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View Full Version : Why Are There Razor Blades in My Walls?


Torgo
11-15-2003, 06:35 PM
Mrs. Torgo and I are remodeling our bathroom. After knocking out some old plaster we notice about 20-30 rusty razor blades amid the rubble. These were the old kind of blades; the old Gillette flat ones that were inserted into those antique safety razors. We've been wracking our brains and we can't figure out why a previous homeowner would store razor blades in the wall. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

lucky henry
11-15-2003, 06:48 PM
That was the common way to dispose of those blades. If you still have the original medicine cabinet in the bathroom you will find a slot through which you would push your used blades.

lucky henry
11-15-2003, 06:54 PM
That was the common way to dispose of those blades. If you still have the original medicine cabinet in the bathroom you will find a slot through which you would push your used blades.

Squink
11-15-2003, 06:54 PM
It was not uncommon in the olden days to have a razor disposal slot located behind the sink in houses and hotels. Usually it was just a fancy metal plate with a slit in it that lead to the space between the walls. My first experience with this practice was in the 60's, when mom left the water running in the tub, and precipitated the plaster ceiling, and about 30 pounds of antique razor blades onto the floor of the library below. Some of those old blades were perfect for cutting out balsa-wood models.

AncientHumanoid
11-15-2003, 07:32 PM
In my remodels, we always take bets as to how many blades will be behind the medicine cabinet.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing my dad shove his old blades into the razor disposal slot. So, when I did my first bathroom remodel, it came as no surprise to me to see the pile of old blades in the wall.

Enjoy!

friedo
11-15-2003, 07:54 PM
I've got one of those slots in the medicine cabinet of my bathroom in my apartment. I had no idea what it was until a friend of mine pointed it out. My building is pretty old; I bet there's lots of old blades back there.

Una Persson
11-15-2003, 08:05 PM
This is incredible - I had no idea such a practice existed! The things you learn on the SDMB...

cdhostage
11-15-2003, 08:29 PM
Why in heaven's name would you do that? Assume your wall's going to stand forever and the razor blades are going to never be a bother to anyone?

Rusty razor blades are still sharp as hell. There's no other option for a piece of steel a twentieth of an inch thick. Hey, let's leave these in the wall! Let's make a problem for someone in the future instead of dealing with it ourselves. I love America.

Crafter_Man
11-15-2003, 08:37 PM
Originally posted by cdhostage
Why in heaven's name would you do that? Assume your wall's going to stand forever and the razor blades are going to never be a bother to anyone?

Rusty razor blades are still sharp as hell. There's no other option for a piece of steel a twentieth of an inch thick. Hey, let's leave these in the wall! Let's make a problem for someone in the future instead of dealing with it ourselves. I love America. An argument can be made that a razorblade is safer in the walls than in the trash can.

AncientHumanoid
11-15-2003, 08:46 PM
Well, it was a better idea than leaving them in the waste basket where kids or pets could get ahold of them.

And, it's really not a problem for us remodelers, either. We all know they're there. Sometimes, they're rusted to a powder. Even if not, it's super easy to scoop them up with a 6" blade, dump them in a trash bucket, and then diump that bucket into the job site dumpster which is then taken to the dump.

Nothing to get up in arms about, right?

Right?

:)

Of course, what happened to Squink could cause an injury.

Squink
11-15-2003, 08:47 PM
Why in heaven's name would you do that? Assume your wall's going to stand forever and the razor blades are going to never be a bother to anyone? They still make cabinets equpped with razor blade disposal slots (http://www.hospeco.com/instit/wash/HosAcc.asp); for use in hospitals. Ponder that the next time you're lying in traction and the ceiling starts to drip :eek:

lucky henry
11-15-2003, 08:48 PM
Here's a well-written column about the subject:

http://www.time.com/time/columnist/morrow/article/0,9565,107732,00.html

Finagle
11-15-2003, 08:56 PM
Originally posted by cdhostage
Why in heaven's name would you do that? Assume your wall's going to stand forever and the razor blades are going to never be a bother to anyone?

