How to Wash a Tesla Without Scratching it.

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There are safe ways to wash a car

The good news is that your Tesla can keep it’s showroom shine for years if you learn the correct ways to wash it.  But do it the wrong way and the car shine will be gone in no time.

There are a number of washing methods and they’re all good once you understand what you are trying to achieve.

The goal is to get all the dirt off of your car without scratching it.  And then to get it dry safely and top up your shine and protection.

Imagine all of those tiny grains of grit and sand on your car.  Imagine they are all super sharp little rocks.  They will destroy your shine if you let them.

The last thing you want to do is drag those jagged microscopic rocks along your paint.

You want to magically lift them off your car somehow.  (not possible)

But it is possible to wash a car without scratching it.  Or at least, to greatly reduce the number of scratches you inflict.

The Two-Bucket Method

Most people follow the two bucket method.  And there is a good reason for that.

The two bucket method is easy and safe.  And you don’t need a pressure washer if you don’t have one.  But if you do have one, even better.

Basically, you need two buckets.  One bucket contains water with car shampoo and the other just clean water.

Both buckets should contain grit guards, especially if you haven’t pre-rinsed with a pressure washer first. 

Grit guards sit on the bottom of your buckets and prevent you from collecting a mitt full of grit and rubbing it all over the car.  You can also scrub the mitt against the grit guard.

With the two-bucket method, you collect some sudsy water from the soap bucket using your trusty mitt.  You then wash one section of your car with the mitt.

And once you have cleaned a section of your car you rinse the mitt in the rinse bucket before collecting another load of clean soapy water.  The soapy water bucket should remain relatively clean.

Remember that the goal is to loosen the dirt so you can rinse if off,  You don’t need to get it all off with the mitts.

Never scrub.  If you find an area of mud that just seems to be stubborn, don’t scrub it.  Give it more time to soak and try again.  Scrubbing equals scratches.  I should’ve called this site

Use a dedicated car shampoo

Don’t use dish soap to wash your Tesla.  It doesn’t offer any protection against scratching.

A typical car shampoo contains ingredients that feel very slick and slimy when you rub it between your fingers.  It will do this even when it’s foamy.  Dish soap is the opposite of this.

Car soap wraps itself around those tiny specs of dirt and helps keep it away from your paint.  It will also help dissolve grease and dirt and make it easier to remove.

Basic Steps for the Two Bucket Method

  1. Apply wheel cleaner spray on dry wheels.
  2. Wash wheels, tires and wheel wells.
  3. Throw away water from wheel bucket.
  4. Rinse down whole car.
  5. Wash with two bucket method.
  6. Rinse.
  7. Apply spray wax.
  8. Rinse.
  9. Dry.
  10. Apply tire shine.

Important Car Wash Equipment.

I already mentioned that you need to use a dedicated car shampoo.

But proper wash mitts are also important.  Im afraid you can use a brush or a sponge.

The wash mitts I use are lambswool or microfiber wash mitts.  They pick up dirt in their fibers and don’t let it sit on the paint.

Lambs wool wash mitts are the best.  These cost a little more and I they are usually used by professional car detailers.  Definitely worth the money if you can afford it.

Is a pressure washer needed to wash a Tesla?

This is of course debatable.  But a pressure washer helps get lots of dirt off before you touch it with a wash mitt.  The dirt isn’t dragged over the surface. 

I use my pressure washer all year round but I find its most useful in winter when my can can get covered in mud and salt.

A pressure washer greatly reduces the amount of scratches you put in the car. 

Another benefit is that you can use it to create foam which soaks in to dirt and softens it.

Why its a good idea to wash your wheels first.

This is a good rule to follow because brake dust particles are really good at scratching paint.

It’s good practice to use a separate bucket and mitt for the wheels and wheel wells/arches.

An iron remover spray is very effective and cleaning wheels.  You don’t need to use it every time you wash unless your wheels seem really dirty.

You can use special soft brushes to get in tight angles and into the wheel barrel. 

A car with dirty tires doesn’t look washed to me.

If the brown stains on your tires bother you, the best thing to use is an All Purpose Cleaner (APC) or a Super Degreaser product.  They cut through the dirt on your tires and this also helps any tire shire product you use to last longer and look better.

Pre Rinsing

Before touching your paint with a wash mitt, it’s a good idea to hose your car down if you can.  This will remove some loose dirt and soften stuck on mud.  Spray off any stuck on thick mud.  The more you can remove before you touch your car the better.  

Pre Foaming

Even better if you have a pressure wash you can get a foam cannon for it.  This foam will greatly soften any grease and dirt on your car.  You can then blast it away with the pressure washer.

This can result in a huge reduction in scratching when you do the hand wash because the majority of any dirt that could cause scratches has been removed.  Bilt hamber Autofoam is the best one I have used.

But you can use any foaming shampoo like the excellent Chemical Guys Honey Dew Snow Foam.

Wash in the Shade

If soap bubbles dry out they can cause stains.  So ideally wash when it’s not too hot and when the paint is cool to the touch.

Wax and Rinse

Want to restore some shine the easy way? A spray wax that you spray on to a wet car and rinse off is a secret weapon of mine.  Modern ones are incredibly effective.  Try Meguiars Hybrid Ceramic Wax.  Thank me later.

My Paint Feels Rough

If you gently rub your fingers over your wet paint it might feel rough.  This is usually tar and iron and other road filth.  Do not try to scrub this off when washing.  That will (you guessed it) cause scratches.

You can use a few chemical products like iron remover and tar remover.  These can be very effective because they get the dirt off without you having to touch your car too much.

You can also use a clay bar but these things can actually cause scratches so be warned.  But they do a fantastic job of removing that bonded contamination from your paint.  I would always use a dedicated clay bar lubricant and use plenty of it.

How to Dry Your Car

Drying is key.  Letting your car dry naturally will result in water spots that can be hard to remove.  Especially on dark colored cars.

Don’t use a bathroom towel.  Use a proper plus car drying towel or two.  Use a detailer spray to add a little shine and protection while drying.

Or you can use a dedicated care air dryer or a leaf blower. These will offer the most protection.

You Missed a Bit

If you see any bits of dirt you missed the best thing to do is get the wash mitt out again.  But if it’s just a small bit then a detailer spray might be OK.  

But you can cause a lot of scratches if you just wipe down the dirty area with your drying towel and no protection.

To do around door seals I usually use a detailer spray if it’s not too dirty.  Again, don’t use too much pressure and use a microfibre towel or six.

The Multi Mitt Method

This is the main method I use now.  I like it because it’s quick and safe.

Its especially safe if you have given your car a pre wash with your foam cannon and pressure washer.  This is because the majority of dirt that would cause scratches has been removed.

It’s called the multi mitt method because once your wash mitt gets dirty you grab another clean one and continue.

You could use up to 8 wash mitts.

You need one bucket of soapy water for the wheels and another bucket for the rest of the car.

Using ONR to wash a Tesla.

Optimum No Rinse is great for people who have limited access to water.

But I sometimes use it when I’m in a hurry.  

If my car is dirty I would first apply foam with my pressure washer and rinse it off.  I would then go over the whole car with ONR.  


You can badly scratch your Tesla if you don’t learn the right way to wash and dry it.  It’s actually very easy once you understand what’s happening and what causes scratches.  The Multi-Mitt method and Two Bucket method are two safe ways to wash your car by hand.  Good exercise too.

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