Why Chamois Are A Sham

Chamois On BMW HoodRecently an acquaintance of mine, for no particular reason, gifted me a chamois (sort of a weird gift, but whatever). Now, I’m not a fan of chamois, and I don’t recommend them. So while it was a thoughtful gift, I won’t be using it. Below I’ll break down why, and how you could save yourself a few headaches by skipping the chamois as well.

Usage

So basically, here’s how a chamois works: you spread it out on your wet car and drag it towards yourself to dry the car. While a chamois does absorb some water it essentially acts like a squeegee and pushes the water off the car. This can be problematic for one glaring reason. The chamois itself is a flat surface so when it comes into contact with the surface of the wet car it creates a sort of suction, with no cushion in between the chamois and the paint. Now let’s say there are a few particles of dirt left on the surface before you spread out the chamois. You’ll be dragging that dirt all across the surface of your paint, causing fine scratches. This could be even worse if you get a small rock stuck under there.

If, however, you were to use a microfiber towel to dry your car this becomes a non-issue. There is no suction created when using a microfiber towel so there is no pressure pushing small particles into your paint. Microfiber is very plush and has tons of little “fingers” that trap dirt and lift it away from the surface. Waffle weave microfiber towels are particularly absorbent, and are great at keeping small particles off the surface so they don’t scratch your car.

Maintenance

Here’s another area where using a chamois is a total pain. First of all, you can’t just use it right out of the package; you’re first required to “condition” it. You have to hand wash it in order to remove excess cod oil before you can ever use it to dry the car. Otherwise it won’t even work as it’s supposed to. Additionally, you can never machine wash or dry a chamois. A chamois must be hand washed, stretched, and then hang dried.

None of this is an issue if you were to use a microfiber towel. Besides the fact that you can use it right out of the package, it’s completely machine washable. You can wash microfiber in warm water and dry on low or no heat. If you don’t mix loads (wash only microfiber with other microfiber) and skip the fabric softener, you’re all set.

So basically…don’t use a chamois. They’re a pain to take care of and really aren’t as safe to use as advertised. I know I’ve been hyping up microfiber a lot, but keep in mind that not all microfiber is created equal. Check out this guide to learn how to buy a quality microfiber towel.

Any thoughts, questions, or experiences you’ve had with a chamois? Leave them in the comments below or give us a call at 773-404-1600.

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  • Lovemycar

    Interesting that you show a synthetic material and not a natural chamois in your picture. There is nothing more gentle than a genuine chamois. Did you know that genuine chamois are used to clean the finest camera lenses and is a preferred eye glass cleaner because it will not scratch?

    • http://www.drbeasleys.com/ Dr. Beasley’s

      You’re right that the photo is of a synthetic chamois, but in the article we really are talking about natural chamois, particularly when discussing maintenance. Sorry for the confusion.

      And the problem with using a chamois on an automotive finish isn’t so much about the softness of the material itself, but rather the suction between the chamois and the paint which can trap particles that could potentially cause a scratch.

  • Brian

    I agree with Lovemycar. I have used natural chamois for decades without any issues. I was curious about microfiber though and bought a top microfiber brand to try, the Cobra Guzzler. I was impressed with the towel at first, but after only 5 or 6 uses it began leaving small scratches on my cars finish, which is a bummer considering the cost of the towel. I machine washed it after each car wash (which was a pain) and still had issues. So, I have since gone back to my 3 year old chamois that is reliable and safe on my finish, and in my opinion, much easier to maintain than the MF towel.