Wheelchairs are an essential tool for mobility-restricted individuals, as they enable accessibility, but can get dirty as they’re on the move every day and everywhere. Since we are exposed to various germs and bacteria on a daily basis, especially in public places, it is essential to keep your wheelchair clean and disinfected for your well-being.
Cleaning and maintaining your wheelchair also allows you to keep it in good working condition and helps to prolong its lifespan. During the cleaning process, you should also be checking the wheelchair’s condition and determine if any parts need to be repaired or replaced.
In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to clean a manual wheelchair and a powered wheelchair. We will also share answers to frequently asked questions about wheelchair cleaning that were sent in by some of our readers.
How To Clean a Manual Wheelchair
To help you clean your wheelchair thoroughly, we will guide you through the best cleaning methods for each wheelchair component.
Since wheelchairs are made of different materials (vinyl, fabric, leather, metal, etc.), it is best to avoid harsh cleaning agents such as synthetic detergents, solvents, bleaches, abrasives, wax enamels, or sprays.
If you want an on-the-go cleaning solution for your wheelchair, we recommend keeping a pack of 70% alcohol solution wipes with you for quick cleaning and disinfection of all contact surfaces.
The items you might find helpful for cleaning your wheelchair are:
- Cotton cloths
- Dish soap
- Disinfectant wipes (for quick disinfection and cleaning)
- Disinfectant spray
- Compressed air can duster (to clean nooks where dust and lint have settled)
How To Clean Wheelchair Wheels
Wheelchair wheels are always in contact with the ground; therefore, it is essential to clean and disinfect them properly. Always remember to clean your wheelchair after visiting a public place such as a supermarket or a mall since these places carry the greatest number of bacteria and germs.
We recommend using car washing mitts for the wheels, it’s very effective in cleaning out mud, food, any animal fur or hairs, or other stubborn remnants on the wheels while protecting your hands.
The following steps can be completed while sitting in the wheelchair, making cleaning much more manageable. Follow the guide below:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before the cleaning process.
- For a quick clean, disinfectant wipes are effective and this can even be done when you are out and about. Having disinfectant wipes with you at all times is very handy for a quick clean.
- For regular cleaning, we recommend using clean cotton cloths dampened with a soap solution. You can mix 2 cups of warm water with 1-2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid or soap to create a soap solution.
- For deep cleaning, consider using a pair of car washing mitts that have been soaked in soap solution and wring out the excess. The mitt is slightly abrasive and works well in brushing the wheels clean without much elbow grease.
- Hold the wipe or damp cloth/mitt in each hand, sliding on the handrims as you push the wheelchair for about 20 feet or 6 meters. Doing so cleans the handrims about 3 times.
If you have restricted space or want to clean in a single spot, spin in a circle while keeping one wheel of your wheelchair stationary and while cleaning the rotating rim. Repeat this step for the other rim until both are spotless.
It can be tricky to do this, you can have someone push you slowly to make it easier.
- Repeat with a pair of new wipes or freshly dampened cloth or mitt to clean your tires. Ensure to scrub the wheels with the mitt to clear out any food, dirt, or mud stuck on the wheelchair tires.
To ensure your wheelchair remains rust-free, we recommend wiping the rims and tires with a clean, dry cloth afterward. You can also use a disinfectant spray afterward to protect your wheelchair from germs and bacteria.
How To Clean Wheelchair Frame
The wheelchair frame is also a high-contact area that requires regular cleaning and upkeep. We recommend cleaning your wheelchair frame daily with a disinfectant wipe or with a cotton cloth and soap solution after an outing in a public location.
Due to the frame being such a high touch point, it’s important to disinfect and clean them properly and regularly. Simply follow the steps below:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- For a quick clean, disinfectant wipes are effective and handy, especially if you are out. For more rigorous cleaning, we suggest using a soap solution and cotton cloth.
- Make a soap solution by mixing 2 cups of warm water with 1-2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid or soap. Immerse a clean cotton cloth in the soap solution and wring out the excess.
- Wipe the armrests, handles, wheelchair locks, frame in front of the cushion, and removable foot supports of the wheelchair with the damp cotton cloth or disinfectant wipes.
Rinse the cloth after each component and dampened it with soap solution before moving on to the next component for more effective cleaning. Work from the top to bottom, leaving the foot supports to the last as it tends to be the dirtiest.
