Chamois leather

Chamois leather
A Chamois leather cloth

Chamois leather (play /ˈʃæmi/ or /ʃæmˈwɑː/), sometimes known as a shammy, is a type of porous leather that is favored for its gentle, non-abrasive composition and exceptional absorption properties. It has a wide range of uses:

  • Gloves in the 19th to the first half of the 20th century
  • Leather jackets, small bags, and pouches
  • Polishing cloths for jewels or shoes
  • Filtering fuel
  • Automotive drying material that is safe on acrylic, lacquer, enamel, and polyurethane paints and clear-coats
  • Grips on sporting gear - Chamois grips are used extensively in field hockey and golf.
  • General household cleaning
  • Orthopedics and other medical uses

Imitation chamois leather is made using other leathers (such as goat or pig), and synthetic chamois leather is also produced.


Great Britain

The British Standard BS 6715: 1991[1] is widely considered to offer the correct definition of chamois leather. This defines chamois leather as:

  • Leather made from the skin of the mountain sheep or chamois
  • Leather made from the flesh split of sheepskin or lambskin, or from sheepskin or lambskin from which the grain (the top split) has been removed by frizing, and tanned by processes involving oxidation of marine oils in the skin, using either solely such oils (full oil chamois) or first an aldehyde and then such oils (combination chamois)

United States

In the USA the term chamois without any qualification is restricted to the flesh split of the sheep or lambskin tanned solely with oils (US Federal Standard CS99-1970).[2]

The term is often mistakenly used to refer to soft leathers made from the skin of other animals or to synthetic materials with a chamois-like hand-feel, but these are not considered 'genuine chamois'. Chamois leather is often counterfeited with goat or pig skin, the practice of which is a particular profession called by the French chamoiser.[3]


The terms "shammy" and chamois as used to refer to specially prepared leather originated sometime before 1709,[4] referring to the prepared skin of any goat-like animal,[5] specifically the European Antelope—commonly called the "chamois"—and exclusively used by the glovemaking industry of southwest France. It was discovered that when tanned in the local cod oil of nearby Biarritz, the result was a material of unprecedented absorbency. This leather was fashioned into soft white gloves designed for carriage footmen, who were responsible for the care and polishing of carriages. This industry usage later transferred to the chauffeurs of the "horseless carriages" invented in the early 1900s. The popularity of chamois leather greatly increased with the advent of mass-produced automobile windshields, which needed to be washed frequently for visibility purposes, but were inconvenient and time-consuming to dry through alternative means.[6]


Genuine chamois leather has almost no abrasive properties, and can be used as a very absorbent drying material for any auto surface. This has made it a very popular product for car cleaning and drying throughout the world.

The stretchy pores of the skin, which are very close, allow it to be used in micro-filtration. Its water absorbency makes it good for other uses, such as in cycling shorts (although most modern cycling shorts now use synthetic "chamois" leather). It was also used in purifying mercury, which is done by passing it through the pores of the skin.[3]

When soaked with clean gasoline, chamois will not allow water to pass through its surface fibers. This property is used to filter fuel that has been stored in drums (always prone to ingress of water) or from any other doubtful source. The technique is to provide a large-mouthed funnel with a wide outlet surface that supports a woven wire base, or metal plate with a grid of holes. The lower part of the funnel is tapered to fit the receptacle or tank-filler aperture.

A suitably sized chamois skin is soaked in clean fuel and placed over the grid in the funnel and brought up the sides, forming a bowl, to prevent any leakage past the skin. Fuel can then be pumped into the top of the funnel by the fuel dispenser and watched for signs of water accumulation. The process can be stopped to lift out the assembly from the tank and the trapped water removed so that the job can be continued. Like this Chamois leather is used as a fuel filter by boaters,[7] auto detailers—and aircraft refuellers, particularly of a past age where aircraft were flown into very remote areas.


Widely used for drying and 'buffing' vehicles, such as cars and vans, after washing.

Small pieces of chamois leather are commonly used as blending tools by artists drawing with charcoal.[8] The leather blends the charcoal more softly and cleanly than the artist's fingers, which can leave smudges.[9] The charcoal can be washed from the leather using soap and water.

Chamois leather is popular today around professional film and video camera viewfinders, as it provides comfort and absorbs sweat from camera operators who spend a long time with their eye planted on the viewfinder.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • chamois leather — Chamois Cham ois (sh[a^]m m[y^] or sh[.a]*moi ; 277), n. [F. chamois, prob. fr. OG. gamz, G. gemse.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) A small species of antelope ({Rupicapra tragus}), living on the loftiest mountain ridges of Europe, as the Alps, Pyrenees, etc. It… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chamois leather — noun a soft suede leather formerly from the skin of the chamois antelope but now from sheepskin • Syn: ↑chamois, ↑chammy, ↑chammy leather, ↑shammy, ↑shammy leather • Hypernyms: ↑leather • Hyponyms …   Useful english dictionary

  • chamois leather — See chamois …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • chamois leather — noun A soft suede leather, originally from the antelope but now made from sheepskin, used in cleaning and polishing …   Wiktionary

  • Chamois Niortais F.C. — Chamois Niortais Full name Chamois Niortais Football Club Nickname(s) Les chamois Founded 1925 …   Wikipedia

  • Chamois — Cham ois (sh[a^]m m[y^] or sh[.a]*moi ; 277), n. [F. chamois, prob. fr. OG. gamz, G. gemse.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) A small species of antelope ({Rupicapra tragus}), living on the loftiest mountain ridges of Europe, as the Alps, Pyrenees, etc. It… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chamois — (chamois is both the singular and the plural form; it is pronounced [[t]ʃæ̱mwɑː[/t]] for meaning 1 in British English, and [[t]ʃæ̱mi[/t]] for both meanings in American English, and for meaning 2 in British English.) 1) N COUNT Chamois are small… …   English dictionary

  • Chamois grip — or Shami is popularly used by field hockey players to enhance the grip on their hockey stick. Chamois grips are overgrips which means they do not have adhesives on them so they are just wrapped around the hockey stick handle. They are very good… …   Wikipedia

  • chamois — ► NOUN (pl. same) 1) (pl. ) an agile goat antelope found in mountainous areas of southern Europe. 2) (pl. ) (also chamois leather) soft pliable leather made from the skin of sheep, goats, or deer. ORIGIN French …   English terms dictionary

  • chamois — is pronounced sham wah, with plural spelt the same and pronounced sham wahz. When it means chamois leather, it is normally pronounced sham i and sham iz …   Modern English usage