Although once made from the skins of a goat/antelope species native to European mountains called a Chamois, chamois cloths today are made from sheepskin leather that has been tanned with marine (or fish) oils. And, although the definition of what constitutes a “chamois” differs somewhat from country to country, the internationally accepted definition is leather prepared from sheepskin or lambskin, where the grain has been removed and tanned with fish oil (see below for the official technical definition).
The Benefits of a Natural Leather Chamois
Pronounced “shammy”, natural leather chamois cloths are durable, absorbent and exceptionally soft. The Chamois natural ability to quickly dry surfaces, without marring or scratching them in the process, has made them the preferred drying towel for most high-end applications. The large amount of nap in a chamois naturally pulls dirt and grit away from the surface of the finish being dried and into the fiber of the cloth where it is effectively and safely trapped. Unlike other types of drying towels, a chamois will effectively release the trapped dirt and grit, keeping the towel from becoming abrasive over time. And unlike synthetics drying products, which are petroleum-based, a genuine leather chamois is a natural, and reoccurring, byproduct of sheep ranching for food production.
Choosing the right Chamois
Choosing a chamois often seems more confusing than it should be. One of the most confusing things about buying a chamois is trying to determine where the sheepskin is actually from. With even a small amount of research it will quickly be apparent that the best chamois are made from New Zealand sheep skin. However, labeling laws require that chamois be labeled as “made” in the country where they are tanned (or made into chamois cloths). So most New Zealand sheep skin chamois will be labeled as “made” in Turkey or some other country. It should be noted here that ALL Acme Natural Leather Chamois are MADE FROM New Zealand Sheep skins.
Another consideration when choosing a chamois is “weight”. A heavy weight chamois may seem the obvious choice, because it will be more durable and last longer. However, a heavy weight is more difficult to squeeze the water out of and, because of that, may not release all of the dirt and grit. A light weight chamois will not absorb as much water and will tend to have less tensile strength. A medium weight chamois, however, is the best combination of water absorption, strength, and will wring out more easily and completely.
Technical Definition of a Chamois
A chamois is defined in the US by Federal Specification KK-C-300C and further outlined in the industry adopted US Federal Standard CS99-1970; and further refined by Advisory opinion #1, Section 5, Federal Trade Commission Act. ”The necessity for splitting sheepskin is to remove the impervious grain layer so as to make the underside more receptive to tanning. Since the two layers do no stretch uniformly and will eventually rip and crumble. In any event, irrespective of the relative merits of the many processes which may be employed to produce the leather, the fact remains that the grain layer must be separated from the sheepskin flesher in order that an acceptable chamois will result.”
While The British Standard 6715: 1991 defines a chamois as “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.”