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How to Extend the Life of your Natural Leather Chamois

Updated on May 14, 2014

Even though a natural leather chamois dates back to the 1700s, it has withstood the test of time as one of the most-durable, cost-effective, safe options for drying a vehicle. And with just a few simple tips, you can dramatically extend the life of your chamois and keep it in great condition for years to come.

First Time Use of Your Natural Leather Chamois

Before using your natural leather chamois for the first time, it should be thoroughly washed in warm water with a mild car-wash soap. Washing a chamois cloth before use will remove the excess tanning oils and any lint left over from the buffing process. Once the chamois has been thoroughly soaked with soapy water, it should be wrung out well before rinsing with clean water. This process should be repeated several times, replacing the rinse water each time, until all of the excess tanning oils have been washed away and the rinse water is no longer tinted yellow. Your natural leather chamois is then ready to use or hang dry in a shaded area.

Proper Cleaning of Your Chamois

Since a natural leather chamois is tanned with fish oil, which helps preserve the leather and keep dirt and grime from saturating the fibers, a simple and thorough rinsing in a bucket of clean water after each use helps keep it in peak condition. Be sure to use a mild soap that has been specifically designed for car washing. Using harsh chemicals or soaps, such as bleach or degreasing soaps, which include laundry detergents and dishwashing soaps, will strip the protective oils out of the chamois leather and, like any unprotected leather product, cause your genuine chamois cloth to break down, leave lint, develop holes and not re-soften properly.

Drying and Storing Your Chamois

After rinsing, the chamois may be stretched back into its original shape by pulling on opposite edges, making it easier to soften and then fold for storage. A natural leather chamois cloth should always be hung up to dry in a shaded area; note that direct sunlight and extreme heat will break down the chamois by oxidizing the protective oils, leaving the leather unprotected. Once the chamois is completely dry, it can be incredibly stiff. This is normal and clearly demonstrates the your natural chamois ability to release water completely. To make it easier to fold for storage, simply rub the chamois cloth against itself (as if crumpling a piece of paper) or against any clean straight edge.

Tips:

  • Always use car wash soap with a chamois. Most soap formulated for use on a cars finish is typically safe for a leather chamois cloth
  • Always soften a chamois before storing. Softening makes a chamois easy to fold and a dry softened chamois is ready for use on window and chrome smudges

Warnings:

  • Laundering a chamois or using degreasers (like Dawn or Simple Green), laundry detergents, harsh chemicals (such as bleach) or other soaps not intended for use on a vehicles finish, will destroy the protective tanning oil in the cloth and it will begin to break down. Stripping the natural oils from the cloth will cause the unprotected leather to rot and fall apart. A chamois that has been washed in bleach or a degreaser will quickly become dry, brittle, develop holes, and begin to shed, leaving particles and pieces of itself all over the surface being dried.
  • Never hang a chamois in direct sunlight to dry. Direct sunlight will cause the cloth to fade and the protective oils to oxidize more quickly breaking them down and significantly shortening the life of the cloth
  • Never store a chamois wet or damp in an airtight container. Storing a chamois, like any natural leather product, without drying properly will allow mold and/or mildew growth on the cloth shortening its useful life.
  • Do not hang a chamois up to dry where it could freeze. The expanding water in the fibers expands and breaks fibers dramatically reducing absorbency.

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