7 Simple Reasons Why You Should Hand-Wash Your Tesla

As you know, a standard maintenance routine extends the life of your Tesla. An often forgotten part of your maintenance routine is the car wash.

It seems silly and mundane, but you can expect top performance when the vehicle is clean in a Tesla with all of its cameras and sensors.

It is best practice to hand-wash a Tesla. This will guarantee a thorough cleaning of the vehicle without damaging it. Using an automatic car wash as the alternative is not recommended as it will scratch the paint and might damage electrical components. Hand-w

Automatic car washes are quick and easy, but damage to your Tesla’s finish, high-performance cameras, and sensors are too significant to use this option regularly.

Read on to understand better the basis for my argument and quick tips for taking the mystery out of the hand-washing process.

Do I Have To Hand-Wash My Tesla?

First of all, Teslas as generally all electric vehicles are waterproof. If you want to read more about it, check out my article about it here.

Nevertheless, you should avoid car washes for multiple reasons and instead consider washing your Tesla by hand.

Here is a list of reasons why you should consider hand-washing your Tesla.

  • The water in automatic car washes gets recycled
  • Automatic car wash brushes contain dirt from other vehicles
  • Car washes may not clean their brushes regularly
  • Cleaning agents in car washes contain a harmful chemicals
  • You don’t control the water temperature
  • The PSI of the water spray may be too powerful
  • The heat from the car wash dryer might be harmful

I’ll explore each of these reasons in more detail. 

The Water in Automatic Car Washes Gets Recycled

The water in a high-performance automatic car wash is recycled.

The water recycling system is a process whereby the water is filtered to suspend the solids like sand and larger particles and reduce the odor associated with reused water systems.

Carwash.com explains the water recycling process in full detail. 

While you aren’t necessarily getting dirty water, it does mean that the water cleaning your Tesla might not be entirely pure. 

Automatic Car Wash Brushes Contain Dirt from Other Vehicles

Automatic car wash brushes are nylon, polyester, and polypropylene material.

However, the material used to make the brushes is not the issue.

After so many uses, the dirt and grime found on those brushes can damage your Tesla’s finish, the sensors and cameras located on your car’s surface.

Who used those brushes last, ten or even 100 washes ago?

Everyone uses automatic car washes to wash every kind of vehicle and in any state of filth like:

  • everyday drivers
  • big muddy trucks
  • dirt bikes
  • off-road vehicles

Off-road vehicles are usually extremely dirty, but they are also a lot of fun. If you want to learn about off-road vehicles, make sure to check out offroadhandbook.com .

These tens of thousands of drivers clean the grime and grit from the exterior of their cars, stick car mats, mud, rock, sand, salt off tires, and maybe even a greasy engine.

This grime is on the automatic car wash brushes, squeegees, and wands waiting for your Tesla.

Car Washes May Not Clean Their Brushes Regularly

The article noted above from Carwash.com states a quote from i Wash Technology addressing the automatic car wash brush-cleaning routine.  

Sam Hadeed, co-owner of iWash Technology, states, “Most carwash owners don’t clean their brush material. Ones that do will take the time to remove them and pressure wash them. If hydraulic oil leaks on the material, most will use Dawn soap with the pressure cleaning.” 

Cleaning Agents in Car Washes Contain Harmful Chemicals

I really can’t tell you the exact chemical makeup of all of the cleaning solutions combined to clean and wax your car at an automatic car wash.

It seems to be a well-guarded secret. 

Click on this podcast from Spreaker at iheart radio to hear about the long list of chemicals, degreasers, and citric acids designed to clean your car in the fastest-most profitable way.

Sounds good for them but not so good for your Tesla.

You Don’t Control the Water Temperature

Pressure Washer Master states that the optimal water temperature is 100 °F (37 °C).

Warm enough to remove grime from the vehicle while being safe for your Tesla’s paint, cameras, and sensors. 

The standard automatic car washing system heats water to more than 140 °F (60 °C) to attain a more significant chemical reaction more quickly.

