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Why Did Old Houses Have Razor Blades in the Walls?

At the turn of the 20th century, shaving mogul Gillette introduced the first-ever safety razor for the man that wants to groom his beard at home. The razor was considered a massive leap for home grooming at the time. It used a disposable double-edged metal blade. The new invention meant that each household would need to dispose of the blades efficiently, and here’s how they did so. 

Medicine cabinets were built-in on walls of houses pre-1970s. It was common for them to have a tiny slot where razor blades were discarded. The blades would simply drop into the walls.

Why Were There Razor Blades in Walls of Old Houses?

In 1903, Gillette, the world’s leading manufacturer of shaving products, introduced the safety razor. It gave men the opportunity to safely and easily groom their beards at home. It was more practical than the straight-edged razors normally used in barbershops. At the time, it was a significant improvement to men’s shaving needs.

But along with the invention aroused a new challenge. How should the discarded razors be disposed of? It wasn’t safe to just chuck it along with the household garbage as it was sharp and often contaminated with hair, skin, and sometimes blood. To add to that, the practice at the time was to burn the trash and spread the ashes in their gardens. The blades wouldn’t melt at such a low temperature, creating a hazard in the garden.

Fast forward to the fifties, when people discovered an alternative way to dispose of razor blades. At the time, medicine cabinets were installed directly inside the house’s interior walls. Someone thought of adding a small slot on the medicine cabinet and labeled it razor blades. The idea was that razor blades would be slid through the slot and fall into the wall cavity between framing studs.

Owners of homes built before the seventies would expect to see many razor blades behind their walls if they tore it down. (Source: Reader’s Digest)

Other Quirky Old House Features

As building homes become modernized, we can’t help but see some odd features old houses had in yesteryears. Here are a few of them.

The Pittsburgh Potty

Some old homes had a toilet bowl built in the basement. Sometimes it came with a sink and a crude shower head. It was known as the Pittsburgh Potty as it was more commonly seen in the city. According to the city’s history, most of the residents in the old Pittsburgh were miners and steelworkers. It was said that they used the basement to clean up first and avoid bringing in grime and soot to the main house.

Ice Door

Some older homes had a weird little door on the exterior side of the wall of their pantry. The door was actually an access point for the local ice delivery man. When he delivers ice to your home, he doesn’t need to go inside your house and put the ice in your icebox. He can do it while standing outside your house.


Decrottoir is a French word that refers to the need to remove excrement. In homes built in the 18th or 19th centuries, the decrottoir, or the boot scraper, was a cast-iron contraption installed just outside the front door. It was meant for cleaning the under-soles of boots before the person steps into the house. (Source: Reader’s Digest)

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