Charging an EV at home takes time. The car is going to be plugged in for hours at a time. Should you be washing an electric car while it is plugged in? Let’s look at the documentation.
Can you give your EV a wash while it is plugged in and charging?
When washing using the traditional hose, bucket, and mitt method, the main concern is of course water entering the charging inlet of the vehicle. We would advise against washing an EV while it is charging at home. Water and soap solution may enter the charging inlet during the washing process, or even after the wash when you remove the charging connector from the inlet.
Here is why: the Tesla NACS connector specification (section 7.3.1) says that when the connector is in the charging inlet, it must withstand a rating of IP44. In simple language, a rating of IP44 means it must protect against objects larger than 1 mm from entering the system and it must withstand low-velocity splashes of water. Such as rain and snow, for example. (The J1772 connector specification is similar)
However, rinsing soap using a hose creates large torrents of water rushing down the sides of the EV, not a gentle splash. Using a pressure washer further accelerates the water to velocities past the IP44 specification.
Having that said, the risk of damage or electrocution is still small; there are multiple safeguards built into EV charging ports and home charging stations. But we would still advise using common sense and unplugging the EV for the 15-20 minutes it takes to wash the exterior. Ideally, you should be charging your car at night, when it is not in use anyway.
When using waterless car wash products, this advice of course does not apply.
Are there risks to washing EVs at an Automatic Car Wash?
No, automatic car washes pose the same level of risk to EVs as any other car. When referring to the connector specification again (section 7.1.1) The closed and unmated charging port must withstand an IP67 rating. This means the closed port must withstand all solid objects, water jet sprays, and momentary water immersion. You can spray a closed port at will, without concern of water penetration. Tesla cars specifically, have a Car Wash Mode in the Service menu that locks the charging port so it is not accidentally opened during an automatic wash.
Do EVs need special care when cleaning the interior?
No additional care or products are required for cleaning the inside of an EV. You can vacuum, wipe, and declutter your car even while it is charging.
The interiors of modern EVs are often dominated by large display screens that collect fingerprints. A soft dry cloth is the safest tool for cleaning screens from fingerprints.
Leather upholstery (and vegan leather in Teslas) is best cleaned with a lightly damp soft cloth.