Genuine leather chamois are extremely soft, have lots of nap to trap dirt and grit in the cloth and away from the finish, release that dirt more completely when wrung out and will last years when properly maintained. Natural leather chamois care and maintenance is essential to ensuring optimum performance. Caring for a genuine leather chamois is a simple process, but requires that the chamois be prepared before its first use, thoroughly cleaned and rinsed after use, dried in the shade and then properly stored in a cool dry place.
How to Care for a Natural Leather Chamois
Modern chamois are made from split sheepskin and tanned with marine oils to make them soft and absorbent. Using a soap specially formulated for washing vehicles, without stripping off the wax coat (i.e. car wash soaps), will ensure that the tanning oils that keep the chamois soft and absorbent will not be stripped away. Washing a chamois with any type of degreasing soap will strip the natural tanning oils that preserve the leather and leave it unprotected. Once those tanning oils have been stripped out of the leather, the skin is no longer a chamois, but is unprotected leather. And unprotected leather of any type will quickly rot and crumble. And because wax is a type of grease that fills in the microscopic pores in the vehicles finish, any degreasing soap will also strip away the wax coating leaving the vehicles finish unprotected.
Removing Excess Tanning Oils From a Chamois before Use
Before using a natural leather chamois the first time, the cloth should be washed in lukewarm water with a mild soap. This will wash off any extra tanning oils that have been left in the leather in case of extended storage or shelf time and to protect it against heat while shipping. The tanning oils will give the rinse water a yellow tint. The chamois should be rinsed until the rinse water is completely clear.
After use, a chamois cloth should be thoroughly washed and rinsed to remove any dirt or grit that has been picked up by the cloth in the washing or drying process. A natural leather chamois should never be washed in a washing machine or with laundry detergent. Leaving a bit of soap in the chamois during storage is fine, and will not damage the cloth in any way. However, it may make the cloth stiffer once dried. A stiff dry chamois cloth can be easily re-softened by rubbing the cloth against itself or wringing it while dry. A dry softened chamois can be used to effectively and efficiently remove fingerprints from glass, stainless steel, plastics, etc… However, any soap should be removed from the cloth before drying if the chamois will be re-softened and used dry. Chamois are great for cleaning electronics such as cell phones, computer screens, tablets and TV screens. They work well in the kitchen and bathroom for cleaning windows, mirrors, appliances, countertops, back-splashes, shower doors and tubs. They can also be used damp (completely wrung-out) or completely dry to clean a vehicles interior, including dashes, dash instruments, stereos, touchscreens, and more.
How to Safely Dry a Chamois
Once thoroughly cleaned, a chamois should be hung up to air dry in the shade. The UV light from the sun will breakdown the marine oils that protect the chamois, so it should never be hung to dry or left for an extended in direct sunlight. A genuine leather chamois should NEVER, under any circumstances, be stored wet. Some PVA, or synthetic, chamois manufactures recommend storing their product in an air-tight tube or package while still damp, but it simply not true for a natural leather chamois, which will develop mold and mildew if stored while still wet.
How to Properly Store a Natural Leather Chamois
After the chamois has been allowed to dry completely, it can be re-softened (the will often stiffen as a natural part of the drying process) by wringing the cloth while dry. The chamois can then be easily folded and stored in a cool dry place.
Following these simple care and maintenance instructions will help extend the life of a chamois and ensure that it continues to perform like new. With normal use, a properly cared for chamois can last for years.