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How to Clean a Wheelchair? (Easy Steps to Follow + Tips)

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Wheelchairs contain a lot of hidden bacteria and dirt, which require a good cleaning to help you stay healthy as you use this mobility device.  

After extensive research, I have found straightforward steps to help keep your wheelchair clean and disinfected. Want to know more? Read to find out. 

CHECK: Best Wheelchair for Long-term Use

12 Supplies Needed to Clean a Wheelchair

set of cleaning equipemnt

Paraplegic YouTuber MeantToBeLindseyB shared that when cleaning her chair, “It’s sometimes hard to find tools that can help you clean good.” 

The thing is, you don’t necessarily need expensive cleaning products or a lot of chemical products. Some materials can be seen in your household. 

Here is a list of materials you can use in your wheelchair cleaning.

For the Cleaning Base:

  • A mild detergent solution, or synthetic detergents;
  • Alcohol solution or wipes;
  • Warm soapy water;
  • Foaming cleanser;
  • Disinfectant spray.

For Removing Any Dirt:

  • Disinfectant or cleaning wipes;
  • Clean damp cloth;
  • Sponge;
  • Cleaning brush.

To Finish Your Clean:

  • A dry and clean cloth or;
  • Paper towel or;
  • Commercial dryers.

Thorough cleaning will take a couple of minutes of your time. Regular cleaning will also save you from a long deep clean

2 Best Ways to Clean a Wheelchair

cleaning wheelchair foam

The American Journal of Infection Control described wheelchairs as complicated pieces of equipment. They said that:

“They come into close contact with people who are more likely to transfer and acquire antibiotic-resistant bacteria and health-care-associated infections.” [1]

Which type of wheelchair do you have? Your cleaning routine varies whether you have a manual wheelchair or a power wheelchair.

Cleaning Your Manual Wheelchair

Here are seven easy steps for you:

  1. Remove all chair cushion material and wash by hand or by washing machine. For machine washing, a gentle cycle of washing is preferred.
  2. Wash your clean cloth. For the wheelchair frame, use damp cloths with a bucket of water. Mix the clean water with your cleaning solution.
  3. Alternatively, you may use antibacterial wipes or a disinfectant spray.
  4. The focus of disinfection and regular wiping are commonly-touched parts such as the push handles, current wheelchair handle covers, hand rim, wheel locks, armrests, and the wheelchair frame.
  5. You may use a cleaning brush to remove dirt and germs from the front tires, rear wheels, and caster wheels. Use all-purpose silicone lubricant spray to refresh the wheels.
  6. Use a bristle brush to pull the hair out for hair caught in the velcro closures.
  7. Wipe with a dry cloth and air dry.

More Tips For Your Manual Wheelchair Maintenance: 

  1. To protect the wheels from massive dirt or mud, you may use wheelchair wheel covers. 
  2. To remove the amounts of germs, I highly recommend cleaning with antibacterial solutions for the seat and surfaces. 
  3. Wiping with antibacterial wipes regularly helps reduce the chances of germ growth.

Here’s a video about easy life hacks and tips for cleaning as a wheelchair user.

Moving on to the other type, this is the much-awaited part for the power wheelchair user! Here are the steps on how to clean your electric wheelchair. 

Cleaning Your Electric Wheelchair

A different cleaning method is needed for an electric wheelchair. These include:

  1.  Make sure that the power source is turned off. Flip the breaker circuit or remove the battery.
  2. Mix your hot water and mild detergent solution. Damp your sponge.
  3. Start by wiping on the joystick. It is the primarily germ-exposed part of the chair.
  4. Wash your sponge and go over the other parts of your seat: armrests, push handles, control unit switches, and other areas. 
  5. Use a foaming cleanser to loosen and remove the second dirtiest part: the footplate.
  6. When cleaning wheelchair wheels, use a damp rag and mild detergent. 
  7. Rinse well and let dry. Others recommend bicycle tire cleaning chemicals for wheelchair wheels. [2]

More Electric Wheelchair Cleaning Tips: How Not to Ruin Your Power Wheels

I know you’re excited about cleaning the moveable components. But use caution as it might ruin your assistive device. Leave them to the service provider.

Here are more cleaning reminders for you:

  1. Running water is a BIG NO! It will damage the electrical components. So, use a damp rag or sponge.
  2. Do not take off the seat cover. Use an air compressor instead. It’s a great way to get rid of the dirt in the area. A blow dryer is helpful too.
  3. If you can’t help but remove the wheelchair cushions, check the manual first.
  4. Avoid using harsh chemicals such as bleach on your chair. It will make it crack and tear.
  5. Do not remove the lubricant. Also, WD40 or other regular lubricating solutions are discouraged.
  6. Communicate with your service provider if your wheels are squeaky or if you feel like something needs to be checked.

FAQs

How do you clean muddy wheelchair wheels?

For manual wheelchairs, you may brush the mud off and rinse with water. For the power wheels, use a gentler soft brush or a rug. You may use wheelchair wheel cleaners too.

Watch this video for more wheelchair cleaning methods.

How often should wheelchairs be cleaned?

It should be disinfected every time you go out. You may do a quick wipe daily. Monthly deep cleaning is advised. Also, check on your armrests for replacement every six months. [3]

Can you pressure wash a wheelchair?

For manual wheels, yes, but not with power wheels. 

Conclusion

No one wants a dirty or bacteria-filled wheelchair. And now you know how to properly clean your wheelchair, depending on the type of mobility chair.

These straightforward cleaning tips will help with hygiene and provide additional protection against bacteria and viruses.  

dirty manual wheelchair

How do you clean your wheelchair? Please share with us your cleaning expertise in the comment section below!

Resources:

  • 1. Gardner P, Muller MP, Prior B, So K, Tooze J, Eum L, et al. Wheelchair cleaning and disinfection in Canadian health care facilities: “That’s wheelie gross!” American Journal of Infection Control. 2014;42:1173–7.
  • 2. Georgia. Cleaning Wheelchair Wheels [Internet]. Caregiver-Aid.com. 2021 [cited 2022 Apr 5]. Available from: https://www.caregiver-aid.com/cleaning-wheelchair-wheels/
  • 3. KARMA Medical. How Often Should You Clean Your Wheelchair? | KARMA Medical [Internet]. https://www.karmamedical.com/. 2021 [cited 2022 Apr 5]. Available from: https://www.karmamedical.com/2021/12/how-often-should-you-clean-your-wheelchair/
About Martina Todorovska

"Martina is a graduated Doctor of Dental Medicine with a huge obsession for anything beauty-related. Her freelance writing started out as a creative outlet and turned out to be a full-time job. If you have any beauty questions, the chances are Martina has the answers. Follow her on LINKEDIN. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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