Before wiping down the frame, consider using a compressed air can duster to blow off dust and list from the frame for an easier clean. This is especially helpful in clearing off any dust or lint in the nooks and crannies that are hard to reach.
After cleaning, wipe down the metal parts of the wheelchair with a clean dry cloth to prevent rust.
How To Clean Wheelchair Upholstery
The wheelchair upholstery is typically made of fabric, leather, or vinyl. Depending on what you have, you’ll need to use different ways to clean the material. It’s recommended that you clean your wheelchair upholstery once a week, or at least once a month, depending on your usage.
- Fabric: To clean fabric upholstery for your wheelchair, it is best to refer to the manual to check the washing instructions and wash accordingly. Washing by hand is recommended as it’s gentler on the stitching and material. Unzip the fabric if there is a zip, and if there is an inner cushion that comes out, remove it before washing the cover. To clean the removable and fixed upholstery by hand, wash using a damp cotton cloth soaked in a soap solution (made with warm water and dish soap). Wipe the cover with a clean damp cloth to remove any soapy residue. Dry the cover in a laundry bag on the washing line, this helps to prevent sun damage to the cover.
- Leather: You can use a toothbrush or a small paintbrush to remove trapped dust and lint from the seams and sides of your leather seat cover. We suggest using a leather cleaner to remove any impurities, as a water and soap solution may dry out and damage the sensitive material. Allow drying completely for 20-30 minutes if possible.
- Vinyl: Vinyl is the easiest material to clean, and you only need to wipe it with a damp cloth daily. For more rigorous cleaning, you can clean it with a cotton cloth and soap solution and wipe it with a damp cloth to remove soap residue afterward.
A toothbrush is a great cleaning tool that can be used to clean hard-to-reach areas of your upholstery and clear dirt buildup. Additionally, a wire bristle brush can be used to pull out fabric threads, lint, fur, and hair from the velcro. In case of an accidental spill, it is best to use cleaning wipes in a pinch.
How To Clean a Powered Wheelchair
Cleaning powered wheelchairs is slightly different from cleaning a manual wheelchair. The wheelchair must be turned off before cleaning, and you may want to flip the circuit breaker for your safety.
For the cleaning process, you will need:
- Cotton cloths
- Compressed air can duster
- Soapy solution (dilute 1-2 tablespoons of soap in 2 cups of warm water)
- Disinfectant wipes or disinfectant spray
- Foaming cleanser
As powered wheelchairs are often not waterproof, so you must exercise caution while cleaning and ensure that you do not accidentally damage the electronics. Follow the steps below carefully:
- Unplug the power and disconnect it from the base using the lever. Remove the battery to prevent any damage to it.
- Use a compressed air can duster to blow away any loose dirt, lint, and other debris.
- Cover any electronic components with a thick towel or plastic cling film to prevent damage.
- Spray disinfectant on the chair and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then, wipe off the residue with a clean cloth.
- Use a cloth that is slightly damp with a small amount of disinfectant or soap solution to finely clean the joystick.
- Clean the upholstery using a vacuum cleaner or follow the methods mentioned above for cleaning upholstery.
- The wheelchair wheels can be cleaned using a scrubbing brush or car washing mitt with the soapy solution. Ensure to rotate the tire for proper cleaning.
- Take a foaming cleanser to saturate the footplates of your wheelchair, especially the grip tape, and use a bristle brush to scrub away any dirt or mud. Wipe away the soapy residue with a clean damp cloth and let the footplates dry.
- Assemble all components of the wheelchair carefully after it is completely dry before turning it back on.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we have listed and answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the cleaning process. Feel free to get in touch with us to have your questions added!
How Often Should Wheelchairs Be Cleaned?
High-contact areas of your wheelchair should be cleaned daily with disinfectant wipes. For deep cleaning, we recommend cleaning your wheelchair at least once every 2 weeks or a month.
What Types of Stains and Marks Are Found on Wheelchairs?
Wheelchairs are always in contact with the ground and can be easily stained with mud, grease, dirt, and other pollutants. In the guide above, we have mentioned ways to carefully clean each component of your wheelchair to remove these marks and stains.
What Should I Pay Special Attention to When Cleaning a Wheelchair?
When cleaning a wheelchair, you must prevent dampness and prolonged exposure to water for its metal and electronic components. Take extra care when cleaning to protect your wheelchair against rust.
You may also need to treat certain types of upholstery, such as leather, with dedicated cleaners to maintain their appearance and shine.