Rusty razor blades are still sharp as hell. There's no other option for a piece of steel a twentieth of an inch thick. Hey, let's leave these in the wall! Let's make a problem for someone in the future instead of dealing with it ourselves. I love America.

Pretty impressive to combine a blast of venom at a not-unreasonable solution to a problem with a completely out-of-left-field slagging of America. As NoClueBoy mentioned, remodelers know about the slot and expect to find the razor blades. So they are not likely to get sliced up. It's arguably safer to dispose of a bunch of razor blades at once than to deal with 20 or 30 years of weekly garbage bags, each containing one or more razor blades.

SunTzu2U
11-15-2003, 09:44 PM
What gets me is people will think this is the worst idea of dealing with disposal yet never proffer a better solution. If you don't have a better way of dealing with this then don't bash the current method.

Ale
11-15-2003, 10:08 PM
I bet this will keep future archeologists awake at night :D

*Iīve got it!, those thin metal objects were offerings for the gods... [i]scratchs head[i/]*

Grither
11-16-2003, 01:46 AM
Originally posted by SunTzu2U
What gets me is people will think this is the worst idea of dealing with disposal yet never proffer a better solution. If you don't have a better way of dealing with this then don't bash the current method.

I would think that the same method could be used for used razor blades as for used syringes--Put the boogers into a coffee can (maybe keep the cut-out circle of steel, so they don't cut the lid to ribbons)

Of course, then you've got the same problem as you have if you do this with cooking grease--where the hell do you keep the can?

t-keela
11-16-2003, 01:58 AM
Actually they did come up with a better solution. Many of the double safety razor blade came in little metal tin. You would push the new blade out with your thumb via a hole in the middle top.

Flip over the tin and slide the old blade into another slot on the back. When you ran out of new blades the tin would be full of the old blades..then throw away the tin.

Johnny L.A.
11-16-2003, 09:19 AM
These were the old kind of blades; the old Gillette flat ones that were inserted into those antique safety razors.
They still make safety razors, and you can still get the blades. I bought one for my dad back in the '90s (I think it's a Braun, but I'm not sure). After he died, my BIL said, "Look at the antique!" and started to throw it away. I told him that it was fairly new and took it. I still use it from time to time, but it doesn't do as good a job as my Mach 3.

Lissa
11-16-2003, 10:18 AM
Originally posted by Ale
I bet this will keep future archeologists awake at night :D

*Iīve got it!, those thin metal objects were offerings for the gods... [i]scratchs head[i/]*

You might want to read Motel Of the Mysteries. It's a very amusing book about archaeologists excavating a motel room three thousand years from now.

The toilet seat is determined to be a ceremonial fertility necklace, and the toilet brush was the scepter of the high priest, who used it to sprinkle Holy Water on the worshippers. It explains all of the "atrifacts" found in the room.

t-keela
11-16-2003, 11:36 AM
Johnny LA your BIL was going to throw away your Dad's "antique" razor? :dubious:

Hmmm...there coulda been a problem with that for me.


Oh, I forgot to mention my dad's got an antique store. Nothing ever seems to get thrown away. :D

AncientHumanoid
11-16-2003, 11:49 AM
Are they cursed?

Johnny L.A.
11-16-2003, 11:54 AM
t-keela: He was using "antique" in the sense of "old and worthless" (as opposed to "valuable collectable"). I informed him that A) It's only a few years old; B) It was not exactly cheap (I don't remember how much it cost, but it wasn't a $5 item I picked up at a drug store); and C) It was a gift that I gave to dad, so I'm taking it.

I have to say that it feels very smooth when I'm using it. But since it's bulkier than modern razors, I have a little trouble getting up in the tight spaces around my nose.

Chronos
11-16-2003, 12:33 PM
The one reason I would be leery of this practice is that there's wiring in between the walls. I wouldn't want to be dropping sharp metat things randomly into a space that has electrical wires. True, the odds are that you won't hit a wire, and that even if you do, you won't cut through the insulation. But when you're throwing one in every day or two, those odds add up.

AncientHumanoid
11-16-2003, 12:46 PM
In my experience, the conduit (or the wires themselves if really old) run high on that wall because the light is above eyelevel. I have never run into any circumstance where the wires were behind or below the medicine cabinet. Even for a plug, they are usually either on the high light source, or the wire is dropped from the attic. If there are low plugs, they're usually to the side of the sink which is centered with the mirror of the cabinet. In that case, there is a stud (or two) between the medicine cabinet and the plug location.

Of course, if some yahoo built the house, or there was no inspection, that all goes out the window anyways.

Fortunately, most places are built according to standards and rules.

Ale
11-16-2003, 01:52 PM
Originally posted by Lissa
The toilet seat is determined to be a ceremonial fertility necklace

What!?, you imply that it isnīt so??? :eek:

:D

Cat Fight
11-16-2003, 02:14 PM
Originally posted by Una Persson
This is incredible - I had no idea such a practice existed! The things you learn on the SDMB...

Word. I can't believe this is common knowledge to a lot of people.

Acsenray
11-16-2003, 02:21 PM
every day or two

? I've got a pretty heavy beard and when I was using safety razors daily, one would last several weeks, at least. Sometimes a month or two.

Scarlett67
11-16-2003, 02:46 PM
We have been dropping our used razor blades and X-Acto blades into the walls for years. Didn't know there used to be a special slot for them, though!

Now that our house is getting more and more finished, though, and there are fewer and fewer open slots in the walls, we've been taking our blades to the basement and dropping them down into the open tops of the cinder blocks.

StanDup
11-16-2003, 03:03 PM
Do you have your tetanus shots? :O

DreadCthulhu
11-16-2003, 03:47 PM
Ah, they're 1920's style "Death Blade Slots."

Derleth
11-16-2003, 03:59 PM
How hard would it have been to create a steel `pouch' for the blades to fall into? Because it sounds like they're just hitting studs, plaster, and the odd insulated wire. At least with a steel canister, they'd have something to fall into and not be a huge problem to the people who had to maintain the building later on.

Plus, for a little bit more engineering, you could have made the canister removable from the opposite side of the wall. Simply remove a panel and ease the thing out, with a lid stowed convieniently to one side or the other.

Hanna
11-16-2003, 04:50 PM
We found a bunch when we remodeled our bathroom too, I know someone said "remodelers know they're there", but what about do-it-yourselfers like us? It was a surprise, and I wasn't very happy to have to clean them up. What I do with razor blades I use (not for shaving, but for crafts and stuff) is I wrap the blade in masking tape and then throw it out.

Kempis
11-16-2003, 11:52 PM
I'm absolutely amazed that this went on in the days before the cartridge razor.

I guess living in California, most of the buildings were constructed after the safety razor went out of style.

Wow, disposing sharp rubbish by hiding it in the FRICKIN WALL!!! Wow! Who came up with that? I can't imagine the huge pile of razors that might accumulate over the lifetime of someone living in the same house.

-k

Lissa
11-17-2003, 12:03 AM
Originally posted by Ale
What!?, you imply that it isnīt so??? :eek:

:D

Hey, whatever turns you on, buddy.

Extraneous
11-17-2003, 12:16 AM
For those who have never encountered a razor slot:

a. a razor blade does not have enough mass to come close to nicking the insulation on a wire, and, even if it did, a bare wire is not a risk until something conductive (and connected to either ground or neutral) touches it.

b. when those medicine chests were made, blades were made of mild steel - and rusted away into nothingness pretty quickly. Bluing came later - and even blued blades rust within a couple of years.
Stainless wasn't even on the horizon.

