How to Clean, Care For and Store your Chamois Cloth

Do you find your chamois leather quickly starts to fall to pieces? Have you recently purchased or received one as a gift and are wondering how do you go about cleaning, caring for and storing your chamois cloth?

The chamois leather (“Shammy”) is an extremely popular choice for drying cars, boats, truck and motorcycles, but unfortunately, many end up in pieces in the bin through improper care and storage.

Popular belief is that a “shammy leather” should be stored damp in a sealed container or plastic bag to keep it soft. Unfortunately for many that choose to do this, they quickly find that when they next come to use it, large holes have appeared or it has fallen to bits completely.

This is because real chamois leather is a natural substance usually made of sheep or lambskin and as such will rot if not kept and stored in the right way. Below I advise how best to care for and store your chamois cloth so that it should last for many years.

Steps To Cleaning & Caring For Your Chamois Leather

So how do you go about cleaning and caring for your car chamois cloth? Simply follow the steps below:

    1. After use rinse your chamois leather by hand in warm soapy water. Do not use dish-washing detergent as this will remove the oils from within the chamois. Instead use natural soap – a bar of pure soap that you would wash your hands with or pure soap flakes will be ideal. Alternatively, a good quality car wash shampoo will be a good choice (see below) as this will also be gentle on your chamois cloth and not remove too much of the natural oils, as a kitchen detergent would do.
    2. Once the dirt is cleaned out of the chamois cloth then rinse again in clean warm water and re-lather some soap back into the leather – this will help keep it soft.
    3. Next gently squeeze out the excess water, stretch it out, and hang it up to dry naturally – but not in bright direct sunlight as you do not want it to dry too quickly.
    4. Once completely dry, you should then “scrunch up” your chamois leather, rubbing it together or working it across a smooth hard surface. This “softens” your leather to make it more easily foldable.
    5. Your shammy can then be folded or rolled and stored in a dry container, but only when completely dry.
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05/16/2024 01:03 pm GMT

Next time you come to use it, first rinse it again in warm water to soften it and remove the soap that was lathered into it before it was dried and stored.

If you follow these simple cleaning and care steps you should get many seasons of car drying out of your chamois leather. Also, see our post on the quickest ways to dry your car.

Video: How To Store & Care For Your Chamois Cloth

Recommended Car Wash Soaps For Chamois Cleaning

As above if you are not able to get hold of pure soap flakes, then a number of car wash shampoos are an excellent alternative, providing they are pH neutral. Here are some of our recommendations:

So Why Use A Leather Chamois Cloth?

Chamois cloths have been part of the car exterior care kit for many years and they are still relevant today.

Made from the best quality sheepskin, chamois leathers have excellent water-absorbing qualities.

It is not wise to think that any old dishcloth or rag will do the same job, as they will not.

Chamois cloths do not smear, unlike dishcloths, meaning they deliver a better finish.

In addition, because they are made from sheepskin and treated with various oils, they are kinder to the car’s bodywork and will not scratch it (making sure you do not get any grit stuck to it)

If you have used detailing rags in the past you will notice the difference straight away when you switch to chamois leathers.

with the exception of microfiber towels, nothing beats the water-absorbing properties of chamois leathers, which soak up water like a sponge and can be easily rinsed out and used time and again.

History Of The Chamois Leather

Chamois leather has been used from as far back as ancient times when it was primarily used in the Mediterranean region for clothing and armor.

The cloth was made from the hides of the Chamois, a species of mountain goat. Chamois leather has long been valued for its softness, durability, and ability to absorb water.

In the 17 to 1800s, chamois leather became popular for the cleaning of carriages and continued into the 19th century through to the present day for the drying of cars and other uses.

This was due to its excellent water absorbency and soft texture, which made it ideal for removing moisture and polishing surfaces without scratching or damaging them.

In addition to its use in clothing, armor, and car cleaning, chamois leather has a long history of use for gloves. In fact, chamois leather gloves were a popular choice for drivers in the early days of automobiles, as they provided excellent grip and sensitivity on the steering wheel.

As the demand for chamois leather grew, it became increasingly difficult to source genuine chamois cloth hides, leading to the development of synthetic chamois cloths made from various materials such as microfiber, polyester, and polyamide.

These synthetic chamois materials were designed to mimic the texture and absorbency of genuine chamois leather while being more readily available and cost-effective.

However, genuine chamois leather is still widely used for car detailing, particularly by car enthusiasts and professional detailers who value its superior performance and durability.

The use of genuine chamois leather is especially common for drying cars after washing, as it effectively removes water without leaving streaks or water spots on the surface.

How Is A Leather Chamois Cloth Made?

I have been very fortunate in my detailing career to visit a number of different detailing product manufacturers. And indeed one of these was a chamois cloth maker, where I was able to witness the process firsthand.

The process of making chamois leather involves several steps, including:

  1. Hide preparation: The skins of chamois goats are carefully removed and cleaned of any flesh, fat, or hair. The skins are then stretched and tacked onto a board to dry.
  2. Tanning: Once the skins are dry, they are tanned using a special solution that contains a mixture of oil, animal brains (for the Lecethin oil), and water. This process softens the skins and makes them more durable.
  3. Drying and buffing: After the tanning process is complete, the skins are dried again and then buffed with a special stone to give them a smooth, velvety texture.
  4. Finishing: Finally, the chamois leather is cut into various shapes and sizes, depending on its intended use. This is mostly done by laser to ensure the accuracy of sizing. The chamois leather may also be dyed or treated with a special solution to improve its water-absorbing properties.

Over To You

Have you got your own tips for caring for and storing chamois leathers? Do you have a favourite soap product you use? Have you had any disasters in looking after and storing your chamois? Please share your tips and experiences with me and fellow readers in the comments section below.

Need a New Replacement Chamois Leather?

If you have discovered your chamois leather is beyond help, you may be looking to replace it with a new one. Below we’ve selected some of the best to consider from small singles to super large 6.5 sqft shammies.



  • Detailing Blog
    Posted December 29, 2011 1:31 pm 0Likes

    Is it safe for paint to dry the car with Chamois Leather?

    • admin
      Posted January 3, 2012 3:31 pm 0Likes

      Thanks for your question. Whilst it is safe on the paintwork provided there is no grit or dust still on the bodywork – we tend to recommend the plusher microfibre drying towels for increased paintwork safety.


  • Paul
    Posted November 11, 2020 4:12 pm 0Likes

    Regarding chamois, if you have one that is EXCESSIVELY dried out , is there a way to restore it?

    • robmobberley
      Posted November 11, 2020 5:04 pm 0Likes

      Hi Paul, thanks for your question. If your chamois leather is not too far gone it should regain its suppleness from leaving overnight in soapy water. Remember not to use washing detergent but if possible pure soap liquid or one made up from flakes if possible. I hope this helps.

  • dennis
    Posted May 12, 2022 3:39 pm 0Likes

    My chamois is very old but just started to use it again. However, it is leaving small paticles on the surface of my black car which is very obvious. anything i can do to prevent this or is my chamoiis just worn out?

    • Rob
      Posted May 12, 2022 9:06 pm 0Likes

      Hi Dennis. Thank you for your comment. It may be that your chamois has already degraded beyond use. However, it would be worth putting it through a clean and dry just to check. If it continues to break down then it is time to replace it. I hope this helps.

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