Washing an Electric Vehicle vs Gas? 5 Questions Answered

Just bought an electric vehicle like a Tesla and need to give it a good wash? Relax, there’s nothing to worry about from a safety standpoint. There are some things you should know if you’re new to the game, so keep reading.

While electricity and water don’t mix, electric vehicle batteries in vehicles like Teslas contain an IP67 rating, making them safe even when submerged in water up to one meter. This rating you can read more about here; it means a vehicle  be submerged up to a meter in height for up to 30 minutes. Some EV vehicles I’ve seen even contain IP68 rating, less common in the commercial market at the time of this post.

An EV vehicle’s IP rating is a standard that manufacturers must adhere to that ensures dust and water resistance.

But enough of the technical safety stuff…let’s talk practical nuances to be aware of.

In this blog post, I’ll start with the basics and break down everything you need to know about washing an electric vehicle as opposed to a gas one. It mainly comes come to minor details.

Is washing an electric vehicle any different than a gas-powered vehicle?

car wash business

There are no fundamental differences between washing an electric car versus a gas car. It is good to know where your car’s battery pack and ports are located to be mindful of these areas if you’re using a high-powered pressure washer.

Unless you are deliberately trying to damage the battery by applying high pressure in close proximity underneath the car, you’re fine.

Are undercarriage car washes safe for electric or hybrid vehicles?

undercarriage wash

Car washes of any kind are perfectly safe for electric vehicles and hybrids, even washes with undercarriage sprayers. EV vehicles are rated at IP67, which technically exceeds the IP66 rating needed to withstand high-pressure water jets.

It’s not until you point close range, high pressure, and high-temperature jets at an EV that you start to experience problems; and let’s face it…that’s not going to happen at car washes.

Can you wash an electric vehicle while it’s charging?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to wash an electric vehicle while it’s charging, since charging connectors are designed to be waterproof. With that in mind, it’s better to unplug for convenience anyway.

Unless you are deliberately aiming high-pressure water directly at the charging port, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Going out of your way to damage the connectors or charging cord is obviously foolish, but EVs are designed to be able to charge in the rain, snow, and other elements. They don’t spend millions on testing for nothing :)

Should you wash an electric vehicle by hand or go touch-free?

best foam cannon

It doesn’t matter whether you do use a wash mitt or go touchless–as long as you are happy with the results. Some people complain about the thin clear coast found on  Teslas, which may make them more prone to scratching.

If you do own a Tesla, it is a good idea to use a foam cannon to limit physical contact. Many people opt for a completely touchless wash, but that oftentimes doesn’t remove dirt.

There is a purpose to using a wash mitt, but the reason people leave scratches is often due to:

  1. Not using enough soap between the mash mitt and surface
  2. Apply too much pressure with the wash mitt, as opposed to grazing the surface.

A wash mitt is able to remove the static bond that causes dirt to cling to a vehicle, but not designed for scrubbing or applying pressure. The purpose is to release the static bond, and guide the dirty suds off the vehicle without applying pressure. 

The suds are what do all of the work of encapsulating dirt, not the mitt.

How do you clean the interior of a Tesla or other electric vehicle?

dusting car interior

Cleaning the interior of a Tesla or electric vehicle is no different than most vehicles, but you should pay careful attention not to damage its electronics.

Check out tip #6 on my post, 17 Interior Detailing Secrets, where I cover why using electrical contact cleaner is important for buttons and other areas that can be damaged.

I cover new methods like steam cleaning which are gaining popularity, in addition to why you want to use detailing brushes (my personal favorite) for areas like vents.

Manufacturers like Tesla also don’t recommend using alcohol-based products like hand sanitizer to clean the large touchscreen, but instead a dedicated lint-free cloth.

Conclusion

Despite what some may tell you, there are no fundamental differences in how you wash an electric vehicle vs. a gas vehicle.

It’s actually easier in some ways since you don’t have to clean the engine bay or deal with dirty exhaust pipes.

Don’t have the time to properly wash your electric vehicle? Check out my review of Get Spiffy, one of the best on-demand auto detailing services in the United States. Their app is definitely worth trying out if a hose and bucket aren’t for you!

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