A couple of disclaimers:
- I am sharing my experiences and preferences. I am not suggesting you do this or making any warranties or the like. If you decide to try this yourself, you do this at your own risk.
- I am a bit obsessive about car care, so, where it made sense, I differentiated between "basic" steps and "OCD" steps
PRODUCTS AND TOOLS
There are myriad products out there, many very good and some not so much. Here I have listed what I use and why, so you have a starting point to making your own product choices. Sites like Autogeek are a useful resource for product reviews, how-to advice, etc.
I have OptiCoat on the car and am a fan of the products. The product at the heart of this entire process is Optimum No Rinse Wash and Wax (ONRWW). This stuff is green magic in a bottle and works on any finish, you do not have to have OC applied beforehand (I have washed my wife's Jeep and son's Nissan with it with good results). By itself, it will give you great results. If you want to up your game a bit, I can suggest two additional products:
- I use Optimum Instant Detailer and Gloss Enhancer in a spray bottle while I am drying because its lubricity further reduces chances of scratching while drying and it leaves the slick finish that I miss with OptiCoat.
- I use Optimum Opti-Bond Tire Gel on the tires. It leaves a low-key satin finish (which I like) and it lasts through multiple washings. If you like a glossier finish, this is likely not the product for you. One other area I use this product on the dark paint on the bottom of the rocker panels--keeps then nice and dark.
My philosophy is that microfiber (MF) cloths are relatively cheap, paint is expensive. I think one of the secrets for success with no-rinse or no-water washes is to not be stingy with the MFs: invest in high-quality MFs.
For cleaning painted surfaces, I use the purple Cobra Deluxe Jr. 600 Microfiber Towels. I like these because one side has a deep nap for picking up and holding dirt away from the paint as well as a low-nap side for gentle "scrubbing" (for instance, bug splatter on the nose cone). when picking an MF, I think the thick nap is a key detail.
For cleaning wiping down dirty spots like the door jambs, trunk channels and wheels, I use the Griot's Garage Tim's Dirty Spots Micro Fiber Wipe Down Towel. You will notice this towel has a waffle weave, so it releases dirt more easily. I think its important to not use the same MFs for paint and dirty spots as these towels never really get clean.
For applying the tire gel, I use something like the Chemical Guys MIC29202 Premium Grade Microfiber Applicator (the green sponge in the pic is a similar product from Griot's Garage). Dedicate a sponge to this purpose as it will never get completely clean. BTW, this type of sponge is great for applying product to car seats, interior panels, etc. You could also use the grey MFs to apply tire gel if you don't want to get the detail sponges.
I use the yellow Griots Garage MF Drying Towels - lots of options here, I just happen to have a number of these from back in the days when I used to do the two-bucket method.
For cleaning glass, I use the Griot's Garage PFM Dual Weave Glass Towel. I really like this towel: if has a nappy side for cleaning then a smooth side to "polish" the glass.
You can certainly clean your wheels with just the grey MF towels, but if you want to head into OCD territory a bit, I can recommend a couple of tools:
The middle tool is the Viking 942500 Flexible Wheel Stick. I came across it by accident and and glad I did. While it is not a "necessity", it does speed up cleaning of both the Tesla 19" and 21" wheels. Its nice because it has a "fluffy" side which is good for getting into nooks and crannies and a mesh side for tougher stains.
For cleaning the wheel barrels (OCD territory), I use the Chemical Guys ACCM10 Wheel Woolies Wheel Brush (top--they come in a 3-pack with different sizes, largest one is shown here) and the Griot's Garage Long-Reach Wheel Scrubber Brushes (bottom). I provide details on how I use these later.
I hate cheap, crappy spray bottles, this one rocks: Kwazar Mercury Pro 360 - 0.5 Liter (17oz.) Trigger Spray Bottle. One other recommendation is picking up some Griot's Garage Micro Fiber & Foam Pad Cleaner. If you have invested in some nice MF's might as well take care of them.
Lots of options for glass cleaners--this is what I use largely because its handy and they both work very well. I try to use gentler cleaners so any overspray doesn't damage paint or interior surfaces.
For bug splatter, I use Griots Garage Bug & Smudge Remover and a grey MF. It works very well, but does not completely play well with ONRWW, so I will usually pre-clean the bug splatter before I wash the car. I have been playing with Griot's Garage Bug Barrier as a preventative--seems to work well, but it does impact the shine a bit, so I don't always use it.
Beyond these, the only thing you need is two buckets (a clean and dirty bucket like you do with the traditional two-bucket wash method) and a couple of gallons of water.
This whole process usually takes me 60-75 min, depending on how much of a workout I want to get. I am sure someone more motivated could do it in less time, but I enjoy doing this so finishing quickly is usually not my priority.
- Put 2 gallons of water in the "clean" bucket and add 1oz of Optimum No-Rinse Wash and Wash
- Put 4 purple wash MFs in the clean bucket and let them completely soak.
