A chamois -- which is pronounced and sometimes written "shammy" -- is a very specific cleaning implement. Technically, it's the skin of a certain type of antelope, but the word has come to refer to a cloth made from split sheepskin or lambskin tanned with fish oil. Automobile detailers and homemakers reach for one when they need to clean dirt and soak up water without leaving streaks. A well-used chamois needs frequent cleaning, and because it's leather, it quickly deteriorates if not cleaned properly.
What Not to Do
Before considering the best way to clean your chamois, it's important to understand the many ways you can harm it. It's a leather item, and the cleaners that degrade your leather jacket will do the same thing to your chamois. Never:
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- Soak it in solvents such as alcohol or harsh, corrosive chemicals, such as bleach or ammonia. These degrade the oils in the leather that keep it supple.
- Wash it with laundry detergent, household cleaning soap or even dish soap, which also remove essential oils.
- Clean it with degreasing or disinfecting household cleaners.
If you clean your chamois improperly, it may leave lint on the surface you're trying to clean, remain stiff or -- worst of all -- disintegrate.
Best Cleaning Procedure
Rinsing your chamois in warm, soapy water after each use is the best way to keep it soft and absorbent. The best soap to use is the soap you use on your body -- either hand soap, body wash, moisturizing shampoo or car wash shampoo.
Mix a soapy solution by adding a capful of body soap or shampoo to a gallon of warm water.
Immerse the chamois in the water and knead it with your hands to remove all the dirt from the leather. Take it out of the water and wring it well.
Rinse the chamois in clean water, wring it out, then lather some of the soap back into it and hang the chamois to dry in a location out of direct sunlight.
Roll the chamois around in your hands when it's completely dry to soften it. Fold it and store it in a dry place. When you want to use it again, soak it in clean water to remove the soap, then wring it out.