That said, the temperature settings of an automatic car wash may not be ideal for your Tesla. 

The PSI of the Water Spray May Be Too Powerful

PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch and indicates the pressure applied to a surface when spraying water, in this case. 

Whether the automatic car wash has brushes or the touchless option, the psi force in these automatic car washes is just that, force.

That force is more significant than is suitable for your Tesla’s finish, cameras, or sensors. 

Additionally, that force will push the grit and grime into your Tesla’s surface before dislodging.

No thanks!

The Heat from the Car Wash Dryer Might Be Harmful

The dryer at the end of the automatic car wash tunnel seems like a fantastic idea.

Still, as with each of the other steps in the tunnel, more chemicals are added to the final rinse activated by the heat applied during the drying cycle. 

More high heat and more chemicals are still bad for your Tesla.

The How Stuff Works site explains the mechanics of it all.

It may be tempting to drive through an automatic car wash.

The answers indicated above should make you pause and consider the benefits of hand-washing your Tesla.

Can I Take My Tesla to a Regular Car Wash?

Taking a Tesla to an automatic car wash should be avoided at all cost. If necessary, it is best to use a touchless car wash, to avoid scratches and damage to your vehicle. These eliminate many of the issues associated with regular, automatic car washes. 

However, touchless car washes do use high-pressure water greater than 2000 psi which could be problematic for your Tesla’s finish and possible damage to the sensors and cameras. 

Nevertheless, if you find yourself in a time crunch and your EV needs a wash, a touchless option can work in a pinch.

Several important details to remember are the “hows” of driving your Tesla into an automatic car wash.

It’s complicated.

Before heading into the automatic car wash tunnel, you need to know your car, model, and features, from putting your car in neutral to turning off the rain-sensing wipers and much more.

Tesla has a section of their site dedicated to taking your Tesla through an automatic car wash.

By my count, there are 14 CAUTIONs and 1 WARNING to be aware of and perform the correct pre-steps before entering the car wash tunnel.

Click here to read the exterior care procedures.

Tesla has posted a warning about your Tesla and touchless automatic car washes.

It sounds serious; on page 135 of Tesla’s owner’s manual, it states, “If washing in an automatic car wash, use touchless car washes only. These car washes have no parts (brushes, etc.) that touch the surfaces of Model 3. Using any other type of car wash could cause damage that is not covered by the warranty.”

Gulp, are you convinced that hand-washing is the best option for cleaning your Tesla?

Great! Let’s get to it then.

How Often Should You Wash Your Tesla?

It is best to wash a Tesla at least every two weeks as a general recommendation. However, your driving habits and various environmental factors might influence the frequency at which a car should be washed. 

AAA Go publication encourages everyone to maintain a clean car exterior by washing about every two weeks, and this is especially true of your high-performance, state-of-the-art Tesla. 

The reasons for this recommended schedule are wide-ranging and intuitive.

  • Get the gunk off: Remove corrosive crud (bird poo, tree sap, dead bugs, road tar, winter salt, industrial pollutants). Do not wait until your usually scheduled wash. It will erode your beautiful finish and impair the operation of the cameras and sensors. Remove tar spots and stubborn grease stains with denatured alcohol. Then immediately rinse the area with water and mild, non-abrasive soap to remove the alcohol.
  • Keep cameras free of dirt, condensation, and other obstructions: These substances can cause unclear pictures or Autopilot and safety features to stop working. Use simple water in a spray bottle or garden hose to remove debris.

Hand-Washing Your Tesla – What You Need To Know

Hand-washing your Tesla may seem daunting, but the task will become less daunting with a bit of planning.

Once you get your rhythm and system down, the results are far superior to any automatic car wash.

There are many ways to hand-wash your Tesla; many products and tools are available.

I’ll give you the down and dirty on the why’s, how to’s, and don’ts when washing your Tesla, and I hope you will even enjoy the journey.

What Supplies Are Needed To Hand-Wash Your Tesla?

Hand washing your Tesla may be a novel idea if you are accustomed to the drive-through car wash option.