IOW: chill. as potential mantraps, these don't even come close

Sam Stone
11-17-2003, 01:09 AM
Why would you want to line the cavity with steel? Wood is a nice, soft, silent material that it's perfect for the job.

And if you do the math, you find that the space will easily store enough blades to last the life of the building. It's a simple solution to a tricky problem (especially then). Excellent design.

scr4
11-17-2003, 04:56 AM
Slight hijack: are these razor blade slots used in other countries besides the US? It strikes me as a very "American" idea - crude and simple but effective. I don't remember seeing them in Europe, but then again I wasn't even old enough to use razors the last time I was there.

Popup
11-17-2003, 06:03 AM
Originally posted by scr4
Slight hijack: are these razor blade slots used in other countries besides the US? I can't say that they don't exist, but I have never heard of the custom. None of my DIY books has ever mentioned the fact.
I think it's probably "only in America..."

Philster
11-17-2003, 09:01 AM
Once you remodel homes and need to buy respirators to deal with all the mouse or rat poop or old insulation... and when you take various measures to ensure your good health against the stuff that lies behind walls, you'll realize that the razor blade disposal is nothing to be concerned with.


Many of your are sleeping next to a lot of rat and mouse poop, and you aren't in arms over that.

Gary T
11-17-2003, 10:15 AM
I'll second what Extraneous and Sam Stone said, with the additional comment that a receptacle would not have made sense because it was reasonable at the time to assume that the volume of blades over many years could exceed the receptacle's capacity. And an accesible behind-the-wall receptacle is way, way too much engineering and expense for something that was simply not considered a problem.

Having grown up in a house with these slots, with my father, brother and myself using them, I figured everyone knew what they were. But of course, it's human nature to think "everyone knows" what you know, and "no one knows" what you don't know, so I understand the surprise of those who weren't aware of them and their purpose.

What I don't understand is getting into a dither over the blades in the wall. People didn't build those houses with the assumption that the walls would be torn into to satisfy some future design whim, and it's really not difficult at all to deal with it if you do get inside the wall. I don't see where it's a situation that merits even one tenth of the whining and criticism exhibited in this thread.

AncientHumanoid
11-17-2003, 10:18 AM
What Philster says is so true! The stuff behind would gross you out if not actually make some of you sick.

Last Thursday, I was replacing some steel casement windows in a 90 yr old house. I had on my sheilds, gloves, hat, etc... When I pulled down one frame, a pile of spiders, some live some mummified, came down on me. Talk about gross!

An even bigger problem in most bathrooms is rot and mold. Often, we have to rebuild an entire wall or two and part of the floor because of the rot. As for the mold, we have test kits. If it's the bad stuff, we hire a service to come out to take care of it. Sometimes, even the service can't help. A friend of mine went into the hospital because of the bad mold. His house had to be virtually rebuilt. Almost every bit of flooring, drywall, etc.. had to go, as did about a third of the framing. :eek:

So, razors in wall? Not a huge problem. Yeah, they could've figured out a better way. But, with this particular solution, all that had to be done was cut a small slot. The most cost effective solution to a minor problem.

And, now that you know they are in there, be careful. :)


-------------

It's all cold and rainy today, and all I have is outside work. :(

A builder called early today to set up a meeting to see if we want to work together. I meet him tomorrow. :)

heresiarch
11-17-2003, 12:23 PM
Originally posted by cdhostage
Why in heaven's name would you do that? Assume your wall's going to stand forever and the razor blades are going to never be a bother to anyone?

Rusty razor blades are still sharp as hell. There's no other option for a piece of steel a twentieth of an inch thick. Hey, let's leave these in the wall! Let's make a problem for someone in the future instead of dealing with it ourselves. I love America. Well personally, I stick razor blades in my walls so that the mice will get tetanus and die.

We don't have any mice, so I guess it's working.