Natural leather chamois’ have been used to dry vehicles and glass since the early 1700s where they were utilized by French “footman” chargeable for the care and cleaning of carriages. They are not any less effective or useful today for drying modern vehicle finishes and windscreens. Natural chamois cloths have been, and continue to be, used because they are durable, extremely soft, remove dirt and trap within the cloth away from the surface, and release dirt effectively when rinsed. And although many products have been introduced in recent times as better or inexpensive substitutes for the chamois, none have the mix of these characteristics that make the natural leather chamois so useful and effective.
What is a Natural Leather Chamois?
A chamois, like all leather product, can last for years with proper care. A genuine leather chamois cloth is defined by the National Standards Body within the UK (British Standard BS 6715: 1991) and, in America, by the United States Federal Standard (CS99-1970) as “flesh split of the sheep or lambskin tanned solely with oils”; typically fish oils. Although they could also be tanned in many alternative countries, the most effective chamois’ hides come from New Zealand. However, because they could also be tanned in some other country, many chamois cloths that originate in New Zealand are labeled as “made in” or “product of” another country; this can be a results of the regulations that govern labeling. A real leather chamois can have a slight fish oil smell and will fade if left in direct sunlight.
The Softness of Chamois Leather
Chamois leather is one of the softest materials available for drying a car or truck. Like the chamois skin the unique cloths were made from, sheep or lamb skin has a naturally open fiber structure. The open fiber structure has spaces or voids between the fibers that, combined with the frayed fiber ends, give a chamois leather its softness. When tanned with fish oils, soaps form within the loose weave of the fiber of the leather. These soaps give the cloth a slick feel when wet and create a “buffer” layer between the body of the chamois and the surface of the vehicle. It is identical fish oils that make it extremely absorbent and durable.
Although a real leather chamois will become stiff when dry, it could also be re-softened by rewetting the cloth. To re-soften a chamois without wetting it, simply rub it against itself or grip it on either side and drawing it across the edge of a tough clean surface
Natural Chamois Nap
The spaces naturally created by the loose weave of the sheepskin and the frayed ends of the fibers that stick out from the weave create the “nap” or pile of a chamois. Nap is what gives a fabric a soft feeling and provides the pockets in the material that dirt and grit are pulled into and trapped. The natural nap of a chamois, and the soaps created by the tanning process, are what traps and retains dirt grit and water in a leather chamois. A big degree of nap is essential to any car drying product to keep from scratching or marring the finish. The advantage a natural leather chamois has over synthetic materials is that it not only traps the dirt, grit and water, but then releases the abrasive material when rinsed. Many synthetics are good at trapping dirt and grit, but then do not effectively release them when rinsed; causing the material to become increasingly abrasive over time.
Chamois Leather is Extremely Absorbent
A top quality natural leather chamois will hold, on average, greater than 5 times its own weight in water, while retaining the ability to be easily rinsed and wrung out. A 20oz cloth will hold 0.8 gallons of water. The loose weave of the fiber in leather chamois will not only release more dirt and grit than synthetic products, but may even release more water when rung out, making it a perfect material for drying a car.
Chamois as a Renewable Resource
Along with being soft, absorbent and durable, a natural sheepskin chamois is organic and a natural byproduct of the sheep farming industry. Along with providing a large percentage of the world’s food and natural fiber (in the form of wool) production, Sheep farming also produces numerous essential byproducts comparable to lanolin, tallow, gelatin and leather, to call a couple of. It’s a renewable and sustainable resource that has been an important a part of the world economy for several millennium and promises to stay so for the foreseeable future.
Due to its natural properties, a leather chamois remains probably the most cost effective, safe and efficient product available for drying a car today. Although many newer materials and products have been introduced since Chamois first came into use within the early 1700’s, none have the unique combination of properties that make the chamois ideal for drying vehicles; And all, but essentially the most recently introduced, have eventually fallen into disuse.
Properly maintained, a natural leather chamois can last for years. They are also extremely absorbent and cut down on drying time. Natural chamois cloths are extremely soft, especially when wetted, and protect the finish being dried with both soaps infused into the open fibers through the tanning process and by trapping dirt and grit away from the surface in the naturally occurring nap. So regardless of the numerous new products which are continuously made available for drying a car, a natural leather chamois remains to be the best and Safest Car Drying Cloth.