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How to Care for Your Natural Chamois Leather Drying Cloth

Updated on September 23, 2014
Genuine Sheepskin Chamois
Genuine Sheepskin Chamois

A quality natural chamois leather drying cloth is one of the best options for drying a vehicle completely and safely. Natural chamois leather cloths have been used for drying cars and trucks for decades and although many new products have been introduced in recent years, the chamois remains one of the safest and most effective options. Many of the newer products are less expensive, primarily due to the fact that they are synthetic and made from petroleum by-products, but the chamois cloth remains one of the most durable and absorbent products available. A chamois is soft, has lots of nap, releases dirt and grit better when rinsed and will last years when properly maintained.

Leather Chamois in warm soapy water
Leather Chamois in warm soapy water
Genuine Chamois Drying the Car
Genuine Chamois Drying the Car

Preparing a Natural Chamois Drying Cloth for its First Use

Before using a chamois the first time, wash the cloth in lukewarm water with a mild soap. Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach, degreasers like Dawn or any laundry detergents. Modern chamois cloths are made from sheepskin and tanned with fish oil to make them soft. Washing a chamois with a degreasing soap will strip the natural oils that keep the cloth supple and cause it to breakdown and shed.

Using Chamois Leather to Dry a Vehicle

The vehicle should be thoroughly washed with an appropriate car wash soap and thoroughly rinsed prior to drying. Removing all of the dirt and grit during the wash process is essential to protecting the paint during the drying phase. Before using a chamois to dry a vehicle, it should first be rinsed in clean water and wrung out. Rewetting and ringing out a dry chamois will restore the original softness and absorbency. The natural nap will trap and pull any remaining fine dirt or grit into the cloth and away from the paint. A chamois should be rinsed and rung out frequently to release any particles removed from the finish into the rinse water. Unlike many other products, a chamois is extremely soft, absorbent, contains lots of nap and releases dirt and grit completely when rinsed. Care should be taken to avoid contaminating a chamois cloth with grease or oil and should never be used with strong chemicals.

Cleaning A Sheepskin Chamois
Cleaning A Sheepskin Chamois

Cleaning a Chamois Cloth the right way

After each use a natural chamois should be rinsed completely with clean soapy water and repeatedly wrung out gently until clean. Leaving a little soap or water in a chamois will not damage the leather, provided that the soap is mild and does not contain any degreasing agents. Do not machine wash or tumble dry. Many detergents used for washing clothing can also strip away the natural oils used in the tanning process and significantly shorten the effective life of the chamois cloth.

Hanging a Chamois to air dry
Hanging a Chamois to air dry

Drying and Storing a Leather Chamois

After washing, rinse thoroughly in clean water, ring out gently and pull on the edges to gently stretch the cloth back into its natural shape. Hang up to dry in an area away from direct sunlight. Do not fold or wad up and do not place in a bag. A chamois, like any leather, will stiffen as it dries. To soften the chamois without rewetting, rub the chamois against itself or grip opposite ends of the cloth and draw it back and forth across the edge of a clean surface until the desired softness is reached. Once the chamois cloth has completely dried, it should be stored in a dry place away from chemicals and direct sunlight.

Chamois Leather Exposed to Harsh Chemicals
Chamois Leather Exposed to Harsh Chemicals

A chamois that has been “cleaned” with a degreaser, exposed to harsh chemicals or dried and/or stored improperly will quickly break down and, like any leather product, will rot, shed and eventually fall apart. But with proper care and maintenance, a genuine natural leather chamois cloth is durable, soft and will last for years with normal use.

Small Chamois Cleaning Electronics
Small Chamois Cleaning Electronics

Other Uses for Natural Chamois Cloths

The softness and nap of a chamois leather makes it ideal for dusting, removing dust and oils from the screens of electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets and computer screens, as well as kitchen fixtures and appliances. Smaller chamois cloths are also used to polish and shine jewelry and shoes.


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    • profile image


      19 months ago

      My shami is stiff and not so soft anymore what to do to restore it. Cream Rinse?

    • Jeffrey-the Barak profile image

      Jeffrey-the Barak 

      3 years ago

      Very good, except I think you mean wringing, not ringing.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago


      Without knowing exactly what is in the soap (I was unable to find the brand or specific product online), I would suggest that you NOT use it. As a general rule all soaps formulated specifically for automotive use are safe, since none of them contain degreasing agents. It is important that you never use a soap that contains a degreaser (Dawn and other dish soaps, Simple Green, laundry detergents, etc...) as it will strip the tanning oils out of the chamois leaving the leather unprotected. And unprotected leather will begin to breakdown and fall apart rather quickly. So if you have any question as to whether a soap is safe to use, I would err on the side of caution and use a soap formulated for auto use instead. Thanks for the question...I hope this helps.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      hi I have a question for you could i use hand soap on the chamois cloth

      brand/name of soap : secret botanique-antibacterial


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