Home hacks: Save money by refilling those damn Braun shaver cartridges

I apologize for a number of reasons in advance: 1. The RemoteFX series got delayed. 2. This isn’t really Windows related. I’ve been itching to home hack this thing, so forgive me. I could argue geeks would find this useful…

A few Christmases ago, my parents handed me one of those Braun electric shavers – complete with a base for self-cleaning. They’ve come out with newer sleeker-looking models but whatever. I’ve stuck with mine, not because it’s the greatest but because it’s convenient and Just Works™. That convenience wears off, however, when you’re faced with the red-led-of-doom: A cartridge replacement is needed.

Typically, I’m okay with things like this. Printer cartridges, for example, are messy to fill manually and yield sub-par results. But these Braun cartridges wear out even faster than Epson ink. And it’s just a plastic vessel of liquid. More angering is the ingredient list. You’d imagine these things are made of a multitude of fancy named cleaning solvents and lubricants… nope. It’s quite plain: SD Denatured Alcohol and Citron.

SD Denatured Alcohol is a misnomer really. It’s simply Ethanol (drinking alcohol) that has been rendered undrinkable (denatured) via specific documented processes. Ethanol, Ethanol SD-40B, Denatured Alcohol, etc – it’s all the same stuff. (If you were curious, the numeric after the denatured designation SD refers to how the alcohol was denatured. In this case, 40B means the alcohol contains denatonium benzoate. It does not taste good.)

NOTE: Rubbing alcohol is not ethanol. These alcohols, bought cheaply for boo-boos, come in Isopropanol and Ethyl flavors. I can’t speak to what will happen to your shaver if you use these. Besides, it’s probably not worth buying 50 small bottles of the stuff. (Keep reading.)

Updated 8/4: Rubbing alcohol would also work here, and be safer to handle, but I found issues finding it in mass quantities.

Okay, so we’ve established Denatured Alcohol is nothing magical. And I think you’ve figured out that Citron is simply a citrus fruit – i.e. to make the liquid smell less like alcohol. You can squeeze a drop or two into the final result, if you’d like. Or if you like the strong smell of alcohol, like me, this isn’t an issue.

We’re ready to make our own Braun cartridge!

Shopping list (Lowes/Home Depot):

Steps:

WARNING: A reader kindly wrote in and pointed out that the SLX Denatured Alcohol contains 55% Methanol, making it dangerous to handle in terms of bodily health. Do not handle this stuff without gloves and without proper ventilation, in fact try to seek something less toxic (~2%) or simply use rubbing alcohol. Dying isn’t worth $200.

  1. Clean out your spent cartridge, as best as you can. You won’t be able to get all the grit out so don’t try. (That might have to be a Part 2.)
  2. Get out your handy funnel, place it into the most convenient hole. Keep in mind, however, the larger hole has a grill used to catch particles. Don’t puncture it.
  3. Pour alcohol into funnel until about 2/3 filled. You’re done.

Cost comparison:

  • 1 gallon (~3.8 liter) tin of denatured alcohol: $15.98
  • 2 official 4.8oz (~140 mL) Braun cartridges: ~$12.00
  • Factoid: 1 tin can fill about 28 cartridges, worth about $168 in real cartridges
    (Of course, there’s the whole cleaning issue. Let me investigate.)
  • Factoid: The costs drop more if you hold a military ID (10% off at Home Depot/Lowes).

Photos:

A spent cartridge.A gallon of Denatured Alcohol

Preparing for fill w/ a yellow funnel.Cartridge filled, about 75% of the way.