- In theory, you can use one MF and rinse it and reuse it. I feel this opens up the risk of scratching the paint, so with my approach, you are always using a fresh wiping surface (more details in the next step)
- I find I can clean typically dirty car with four of the purple cloths. With a dirtier car, simply use more MFs--the most I have ever used is six.
[*=center]Grab a wet purple MF from the clean bucket (don't wring it out) and fold it in half (with the nappy side out) then fold in half again.
- By doing so, I have folded the MF into quarters and you now have four wiping surfaces for each MF: wipe -> turn over and wipe -> refold and wipe > turn over and wipe
- Pick a panel to wash, start at the top and wipe in zig zag pattern from top to bottom. Important: never go back over your wiping or get to the bottom and go to the top again, you run the risk of scratching your paint.
- Use light pressure, let the MF do the work
- For a lightly dirty car, I can usually clean one panel (quarter panel, door+window) with one wiping surface
- If the car is dirty, switch to a new wiping surface more open, for instance, you may need two wiping surfaces to clean a car door
[*=center]Here is the "after" pic
- Here is the flow I usually follow:
- Driver's half of trunk glass, half of pano roof, half of windshield (flip cloth)
- Passenger's half of trunk glass, pano roof and windshield (refold cloth)
- Driver's half of front bumper cover, headlights and nose cone (flip)
- Passenger's half of front bumper cover, headlights and nose cone (discard MF and grab a new one)
- Driver's side front door and window (flip)
- Driver's side rear door and window (refold)
- Driver's side front quarter panel (flip)
- Driver's side rear quarter panel (don't discard just yet)
- Use the other side of the MF (if you use purple one, the side with the short nap) to clean the driver side rear view mirror and wipe both driver's side wheel arches (discard MF and grab a new one)
- Trunk lid down to the edge of the trunk (flip)
- Rear bumper and rear fascia (refold)
- Driver's side of the frunk (flip)
- Passenger's side of the frunk (discard MF and grab a new one)
- Passenger's side front door and window (flip)
- Passenger's side rear door and window (refold)
- Passenger's side front quarter panel (flip)
- Passenger's side rear quarter panel (don't discard just yet)
- Use the other side of the MF (if you use purple one, the side with the short nap) to clean the passenger's side rear view mirror and wipe both passenger's side wheel arches
- After you are done wiping a panel, spray it with the detailer (if you are using that), then wipe it with the drying MF
- Use minimal pressure, let the MF do the work
- I scrunch up the MF (as oppose to folding it) to minimize pressure
- I usually need 2-3 drying MFs to dry the car
- How many panels you can wet at one time is usually a function of the weather as its really important to not let the wash solution dry on the paint. In the summer, that usually means doing one panel at a time. In fall, or overcast weather, I can often do a whole side at one time (make sure to keep the flipping schedule)
- Pop open the doors, trunk and frunk, dip one the grey MFs in the ONRWW, wring it out, then wipe down the door sills, door jams, inside of the frunk, underside of the trunk lid, and the top of the rear bumper, under the trundled, which always seems to collect dirt
- At this point, if the car is lightly dirty, its OK to rinse and re-use a grey MF. If its really dirty, use multiple MFs.
- Close all the doors, trunk and frunk, the use the drying MF to dry the handles and the areas behind the handles along with the bottoms of the windows that get wet when the window drops/raises as you open/close the doors.
- Pour the remaining water+ONRWW mixture into the "dirty" bucket. The reason I use two buckets is that wheels are amazingly dirty and the wheel washing bucket will never truly get clean without a lot of extra washing. That dirt will then contaminate your washing MFs next time you wash your car if you use the same bucket for paint and wheels.
[*=center]Soak a grey MF or a tool like the Viking Wheel Stick in the wash solution then use it to wash the outside of the wheel and the tire then use a second grey MF to dry the wheel. I use the detailing spray on the wheel as it seems to help the wheel stay a bit cleaner longer
- If you are going to clean the barrel:
[*=center]First use the Long-Reach Scrubber, dip it in the wash solution, then scrub the barrel--it takes a bit of manipulation to clean the area behind the spokes - with the 21" wheels, there is enough space to use a grey MF and reach in with your hands
- Wrap a grey MF around the Wheel Woolie and dry the inside of the barrel. For the 21" wheels, the large woolie works, probably the small woolie for the 19" wheels
- Bear in mind that "there is stuff back there", so be gentle, take you time, and don't force anything--if you need to apply any pressure, you are doing it wrong
[*=center]Here is the final result--because the 21" wheel are so open, I think it is worth the effort:
- Spray Tire Gel on the detail sponge and wipe each tire (optional)
- (Last step!) Clean the glass one last time. If you use the detailer spray, you will need to do this as you will have overspray (which might not be immediately apparent). If you don't use the detailer spray, then, depending on your technique, this step might be optional.
- Wash out your buckets, rinse out your tools, and wash your MFs so you are ready for next time.
The results of your labor should be something like this:
That's about it. Hopefully this makes the whole no-rinse process a little less scary and also shows you that you can get good results for the long-term.