No worries. It’s super simple and can be an enjoyable process, even cathartic. Just lean in.

You’ll need several items before beginning. I keep a car washing kit in my garage, always ready when I am.

The less I have to search for these items, the more enjoyable this task is, and I am more likely to do it.

I’ll explain each item in your kit:

  • 2 Buckets: Use a soapy water and rinse bucket – the double-bucket system. This method ensures that the dirt never enters your clean soapy water bucket. For additional protection, you can purchase a Grit Guard for each bucket to sieve the grime and grit to the bottom of the bucket.
  • Soap: Tesla recommends using a mild, non-abrasive soap. The commercial products on the market are numerous. Refer to the maintenance information for your specific Tesla finish.
  • 2 Large Microfiber Towels or Cleaning Mitts: This is all about your personal preference. Either option will work fine for washing and drying your Tesla. Sponges are a poor choice for washing any vehicle because they trap debris in the pores, which will damage the paint, sensors, and cameras. 
  • The Extras: I keep a couple of extra items handy to complete my kit. I include window cleaning supplies, including window cleaner, paper towels, a small squeegee: tire cleaner, interior cleaner, and a small shop vac or standard vacuum with attachments.

That rounds out my kit. I store everything in one of the buckets and stack the buckets creating a small footprint and easy storage.

How To Hand-Wash a Tesla

Hand-washing your Tesla is a simple, and here are the steps:

  1. Rinse and soap up your car using a standard garden hose
  2. Rinse your Tesla using the garden hose
  3. Use microfiber towels or mitts to clean and dry

Rinse and Soap Up Your Car Using a Standard Garden Hose

A nozzle attachment will help during this step to remove debris.

Soap up your Tesla using the Double Bucket System.

This video demonstrates the Double Bucket System from Meguiar’s The Surface Care Specialists since 1901.

Fill both buckets with water and add the soap to one bucket.

Use one of the microfiber towels or mitts in the soapy water bucket.

Use the microfiber towel or mitt to soap up the car – smaller sections at a time.

Important! Do not return the soapy towel or mitt to the soapy bucket until you clean it in the rinse bucket. This method will ensure that debris from the car will not stick to the soapy microfiber towel or mitt and scratch the finish.

This method will also keep the soapy water bucket clean.

Rinse Your Tesla Using the Garden Hose

Remove the nozzle attachment at this time. Rinsing this way will allow the water to flow evenly while the water sheets over the car’s surface, reducing the chance of spotting.

Dry your EV completely using the second microfiber towel or mitt.

Flip and shake the microfiber towel or mitt often to reduce the chance of pulling debris over the car’s surface.

Hand drying will leave your Tesla spot-free and perfectly clean.

When hand-washing your Tesla, it is essential to consider the time of day to plan your wash.

Mornings before 10:00 and in the afternoon after 4:00 are the optimal time slots for washing your EV or any car. 

The direct and hot sun will too quickly dry the car before you can remove the cleaning products or leave spots during the drying off period.

Additionally, your car’s surface must be cool to the touch before the wash begins.

Heat is the enemy of a professional wash.

3. Use Microfiber Towels or Mitts To Clean and Dry

It is best to rub your car in long straight lines rather than circles.

This process reduces the opportunity for scratches and swirls. 

Wash from the top of the car to the bottom. The bottom of the vehicle is the dirtiest.

This method will ensure that debris will not be brought to the vehicle’s top and damage your Tesla.

Key Takeaways

  • Hand-washing is the most recommended method to use to clean your Tesla.
  • Tesla operates at peak performance with a clean exterior surface.
  • Automatic car washes are kind of gross and bad for your Tesla or any vehicle;
  • Touchless automatic car washes are ok to use occasionally.
  • Car cleaning kits are easy to assemble and make hand-washing a snap.
  • The double bucket system will keep your microfiber cleaning towel clean and free of debris that could scratch your Tesla.
  • Early morning and late afternoon are optimal to hand-wash your Tesla.


Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge