How do I Clean a Chamois?

Leonardo Von Navorski

You can clean a chamois that has been used to dry a recently washed vehicle by rinsing it well with warm water and a mild soap. When the chamois is rinsed and the excess water runs clear, wring it out gently and allow it to air dry, preferably away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight or intense heat can damage the chamois.

A woman cleaning a window with a chamois.
A woman cleaning a window with a chamois.

A chamois, which is either pronounced "shammy" or "sham-wa," is a thin leather fabric that is known for its high absorbency. A genuine chamois fabric is made from sheepskin or lambskin. A chamois fabric is nonabrasive. With its softness and absorbency, a chamois makes the perfect fabric for drying a washed car. It's commonly used by professional and amateur car washers and detail specialists.

A chamois should not be washed or dried in a home washing machine or dryer.
A chamois should not be washed or dried in a home washing machine or dryer.

Using harsh chemicals to clean a chamois can strip the fabric of its oil, which can affect its absorbency and softness. Likewise, direct sunlight or intense heat exposure can dry it out too much. An overly dried chamois becomes very stiff and difficult to use, although it's possible for it to regain its softness if it is re-oiled.

The most common mistake you can make after you clean a chamois is washing it in a home washing machine, then drying it in a clothes dryer. The washing machine cycle is too harsh for the chamois, and the drying cycle is too hot. The best way to complete the drying cycle after you clean a chamois is to hang the chamois indoors on a clothes hanger. Hanging it outdoors on a clothes line is also acceptable if the weather is mild.

It is necessary to properly clean a chamois between uses. Using a chamois not only pulls excess water from the car's surface, it also removes leftover soap residue and grime. The grime and residue are absorbed into the chamois, so using the fabric at a later time without cleaning it can leave a sudsy residue on the car's paint. Additionally, absorbed dirt and grime can smear onto the paint. Some of this absorbed dirt and grime might be abrasive, which can cause a dirty chamois to mildly scratch a car's surface if it is not properly cleaned.

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Discussion Comments


An alternative to a chamois cloth is the synthetic version. I have one that I use when I wash my car, and it is just as absorbent as a chamois. It is also easy to clean. Simply wash and rinse it when you wash your car, squeeze it out, and hang it to dry. It will be ready the next time you need it.

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