Chamois leather
Chamois leather 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 grip
    Chamois grip
    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....

    s 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 is widely considered to offer the correct definition of chamois leather. This defines chamois leather as:
  • Leather
    Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

     made from the skin of the mountain sheep or chamois
    The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the European Alps, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. The chamois has also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand...

  • 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).

The term is often mistakenly used to refer to soft leathers made from the skin of other animals or to synthetic
Chemical synthesis
In chemistry, chemical synthesis is purposeful execution of chemical reactions to get a product, or several products. This happens by physical and chemical manipulations usually involving one or more reactions...

 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.


The terms "shammy" and chamois as used to refer to specially prepared leather originated sometime before 1709, referring to the prepared skin of any goat-like animal, specifically the European Antelope
The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the European Alps, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. The chamois has also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand...

—commonly called the "chamois"—and exclusively used by the glove
A glove is a garment covering the hand. Gloves have separate sheaths or openings for each finger and the thumb; if there is an opening but no covering sheath for each finger they are called "fingerless gloves". Fingerless gloves with one large opening rather than individual openings for each...

making industry of southwest France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. It was discovered that when tanned in the local cod oil of nearby Biarritz
Biarritz is a city which lies on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast, in south-western France. It is a luxurious seaside town and is popular with tourists and surfers....

, 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 chauffeur
A chauffeur is a person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle, especially a luxury vehicle such as a large sedan or limousine.Originally such drivers were always personal servants of the vehicle owner, but now in many cases specialist chauffeur service companies, or individual drivers provide...

s of the "horseless carriages" invented in the early 1900s. The popularity of chamois leather greatly increased with the advent of mass-produced automobile windshields
The windshield or windscreen of an aircraft, car, bus, motorbike or tram is the front window. Modern windshields are generally made of laminated safety glass, a type of treated glass, which consists of two curved sheets of glass with a plastic layer laminated between them for safety, and are glued...

, which needed to be washed frequently for visibility purposes, but were inconvenient and time-consuming to dry through alternative means.


Genuine chamois leather has almost no abrasive properties, and can be used as a very absorbent drying material for any auto
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 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
Cycling shorts
Cycling shorts are short, skin-tight legwear designed to improve comfort and efficiency while cycling...

 (although most modern cycling shorts now use synthetic "chamois" leather). It was also used in purifying mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

, which is done by passing it through the pores of the skin.

When soaked with clean gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

, 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
Fuel dispenser
A fuel dispenser is a machine at a filling station that is used to pump gasoline, diesel, CNG, CGH2, HCNG, LPG, LH2, ethanol fuel, biofuels like biodiesel, kerosene, or other types of fuel into vehicles...

 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
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...

 filter by boaters, auto detailers
Auto detailing
Auto detailing , is the performance of an extremely thorough cleaning, polishing and waxing of an automobile, both inside and out, to produce a show-quality level of detail. Besides improving appearance, detailing helps to preserve resale value of a car.Today, the United States may have more than...

—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
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

. The leather blends the charcoal more softly and cleanly than the artist's fingers, which can leave smudges. The charcoal can be washed from the leather using soap and water.

Chamois leather is popular today around professional film and video camera
Video camera
A video camera is a camera used for electronic motion picture acquisition, initially developed by the television industry but now common in other applications as well. The earliest video cameras were those of John Logie Baird, based on the electromechanical Nipkow disk and used by the BBC in...

In photography, a viewfinder is what the photographer looks through to compose, and in many cases to focus, the picture. Most viewfinders are separate, and suffer parallax, while the single-lens reflex camera lets the viewfinder use the main optical system. Viewfinders are used in many cameras of...

s, as it provides comfort and absorbs sweat from camera operator
Camera operator
A camera operator or cameraman is a professional operator of a film or video camera. In filmmaking, the leading cameraman is usually called a cinematographer, while a cameraman in a video production may be known as a television camera operator, video camera operator, or videographer, depending on...

s who spend a long time with their eye planted on the viewfinder.
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