How To Clean a Wheelchair: Methods, Materials, and Checklists!


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If you want your wheelchair to have a long lifespan, you should put some time into regular cleaning. It is important that a wheelchair functions properly since it enables you to move around independently. But, do you know how to clean a wheelchair properly?

Regular cleaning not only makes it work better but it also reduces the risk of problems caused by germs which inevitably collect on your wheelchair. For this reason disinfecting wheelchairs is as important as wiping them down.

You should always read the manufacturer’s instructions to learn which cleaning methods work best for your wheelchair, and what to avoid to prevent damage.

That being said, the methods suggested in this article are universal, and you can use them as a guideline when cleaning. Removing grime and dirt collected on your wheelchair makes the next cleaning easier.

Below you will find advice on how to clean a wheelchair properly, and what to pay attention to when cleaning each part.

General Cleaning Advice

Wheelchair cleaning is fairly simple if you do it before dirt accumulates. You should wipe down your chair often with a moist towel to avoid debris building up. Be sure the towel isn’t too wet. How often you should do this depends on how often you use the wheelchair. If you are not a regular user, you can do this once a week.

Some people have two wheelchairs, for outdoor and indoor use. This solution is good, but also expensive. If you use the same wheelchair for going outside, you should pay more attention to cleaning and do it more often. Also, if you spill something on your chair it is best to clean it as soon as possible to avoid bad odors later.

blue bucket with spray cleaners, rags, and a sponge

Cleaning Materials Checklist

Here is a checklist of basic things you will need to ensure your wheelchair hygiene. These include:

  • Disinfectant spray (OdoBan , Lysol or something similar)
  • Cleaning spray
  • Microfiber towel 
  • Cleaning brush (or a toothbrush)
  • Mild detergent
  • Warm water
  • Compressed air can  or something similar (to blow out dirt from some hard to reach spots)

It’s useful to have a cleaning schedule, and plan what you need to do every day, every week and every month.

Cleaning Tips for Different Wheelchair Parts

Begin the process by disassembling the wheelchair. Take off the seat and back cushions and other removable fabric components. You can also remove the wheels for better access to all surfaces of the wheelchair.

You need to prepare a bucket with warm water and some detergent added. Antibacterial cleaners are also good and should be used, but be careful when choosing since some can damage the chair.

Here is a nice video demonstration on how to simply clean your wheelchair:

Below is a simple wheelchair cleaning checklist with helpful advice for cleaning each part of your wheelchair. The checklist also helps you be sure you didn’t forget something.

Seat and Upholstery

You should dampen a towel in water with mild detergent, and remove excess water from the towel. Then gently wipe down every surface, removing the dirt. You can also use antibacterial or baby wipes instead of the towel.

Just be sure to always allow the upholstery to dry off properly. On some wheelchairs, parts of the upholstery can be removed and washed in a machine, but this is discouraged if it isn’t specified in your manufacturer’s instructions.

Wheels (Spokes & Mags)

close up of a wheelchair spoke wheel and the wheel locks

The best way to clean wheelchair wheels is to take them off if that’s not too complicated for you. This enables you to reach everything from both sides.

Mags are probably easier to clean than spokes but whichever type you have dirt can be stuck in certain places, especially if you use your chair outdoors. You can use compressed air spray to blow out all the debris and clumps that collected on your wheels.

After that, you can use wet towel or antibacterial wipes to wipe down the spokes or mags. If you can’t reach everything try using a toothbrush. Regarding tires, you can wipe them down or use a tire cleaning product used for bicycles.

There are also washable tire covers available which are easy to put on and take off and can be washed in a machine.

Hand Rims

They can get really dirty, especially outside. Luckily, because of their design, they are really easy to wipe down. You should do this often to prevent the bacteria passing to your hands and causing problems.

As with the frame, a slightly damp cloth is good for wiping the hand rims. Also, it’s good to use a disinfectant every now and then just to be sure everything is safe for using.

Casters

close up of wheelchair caster and footrests

Caster wheels easily pick up hair, carpet and other fiber and get stuck.

A good solution is to have a pair of tweezers so you can pull out all the debris that prevents wheels from sliding properly. A toothbrush can also be helpful when cleaning hard to reach areas.

Also, you should dry off casters regularly is you use the wheelchair outside in wet conditions. If you don’t, they may lose their lubrication and become corroded, and you’ll need to replace them.

Legrests and Footrests

Footrests are usually made from sturdy materials which are generally safe for cleaning.

However, you may want to use a disinfectant on them more often because feet sometimes touch the ground before placing them on the footrests, and transfer a certain amount of dirt that way.

Also, leg rests are often cushions which are padded in a similar manner as armrests, so you should take the same care of them. The metal parts should be wiped down and dried off completely.

Frame

clean manual wheelchair in waiting room

The frame is easily maintained, as regular wiping should do the job just fine.

However, it is very important to use the appropriate cleaners because the metal can be sensitive and easily damaged with aggressive cleaning products.

Also, to prevent the frame from rusting, always dry it off with a dry towel after wiping.

Arms and Arm Pads

These are padded to make them more comfortable for you when resting. It’s good to know which material was used in making them in order to avoid damage with cleaning products.

Like I said, a slightly damp cloth soaked in gentle detergent is always a good choice, and if you want to use other products you should inform yourself first.

For example, many armrests are padded with leather or similar materials, and it would be advisable to use a product that preserves leather and prevents cracks.

Wheelchair Cushion

The cushion often has a cover that can be removed. According to manufacturer’s instruction, some covers can be washed in a washing machine, while other should be washed by hand or even just wiped down and sprayed with products.

If you do wash it in a machine, use a gentle cycle only and allow the cover to dry completely before putting it back on the cushion. It is best if the cushion is cleaned before going to bed, so it has enough time to dry.

close up of a washer with a basket of laundry

When it comes to the sponge or foam of the cushion, it can be washed by hand but be aware that this type of material takes a really long time to dry.

If you put it back while still moist, it can produce unpleasant odors or even mold. Wheelchair cushion can also get dirty and smelly if a person suffers from incontinence.

Besides methods already mentioned, you can use products to additionally disinfect and remove odors from the cushion. 


Summary

Keeping your wheelchair clean is very important both for you and for the wheelchair itself. You protect yourself from dangerous germs that can cause you harm, and the wheelchair functions properly for a longer time period. This is very friendly towards your budget.

Also, you can inspect your wheelchair for potential malfunctions while cleaning, and prevent some potentially costly repairs. In addition to hygiene, the most important thing is not to damage the chair during the process. Be sure to read the manual, and try out the tips on how to clean a wheelchair to get best possible results.

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