In this article: We'll review our best car drying chamois (shammy) picks on the market with quick reviews, photos and pricing to help you choose the best chamois for you.
If you care about the appearance of your car, truck, RV, SUV, motorcycle or watercraft you need a good chamois. Probably more than one. A chamois is used to dry off water. Whether it comes from the car wash or a recent shower, if you leave water to dry naturally the result will be unsightly spots. This is avoided by drying the surface with a chamois.
The best chamois soaks up several times its own weight in water. Then just rinse, wring it out and repeat. Of course, their use isn't restricted to just cars and boats. People use them wherever a wet surface needs drying. Wet pets, just washed windows and surfboards are all common uses. Competitive swimmers and divers love them too for a quick dry between events.
This guide will help you pick the best chamois for your needs. We'll address the two types, correct usage, and how to pick one that will suit you best. Then we'll review five of the leading products.
Here Are Our Best Car Chamois (Shammies) in 2023
- Best Overall Drying Car Chamois & Editor's Pick: Champion Chamois Car Shammy
- Best Natural Chamois: Griots Garage Stay Soft Chamois
- Best Synthetic Chamois: Cleantools The Absorber XL Chamois Towel
- Runner Up, Best Natural Leather Car Chamois: Ever New Automotive Preservation Natural Chamois L
- Best Value Drying Chamois: The Man Sham Chamois Cloth
Best Overall Drying Car Chamois & Editor's Pick
Champion Chamois Car Shammy
- High quality, synthetic PVA chamois
- Measures 26” x 17”
- Storage tube included
- Weight: 5.3 oz
- Color: blue or natural
- Machine washable
Champion Chamois Quick Review
This is an ultra absorbent, synthetic PVA car chamois (although you can use it on anything else that needs drying). Its strengths are excellent absorbency and a lint-free finish. Coming in a storage tube makes it an easily-wrapped gift. They have a high Amazon rating (4.5 out of 5) and are well reviewed by their users. Champion Chamois is a family owned, U.S. based company based in Texas.
Best Natural Chamois
Griots Garage Stay Soft Chamois
- Natural chamois
- Size: 4.75 sq ft (approximately10.4” x 6.3”)
- Weight: 4.8 oz
- Color: natural (yellow/beige)
Griots Soft Chamois Quick Review
A natural chamois sold by the Griot's Garage car care specialists and identified by their logo. Give this to someone who cares about how their car looks and they'll know you took the time to go to a quality retailer. (Griot's is also an American, family-owned business headquartered in Tacoma, WA.)
Unlike other natural chamois leathers, the Griot's shammie has received a treatment intended to help it stay soft when it dries out.
Best Synthetic Chamois
Cleantools The Absorber XL Chamois Towel
- Synthetic chamois
- Measures 29” x 18”
- Storage tube included
- Weight: 9.6 oz
- Colors: blue, tan, aqua, purple, yellow and red
- Machine washable
Cleantools Absorber XL Quick Review
Clean Tools sell a range of car care products that include wash mitts and “The Glosser” for interior surfaces. The Absorber is their flagship synthetic chamois product and it's made from a PVA microfiber material. It comes in a convenient storage tube that helps keep it clean. Available in a range of bright colors, any Absorber XL towel will look good at the pool or on the beach.
Runner Up, Best Natural Leather Car Chamois
Ever New Automotive Preservation Natural Chamois L
Ever New Automotive Natural Chamois Quick Review
A good choice if you're looking for a smaller shammy for drying windows, a pet or maybe a surfboard. This is an inexpensive natural leather chamois that won't leave lint or streaks behind. Being lightweight, cyclists and hikers could pack it in a pouch or saddlebag to take on a ride or walk. (Sitting on a wet saddle or bench is no fun!) And don't forget that a smaller shammy is easier to wring out.
An interesting point to note is that Ever New sell only chamois products. That means it's probably fair to call them specialists.
Best Value Drying Chamois
The Man Sham Chamois Cloth
- Synthetic chamois
- Measures 26” x 17”
- Storage container included
- Weight: 5 oz
- Colors: yellow/beige (looks like natural chamois)
- Machine washable
The Man Sham Chamois Quick Review
Described as, “A chamois that works as hard as you do,”, this is a synthetic that looks like natural chamois. That might be useful if you don't want it to look as though you've switched to a modern PVA material.) It comes in a plastic storage tube, which makes for easy gifting.
Chemical Guys Grit Guard Insert
- Available in five colors: black, red, blue, silver and yellow
- Durable plastic material
- Fins extending to the bottom of the bucket prevent water swirl
Chemical Guys Grit Guard Insert Quick Review
A black plastic grid, this fits the bottom of buckets 12” diameter. (Most 3 to 5 gallon buckets are about this size but measure yours before ordering.) The grid is open enough to allow the bucket to be easily drained yet stops the shammy resting in the accumulated dirt and grit. If you want to use the bucket for something else the guard just pulls out.
Looking for more cleaning ideas for your car? Check out these lists!
Genuine Chamois Leather
Pronounced shammie or shammy, the Chamois is a breed of goat. Today though chamois leather comes from sheepskin. Because it's a natural leather product some buyers prefer the term “wash leather” or just “leather.”
Unlike most leather, sheepskin is slightly absorbent. This property is enhanced by the tanning process it's put through on the way to becoming a chamois for boat or car use. However, if you’re buying a chamois as gift, you might want to be sure that the person you’re giving it to doesn’t have a problem with using animal products!
Chamois has two properties that make it great for drying. First, it has a generous nap, which means lots of surface area for holding water. Second, and just as important, it releases this water easily, along with any grit or other particles, when rinsed and wrung out. This prevents dirt scratching the surface being dried. A downside is that natural chamois becomes stiff when left to dry, so needs soaking and wringing-out before use.
This is usually made from a type of plastic called PVA and has a cellular structure that helps it soak up an impressive volume of water. It's also soft, which helps prevent scratches. Another strength, especially in comparison with genuine chamois, is that it resists mold and mildew. This can be a problem when storing a damp chamois as it will start to smell.
Other alternatives to the shammy are microfiber toweling and the traditional terry toweling. While these can be soft they lack the drying power or absorbency of genuine chamois and especially PVA/synthetic chamois.
Some people like to spread the chamois out over the the surface, then drag it towards them. Others bundle it up like a polishing cloth and slowly work over the surface. Whichever technique you prefer is fine: the material will just suck up all the water it comes into contact with. However, it must be rinsed regularly.
Even if the surface you're drying looks clean, chances are microscopic grains of grit were left behind. The chamois will pick these up, and if they're not rinsed away they'll scratch the finish.
For this reason, your rinse bucket should have a grit guard. This is a grating that stands about an inch above the bottom of the bucket. It lets grit settle and stops it from getting back onto the chamois. We've included a grit guard in the Reviews section so you can see what we suggest.
After rinsing, wring-out the chamois so it's almost dry. (Twisting into a rope works well.) Then run it over the next wet area and repeat.
One word of caution: don't drop your chamois on the ground! If you do make this mistake the chamois should be replaced because almost certainly it will have picked up some grit.
What to Look for In a Chamois
When shopping for a good shammie, shammy or chamois leather the only criteria you’ll see defined are size and sometimes weight. While those are important they are not the only things to consider. Here we’ll run through the key points to look for.
This was covered above, but in summary, your two choices are natural or synthetic chamois.
The bigger your chamois the more water it can soak up and the faster you’ll dry your ride. That’s particularly useful if you’re working in a hot climate where going slowly around the vehicle gives the water time to dry. Note that a natural chamois will be an irregular shape so the manufacturers guarantee a minimum square footage rather than precise dimensions.
Weight gives an indication of absorbency. For drying cloths absorbency is measured in terms of how many times its own weight of water a cloth can hold. This matter because, as with a bigger chamois, the more water your drying cloth can soak up, the quicker you’ll finish. Be aware though that excellent absorbency can be a bad thing. If it means you rinse less frequently the cloth or leather is likely to retain more grit.
The best chamois can hold up to five times its own weight in water. Some modern microfiber materials are actually more absorbent than genuine chamois leather and will hold up to seven times their weight.
While color doesn't affect performance it might be a factor if you're buying a chamois as a gift. Natural chamois only comes in yellow while the synthetic materials can be any color.
Dirt release: Regular rinsing frees grit and leaves it in the bucket. The best chamois leather has a soft nap that’s quick to release grit during the rinse. Conversely, it does retain oil and grease.
Hard to quantify, but you want the softest material you can find for drying your paintwork.
Drying cloths benefit from the occasional wash as this helps ensure they’re free of any surface-damaging grit. However, chamois should only be washed in clean, cold water as anything else could damage the nap and take away the natural oils. Synthetic materials can just go straight in the washing machine along with your other laundry.
Vegetarians and vegans might have a problem with using natural chamois. Also, as a natural material it is renewable and will eventually decompose, but the tanning process is not particularly kind to the environment.
Many Uses, and A Great Gift Idea!
After your car or boat gets wet the only way of drying it to a spot-free finish is with a quality chamois. The best chamois products soak up impressive qualities of water yet are easily rinsed and wrung out to remove any grit picked up along the way.
Whether you need a car chamois, a chamois for a boat, or a simple shammy to dry off your dog, this guide has explained the points to look for. And if you're looking a gift for the man or woman who cares how their pet or ride looks, a shammy makes a great gift, especially if it comes in a neat storage tube. Now, get drying!