the original precision 44/20 shears since 1940, as well as many other shear lines, cautions against changing the tension on shears without first cleaning and lubricating them. If they feel too tight, lubricating them may help, while over tightening can result in excess wear, so it should be avoided.
Mike Mailman, president of 44/20, recommends cleaning shears on a daily basis. “Blow any remaining hair from the shears with your dryer,” he says. “Put some shear oil on a towel and wipe down both sides of the blade at the end of the day. In the morning, wipe off any excess oil with a clean towel. Other locations to oil include the ride—or the half moon section behind the screw assembly—and apply some to the screw assembly, as well. If you have a swivel assembly, consider oiling that too.”
Regular cleaning and lubricating will aid in the longevity of your shears, and keep them from needing to be sharpened as often.
Mailman also has some general tips for good shear care. Before setting shears down, make sure they are closed. Open shears leave the edges exposed to nicks or damage, especially if dropped when open. If you feel or see any damage or nicks, stop using the shear and send them to be fixed. Always ship in a padded box, not an envelope, with something over the tips of the blades to keep them together—and insurance isn’t a bad idea.
Following these simple tips for good maintenance can keep your valuable tools going in fine style for a much longer time span, which saves money and time—groomers’ most important resources.
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.