Why Chamois Are A Sham

(UPDATE 1/9/18 – Since we received so many responses to this blog, we revisited the topic. Read here.)

Recently 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.


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.


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?

    • 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.

  • Jimmy

    1) maintenance that you say is a total pain with a chamois: Actually entails rinsing the chamois in warm water, no soap needed (quick, as chamois’ will release dirt easily upon wringing out) and then hang after you wring it. That’s it.

    Maintenance with a microfiber towel: Must machine wash, since microfiber will trap dirt and not release it, which is also why many people use multiple microfiber towels to dry their car, since otherwise it will scratch the car. Machine wash should be cold water, as hot water will destroy it. Machine wash requires special cleanser, since many detergents, chemicals, and fabric softener swill destroy it. Cannot wash with towels, or anything with lint, otherwise it’ll cause problems with the microfiber. So, unless you are a pro detailer, you’re doing a wash for 1-2 microfiber towels EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU WASH YOUR CAR. Then, you have to dry them alone in the dryer on low heat, since heat will destroy the microfiber. I honestly don’t know how this is easy (and costs you in water electric bills), and simply rinsing a chamois in warm water and wringing out to air dry is a “total pain”. I’m guessing you’re either a masochist, or just sadistic? And that rinsing of the cod oil is hand washing with a mild soap once, and even that’s easy. If you think that’s hard, rest assured it’s going to only happen once every 5-10 years, since a chamois will last essentially forever if you care for it like I said in the first paragraph (rinse and dry)

  • Jimmy

    Also, for natural chamois there is Knap, which traps dirt and particles, it’s a natural surface and is not an actual flat surface like synthetic chamois, it has pores, crevices, etc. (you may want to research this, but then again, as a detailer, you know I’m correct, but 1) you can’t sell a constant supply of chamois’ when they last for 5-10 years when cared for correctly [microfiber loses effectiveness and will scratch in time] 2) you can’t sell drying towel cleaning supplies for chamois

    A synthetic chamois will drag dirt particles and scratch. A synthetic chamois will drag suction. A synthetic chamois will push water off the car (like a squeegee). A natural chamois absorbs the water before it will push it, and will retain the dirt and particles easily, but release them easily upon wringing out, and be just as absorbent after (a microfiber will not release the particles, and will scratch the surface, which is why you must machine wash every time you wash the car). A microfiber is also less absorbent once wet, it will release some water, but not all. And a waffle weave which is more absorbent and much better for trapping dirt in the Knap than a typical microfiber towel, will stretch and deform if you try to wring out the water, so probably will need 2.

    As for having a small rock under any drying towel, yes, this could be a problem, but I don’t know many people that place small rocks on their cars after washing it. If you have a small rock on your car before you dry it: 1) Your hateful neighbor placed the rock their, or less likely 2) You didn’t wash the car, or it would have come off when you A) sprayed down your car before washing B) washed the car with a mitt/sponge C) sprayed off the soap suds. And if you didn’t manage to remove it with any of the above, you may need glasses, especially if you then miss it when standing in front of it, while drying the car within arm’s distance.

  • Jimmy

    Also, when using a chamois, every time you wring it out, it’s releasing dirt, and goes back to its super absorbent state, of absorbing 6x it’s weight I’m water, and leaves the surface of the paint bone dry. A microfiber towel will dry amazing at first, but after a small area, will start to leave water trails on the surface, and when you try to wring it out, will either release no to little water, and will not release the dirt, so it will begin to scratch. So you need a 2nd towel to dry up the water trails left behind, after the once over with the first towel. Not sure how this is really superior.

    And another illustration of chamois having Knap, is that when it’s made, they slice the skin in half, so yes, the skin side is smooth, but the other side is the suede side (people know suede has Knap), in addition to the pores and crevices. So, it’s great at trapping dirt.

    All the sites you find on the Internet that say chamois are bad, or that microfiber is far superior, are the ones that also happen to be selling microfiber towels and the expensive cleaning supplies. Since, why would a retailer want to sell a chamois, once every 5-20 years, when they could sell 2+ Expensive microfiber towels every 1-2 years, along with all the microfiber cleaning supplies (expensive…not to mention the owners water and electricity bills from washing 2 towels alone in the wash, every single time they wash the car, or risk scratching their car the next car wash), as well as sprays to help dry the car while using a microfiber towel and help it glide better, so it doesn’t scratch the car. The sites that don’t sell them, you’ll quickly be able to find via Google, are just plagiarized versions of microfiber retailer sites. The only exception to this rule is Meguires, that sells both, and they praise the chamois, since they make money regardless of what you choose, so they decided to tell the truth on their car detailing guide. So, if someone offered you a towel that was more absorbent, would go back to full absorbency simply by wringing out, was very gentle and didn’t scratch paint, and releasing dirt at same time (with plenty of Knap to trap dirt), lasted 5-20 years, while towel care consisted of rinsing in warm water, and wringing out, just like you’d do periodically while drying the car. VS a towel that lasted 1-2 years if cared for properly, trapped dirt and wouldn’t release it while drying car, until you machine washed it after (or risk scratching the car, especially towards end of drying, or didn’t wash and dry it properly), had less and less ability to dry the car as you went along, requiring a 2nd towel to dry the water trails, you had to machine wash and dry it every time you washed the car, even though you only had maybe 2 microfiber towels, and had to wash separately from your other clothes/towels, had to buy expensive $30-50 microfiber cleaning “detergent”, couldn’t use fabric softener or other detergents/chemicals, had to wash in cold water so you didn’t damage the fibers, had to dry on no heat preferably, or low heat, taking forever, as well as expensive microfiber drying spray to use on car to make drying easier and glide the towel so it didn’t scratch the car. And the list goes on. If you weren’t told which was which. Which would you choose?

  • Jimmy

    The only thing that’s a pain about a chamois, is the pain Dr. Beasleys wallet feels when you purchase one, vs buying a microfiber towel.

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  • E. D. Yote

    A lot of these complaints are obviated by getting a synthetic chamois, and if is pure absorbency you’re after one of these will leave the microfiber things in the (wet) dust. As for dragging particles of dirt across a car surface: if such exist, you didn’t do a very good job washing and rinsing! This was a hypothetical scenario created just to help the fellow make his case and is fairly lame in retrospect.

  • Gerald Arcuri

    Anybody who knows basic chemistry knows that microfiber is lousy at absorbing water. Period. The synthetic materials microfiber is made from are hydrophobic. I don’t understand why anyone would recommend them for drying anything.

    Blow dry your car with a cordless leaf blower, then towel dry with soft, 100% cotton hand towels. If you don’t have a leaf blower, pre-dry the car using a soft, clean, all plastic and rubber squeege.

    Micro fiber is superb with waxes and polishes. Again, basic chemistry at work here, folks. When you apply waxes and polishes, you want some of it to stay on the surface of the paint. You are not looking for liquid absorption.

    Using a car show final finish in spray form will protect the paint between washings.