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how to clean a wheelchair

How to Clean a Wheelchair to Improve Equipment Life and Usability

Wheelchairs can get messy. They’re in constant contact with the ground. That means that mud and debris can get caught in the spokes. And, because the people using them sometimes drop food, the upholstery often gets dirty. This means that they need to be cleaned both for your comfort and to avoid infections. Clumps of hair or dirt will cause permanent damage to the chair or prevent it from working properly. That’s why this you must clean your wheelchair regularly. 

But, cleaning a wheelchair isn’t as easy as it might sound. Wheelchairs are made of a few different materials which means different cleaning procedures. They’re also awkward, with sharp edges and little corners where dirt can gather. To help you with this chore, we’ve created this guide to ensure that you clean your manual wheelchair properly.

Wheelchair Cleaning Supplies

The cleaning equipment you use will depend on what type of wheelchair you have. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines before you start. To make the cleaning easier, wipe down your chair every couple of days with a clean, damp towel. This will remove most of the mess and stop build-up. 

For a more thorough cleaning, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • An old toothbrush
  • An anti-bacterial spray
  • Vinegar
  • Some old cloths
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Bicycle tire cleaner

Safe Cleaners for Wheelchairs

You can use most anti-bacterial sprays on your wheelchair. Just make sure you dry it afterwards to avoid corrosion. You should also let the wheelchair dry for a little while before sitting in it to avoid any reactions. Don’t use steel wool or petroleum based cleaners on your wheelchair as they will strip the paint.

cleaning bottle

How to Clean your Cushion

Your chair will probably have a fabric cushion or back support. Make sure you remove these parts before you start cleaning. Clean your wheechair regularly to remove odors and stains. If they’re left for too long the will become very unhygienic.

A good tip is to clean these parts of your chair at night so they can dry before you need to use them again in the morning. Use vinegar to disinfect the cushion and to help remove odors. You can use a spray bottle for this part of the cleaning or wipe the cushion down with a vinegar soaked cloth. Some cushion covers are machine washable too. Check the cover tag or with the manufacturer to verify this. 

How to Clean the Frame

Once the fabric is removed, clean the frame. You can use a cloth soaked in detergent or anti-bacterial spray to wipe down the entire frame. Because wheelchairs have crevices created by screws or nuts, you may have trouble getting rid of all the debris. You can use a toothbrush to get into these tight corners. An air compressor is good for blowing this away too. Make sure you dry the chair thoroughly afterwards to remove residue and prevent corrosion.

How to Clean the Upholstery

The back and seat of your chair tends to collect any food or hair that you drop and gets very dirty quickly. Make sure you clean up any spills as soon as they occur. But, still clean this part of the chair regularly.

Before you clean the upholstery make sure you check the manufacturer’s guidelines. If special instructions are given for cleaning this part of your chair, make sure you follow them. If not, then clean the upholstry the same way as the rest of the chair. Use the detergent or anti-bacterial spray to thoroughly clean every inch. Use the toothbrush or air compressor to clean right down into the corners. Dry the upholstery well and give it time to air dry as well before you sit in it again.

vinegar for cleaning a wheelchair

How to Clean the Wheels and Spokes

To clean the wheels and spokes use a damp cloth with detergent. You may need the toothbrush again here to get into corners where your fingers won’t comfortably fit. You can also use the air compressor to remove stubborn dirt in tight areas. Make sure you clean the wheels thoroughly.

Wheelchairs are usually used outside as well as inside which means that they pick up a lot of dirt. If you let this dirt remain in the tires it will stain your hands and mess up your floor. Depending on your make of wheelchair, a bicycle tire cleaner makes this job easier. Afterwards, make sure you dry the spokes and wheels thoroughly. Any moisture left behind could cause damage or corrosion to these most important components of your chair.

Final Thoughts

Any equipment should stay clean and well maintained if it’s going to work properly. That’s especially true of wheelchairs. Without proper cleaning, your wheelchair will look and smell bad and harbour potentially dangerous bacteria. Food or other materials may even jam the various mechanisms and cause damage or injury. With this quick and simple guide on how to clean your wheelchair, you’ll  avoid these problems and keep your chair in a perfect and useful condition.

About the Author Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

I work daily with seniors and the elderly in my position as a wheelchair specialist at a home medical company. I see the struggle they have maintaining their independence and living their daily lives. Most are completely unaware of the options and products out there that can improve their independence, mobility, and safety in their home. I created this site to help seniors, elders, and their caregivers make smart buying decisions about the many independent living aids on the market.

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