Chamois leather is usually found in the form of a cloth, most commonly used for cleaning vehicles and windows. It’s supposed to be made from the skin of an antelope, but in more recent times is often made of split sheep or lamb skin, and is tanned with fish oil. Sounds pretty gross when you say it like that.
But these cloths called ‘shammys,’ are super handy as they can clean your car or motorbike without leaving streaks. However, the cloths are known for falling to pieces or simply not performing their function if not cared for properly.
Chamois leather is a staple for the glove compartment of your car, but it will only work if you learn how to store, clean, and look after them. The methods for cleaning and care are simple, but there are a few things you should avoid doing.
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What Not to Do
Before we begin, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the dos and donts of chamois leather care. Here are a few things you should avoid when caring for your chamois:
- Use large quantities of harsh chemicals. Don’t soak the cloth in solvents such as alcohol, bleach, or ammonia. The chemicals will degrade and destroy the oils in the leather. These oils are essential in the cloth doing its job.
- Use harsh soaps. Washing the chamois with dish soap or laundry detergent will also erode the oils in the leather that keep it supple.
- Use disinfectants or degreasing agents when cleaning the chamois. This will dry out the cloth and cause it to crack.
Chamois cloths are simple, but not knowing how to care for them will erode their function. Once the oils have been damaged, the cloth will leave streaks and won’t be any more useful than a standard kitchen cloth! The chamois can also disintegrate and fall apart, which is even less useful.
Best Ways to Clean Chamois Leather Cloths
Cleaning chamois is pretty simple and requires only 2 ingredients. Water and gentle soap. Ideally, you should use car soap. This reduces the risk of inadvertently replacing the natural oils present in chamois. However, if you don’t have any, you can use a nourishing, mild soap for this, such as hand soap, body wash, or moisturizing shampoo.
Steps to Clean Chamois using Car Soap or Body Wash:
- To a gallon of water, add a few tablespoons of car wash or any of the soaps mentioned above.
- Put the chamois cloth into the water, and knead it with your hands. Do this for a few minutes.
- Remove the shammy and wring it thoroughly but gently. We don’t want it to tare.
- Re-lather the cloth in soap, and hang it to dry (not in direct sunlight).
- When the cloth dries, rub the cloth around in your hands to soften it.
- Store it in a dry place until you want to use it again.
- When you want to use it again, soak the cloth in water to remove the soap, wring it out, and then use it as normal!
You should do this entire process by hand, don’t even think about using the washing machine or tumble drier! The cloth is delicate and requires a little patience when cleaning it. Chamois cloths also need to be cleaned after every use. So learn the process, and get it down to a fine art so you can get it done quickly each time.
How Can I Tell if my Chamois is Properly Cleaned?
If you’re going to go to all this trouble, and properly clean your shammy, it’s a good idea to know if you have done it right. Here are some things you should look out for to check that it’s properly cleaned:
- It softens easily when re-wetted.
- It doesn’t leave particles or lint when cleaning your car.
- It doesn’t crack easily or develop holes.
If you follow the steps provided, your chamois cloth should function well, leaving your car streak and dust free.
How Do I Store Chamois?
Chamois cloths should be stored out of direct sunlight so that it doesn’t dry out too much. The cloths live happiest somewhere dry and cool. Avoid storing it somewhere damp and humid. And if you want extra brownie points, store your chamois cloth in a sealed container to protect it from dirt, dust, and moisture.
Make sure to only store it once the chamois is fully dry. This is a common mistake most people make, but it may lead to mold growth. Chamois is an organic material and will rot and ruin if not treated correctly. Stretch out the chamois, and hang it to dry somewhere.
Restoring the Chamois Oils.
To re-condition the leather chamois, and ensure it doesn’t dry stiff as a board, it’s a good idea to periodically recondition the leather.
What you will need:
- A bucket of water.
- Olive oil.
Steps to Restore Chamois Oil using Olive Oil.
- Half-fill a bucket with water.
- Add roughly ½ a teaspoon of olive oil to the water.
- Submerge the chamois in the mixture and leave it for 10-15 minutes. Periodically stir the chamois to ensure it’s saturated thoroughly.
- Remove the chamois and squeeze most of the water out. You do not need to wring it out at this step.
- Either hang the chamois somewhere to dry, or lay the chamois out flat. Again, not in direct sunlight.
- Allow to fully dry before folding and storing it.
How to Clean Chamois Shoes.
Although this article mainly referred to chamois cloths, other items can be made of chamois, such as shoes. Due to the high absorbency of chamois, if they are used to make a shoe, a heavy dose of wax and oil will be applied to protect them.
What You’ll Need:
- Cotton washcloth or cotton t-shirt.
- Soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Suede eraser.
- Leather protector.
Follow These Steps to Clean Chamois Shoes:
- Dab the chamois shoes with a washcloth or cotton t-shirt to absorb any excess liquid. As with all chamois products, do so gently. Make sure the shoes are fully dry before attempting to clean them. Let them sit and air dry if they’re damp.
- Using a toothbrush, gently scrape away any dirt or mud.
- If you’re looking to remove water stains, apply a suede eraser to the area.
- To restore the chamois coat’s nap, gently rub the cleaned areas with a clean cotton washcloth or T-shirt.
- Apply a spray or cream leather protector specifically made for use on chamois. Follow the product’s guidelines.
- Store the shoes in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight.
Can You Wash Chamois in the Washing Machine
The short answer is no. Chamois is delicate and will fall apart if treated too aggressively. The motion of the washing machine and the heat will encourage the chamois to disintegrate. Only wash by hand.
Why is my Chamois Slimy?
Chamois can react oddly to the different substances it absorbs. Sometimes certain soaps can make natural leather chamois slimy, or sometimes it’s simply because the chamois is new!
Chamois are treated with oils so can feel a little slick or slimy, to begin with. Chamois cloths really do get better with use and time. Give your chamois a clean, leave it to dry, use it a few times, and it should no longer feel slimy.
How to Clean a Synthetic Chamois
There are several synthetic chamois cloths on the market that can work almost as well as the organic originals. They are a lot less delicate than the genuine leather and can withstand being washed in the washing machine at a low temperature. Otherwise, simply wash by hand, rinse well, and leave to dry before storing.
Chamois is a peculiar material usually used as a cleaning cloth. These cloths are magical things that leave mirrors, glass, and car body’s looking shiny and streak free. However, they require a generous amount of TLC and know-how.
This article should have provided you with all of the information you would need to care for your chamois and all the mistakes you should definitely not do. So get cleaning, that car won’t shine itself!
As a busy mom, Raz knows firsthand the challenges of balancing parenting and household management. Raz is constantly searching for ways to simplify her life and loves sharing her experiences and tips with others. Whether it's finding creative meal solutions for picky eaters or discovering the latest time-saving home organization hack, she is always on the lookout for ways to make life easier for her family and herself.
Last update on 2023-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API