How to Clean & Disinfect Your Wheelchair Like a Pro

how to clean a wheelchair

It’s important to keep your wheelchair clean, no matter your disabled condition.

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your wheelchair prevents illness and further complications to your condition.

There are different types of wheelchairs, and each one determines the manner of cleaning you will apply to them.

Generally, you will need a soft sponge or soft cloth/cotton material, mild detergent or hand washing liquid, and water to clean all types of wheelchairs, their upholstery, and other components.

For easy identification, the two major categories of wheelchairs that all specs of wheelchairs fall under are manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs.

Their basic components are armrests, footrests, push handles and push rims, brake levers, joystick, and seat upholstery (leather, Velcro, vinyl).

These components are likely to be touched frequently by you or your caregiver. Hence, they need constant cleaning because they can easily transfer bacteria and viruses, putting you, your caregiver, and others at great risk.

Table of Contents

The Cleaning Materials

  • Fabric pieces, brush, or sponge
  • Mild detergent or a liquid wash
  • Anti-bacterial surface spray (optional)
  • Disinfectant
  • Warm water
  • Dry fabrics

Related: How to Use Transfer Board from Wheelchair to Toilet

The Cleaning Process

Simple Daily Cleaning of Manual and Electric (Power) Wheelchairs

Image credit: upmc.com

Wheel yourself to the sink or basin and wash your hands. Get two soft and small (enough to fit the palm of your hands) fabrics – could be towels or cotton. Dampen it with water.

Put some soap into them and squeeze out some of the soap by adding little water to the materials. Doing this ensures you have the right amount to clean without rinsing with too much water.

Take note that if a caregiver is cleaning for you, let them start cleaning from the push handles you frequently use to propel your wheelchair forward.

If you are cleaning by yourself, use both hands with the fabrics shared between your palms. Start with any component that touches your body, like the seat guard that touches your hips or any seat straps or slings present.

Then wipe down the arm supporting the wheel locks/brakes. Continue by cleaning the hand rims, followed by the footrests, and lastly, the tires.

Wheel yourself for a distance of 10-12feet while cleaning the hand rims and the tires so that you can clean the entire circle of rims and tires. If your caregiver is cleaning, you don’t need to be wheeled about while the cleaning is going on.

Rinse the cloth to get rid of the soap and repeat the same process. Afterward, give the soft materials a quick wash and air them. Once done, wash your hands.

If your wheelchair is an electric spec, then don’t forget to include the joystick, buttons, and touchpad while ensuring you squeeze the fabrics before using them to clean.

Related: List of Where to Sell Wheelchairs

Comprehensive Monthly/Bi-monthly Cleaning and Disinfecting of Manual and Electric (Power) Wheelchair Components

how to clean a wheelchair

For this cleaning process, you can either give a wheelchair cleaning agent, your caregiver, or someone in your family to get the job done. You will need ample space to be comfortable while cleaning.

Focus on the frames, seat and upholstery, brakes, arm, and footrests, push handles, hand rims, and tires. Start with the seat and upholstery. Wash the seat sling and upholstery with water and mild detergent or liquid wash.

Wheelchairs come with different kinds of upholstery like Velcro, vinyl, and leather; you need to identify your to know the best cleaning method for it.

Continue with the frames. If the frames of your wheelchair are titanium coated or polished, use a soft cloth to clean the frame and, if necessary, moisten the cloth with liquid soap and water. You can use polish sprays after giving it a quick clean with the damp fabric.

For a painted frame, wash with a soft clean cloth with soap and water and dry all the wet parts immediately.

You can use a soft clean cloth with soap and water to clean the rest of the components. Then, use a brush, cloth, detergent, and water to clean the rims and tires so that they can sparkle. 

Use warm water, disinfectant, or liquid bleach – use a suitable amount and ensure the product manual admits the use of bleach.

Rinse the components thoroughly or wipe them down with a clean cloth and water. Dry them before the next use.

For the electric wheelchair, make sure to disconnect the plug from the power source and keep the power button off before you attempt cleaning.

Start with the most-touched surfaces like the push handles, armrest, head support, joystick, and other exposed surfaces like the seat and battery pack. Next, use a soft sponge for the metal and plastic surfaces.

Ensure water doesn’t touch any electric component. If it is a fabric or vinyl upholstery, use warm water and mild non-abrasive soap and wipe down with a soft fabric or brush.

If the seat is detachable, then detach it for better cleaning. Rinse by wiping down with another soft fabric and water (remember to use even less water than the quantity for the manual wheelchair).

Disinfect – according to your product manual with a soft cloth. Then, use a dry fabric to clean it dry and air the chair before the next use.  

Related: How to Easily Change a Diaper in a Wheelchair (Complete Guide)

Benefits of Keeping Your Wheelchair Clean

  • Proper maintenance of your wheelchair will result in a longer life span
  • It will keep your wheelchair frequently sanitized
  • It avoids unplanned repair of some parts or total replacement
  • It prevents the wheelchair seat from smelling

Things to Take Note of

  • Do not use a power washer to clean a wheelchair
  • Avoid direct sunlight when drying the upholstery
  • Do not use a strong detergent
  • Avoid using plenty of water when cleaning your wheelchair
  • Don’t use the washing machine to wash the wheelchair upholstery
  • For everyday wheelchair use, best to clean it or wipe it down daily to prevent a build-up of dust and irremovable stain
  • Don’t use solvent or abrasive cleaning products for your electric wheelchair.
  • You should always allow the upholstery to get dried before using it again
  • When cleaning an electric wheelchair, you should make sure the charging port is covered so that water does not get in.
  • Disinfectants might not be effective on penetrable surfaces like foams.
  • You should always disinfect the wheelchair before and after use if more than one person utilizes it.
  • Be sure to check the wheelchair manual, especially if you are making use of specific products
How to Clean & Disinfect Your Wheelchair Like a Pro

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