Update, 18 October 2008: I am now using pure 151-proof Everclear to refill my cleaner cartridges. I add no perfume, no lubrication. It works great. See the comments for more on this topic.

Update 2, 16 January 2010: My charger/cleaner stopped working, so I threw it away. The shaver still works. I can charge it by plugging it in, and I can clean it by running it under the tap. I should have tried this at the beginning.

You love your new shaver, but you can’t stand the idea of paying $6 apiece for those little (non-recyclable) refills. And you know that all they contain (besides a trace of perfume you don’t need) is 170 ml of SD alcohol 40-B, which is just denatured alcohol, which costs just $6 a quart at any hardware store. So, can’t you refill your own refills? Yes, but you have to be careful.

  1. Denatured alcohol is highly flammable. Plus, the flame tends to be invisible. Keep away from flames and sparks.
  2. Denatured alcohol is poisonous. Keep away from children.
  3. Ingredients vary between brands — see below.

“Denatured” is a old-fashioned term meaning that the alcohol’s natural drinkability has been removed. Of course that’s not a material substance or attribute, and therefore cannot be subtracted. Instead, other things are added: usually methyl alcohol (the poison kind), a little Bitrex — and, unfortunately, various other things, depending on the brewmaster’s personal style. Some brands have acetone, benzene, or toluene in them (for stronger solvent effect) and you totally don’t want any of those things near your face. This means that many or most of the products out there labeled “denatured alcohol” are not acceptable for this project.

Denatured AlcoholBut, since I had several much more pressing things to do, I reviewed all the relevant Material Safety Data Sheets I could find. Klean-Strip S-L-X Denatured Alcohol, made by W.M. Barr & Co., is listed as 50% ethyl alcohol, ~49% methyl alcohol, and ~1% methyl isobutyl ketone. Absolutely not drinkable, but not nearly as toxic as some of the others. I scored some at Home Depot.

Here’s how to refill your own Pulsonic cleaning cartridges. First, of course, buy a quart of the right kind of denatured alcohol.

  1. Push the surprisingly-difficult-to-find release button. Pull out the used cartridge. Don’t throw it away!!!1!!
  2. There will still be some fluid in it. There will also be a sludge of cut-off whiskers stuck in the paper filter on the bottom. Use the left-over fluid to rinse out this “chad”: cover the two holes with your thumbs; shake vigorously; pour into a sink or toilet. Repeat with some fresh alcohol if the thing still seems gross — but, heck, it doesn’t have to be clean as a whistle.
  3. Fill the cartridge with fresh alcohol and pop it back into the base unit.

You’re done! You’ve saved money and protected Mother Nature from excess plastic! Skip shaving for a few days. You’ve earned it.