Power wheelchairs come with numerous advantages over manual wheelchairs albeit at a higher cost. They require minimal strength to move around, are sturdy, and are quite stable. They are built to last and are suited for both indoor and outdoor use on a wide range of terrains. These mobility aids are designed with several customizable accessories including inclining backrests, adjustable arm troughs and headrests, a range of wheel drive options, and other additional attachments for maximum comfort, relieving pressure, and meeting specific user requirements. Most power wheelchairs will have adjustable speeds of up to 8 mph much to the convenience of the user. For this reason, a power wheelchair is a great asset to own as it will make moving around a lot easier. However, not everyone knows how to clean a power wheelchair the right way.
On the flip side, given the many parts of a power wheelchair, it is more involving to clean and maintain it regularly. Over time of continued use, the power wheelchair becomes a convenient partner that you would not want to live without. Yet because they are used for going anywhere from the restroom, grocery stores, to the park, these wheelchairs tend to pick up all sorts of dirt and bacteria. This calls for regular cleaning. Keeping your wheelchair clean is vital for your well-being and that of the people around you. This is because cleaning and disinfecting your wheelchair helps to lower the risk of getting infections.
Why you should keep your power wheelchair clean?
Apart from keeping you from catching infections, keeping your wheelchair clean and well maintained extends its life significantly. Also, clean your wheelchair regularly to:
- Reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19, the deadly viral infection that claimed the lives of thousands of people.
- Get rid of dirt, germs, bacteria, debris, and other particles that not only cause infection but can also cause physical harm when using your wheelchair.
- Help you identify faults in your wheelchair early enough. Dirt and grime may well conceal some faults and damages on your wheelchair.
How often should you clean your power wheelchair?
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that all surfaces exposed to frequent contact be cleaned and disinfected at least once a day to prevent the spread of the disease. This is because dirt, debris, and grime can build up on your wheelchair with daily use.
Besides this, your wheelchair needs to be cleaned after every outdoor visit particularly after visiting public places. Wipe off your wheelchair with a damp towel and disinfect all contact surfaces with a disinfectant that contains at least 70% alcohol in its solution.
In addition, most people take their wheelchairs for full maintenance at least once annually unless otherwise required. Wheelchairs are also cleaned thoroughly after servicing. It is important to note, that a once-a-year thorough-clean is never enough to keep your wheelchair in tip-top shape. When you are not taking your wheelchair for servicing, be sure to clean it thoroughly and regularly at home.
Further, in isolated cases for instance, where the wheelchair is used by a patient suffering from incontinence and certain medical conditions that may cause it to get dirty, the wheelchair should be wiped down and disinfected regularly to prevent infection and reinfection.
Do you clean or disinfect wheelchairs?
Disinfecting your wheelchair is just as important as cleaning it. Proper cleaning will get rid of dirt, mud, and germs on the surfaces of your wheelchair. Disinfecting it, on the other hand, kills microorganisms like germs, bacteria, and viruses. Hence, only cleaning your wheelchair will not stop the spread of infection. You will need to clean and disinfect it to keep you and your loved ones safe while also getting the best out of its performance.
What can you use to clean a wheelchair?
First things first, before deciding which products or materials to use to clean your wheelchair, it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions for specific cleaning and maintenance guidelines, methods, and/or products. Some manuals specify which materials and products to use for cleaning and the ones to avoid.
In the list below you can see the general products you need to clean your wheelchair:
- Cleaning spray
- Disinfectant spray
- Mild detergent
- Dish soap or regular soap
- Micro-fiber towel or a soft wiping cloth
- Compressed air can duster
- Soft cleaning brush
- Wire brush or a hard/bristled brush
- Paper towels
- Protective wear including overalls, gloves, and footwear
- Moderate suction vacuum cleaner
- Dust blower
- Non-abrasive wax for polishing
- Tire cleaner
Things to avoid when cleaning your wheelchair:
- Abrasive substances that can corrode the surfaces of your wheelchair and affect your hands.
Now, let’s clean that wheelchair
If you did not get the instructions clearly, it will be good to go over the manufacturer’s guidelines for any special cleaning instructions before you clean your power wheelchair.
Here is what you need to do before you begin:
- Set your cleaning supplies and equipment in a well-spaced and ventilated or open area to allow you to move around with ease during cleaning.
- In case you were charging your wheelchair, be sure to unplug it from the power source for safe cleaning.
- Next, open the battery box carefully, take out the battery, and set it aside in a cool dry place following the manufacturer’s guidelines.
With your scene set, your supplies ready, and your wheelchair prepared for cleaning, it is time to start cleaning.
1. The body of the power wheelchair
The body of most wheelchairs is made of aluminum alloy because this material can stand moisture and other elements without corroding. Damp the wiping cloth or microfiber towel with water and cleaning spray and wipe off the power wheelchair body. Dried mud and other stubborn particles on the wheelchair body can be scrubbed off with a tough brush and then wiped off with a damp cloth.
Consider spraying a disinfectant after cleaning. Leave it for about 10 minutes and then wipe it off to get rid of unseen germs and bacteria. While at it, be careful not to spray the electrical cables and their connection points.
2. The cushions
The wheelchair cushions are usually detachable. However, be careful not to machine wash them. Secondly, cushions may need more frequent washing because they catch dirt faster since they are made of fabric.
Take the following steps to clean your cushions.
Step 1: Detach your cushions from the wheelchair.
Step 2: Vacuum them with a handheld vacuum cleaner to get rid of loose dirt.
Step 3: Use mild detergent or regular soap with warm water to best clean vinyl cushions. If your cushions are lined with leather, wipe the surface with a leather cleaning solution or a mixture of water and vinegar (one part of water to three parts of vinegar). For fabric cushions, dip a soft cleaning brush in warm water mixed with mild detergent and gently scrub to get rid of dirt and stains. Afterward, use a damp towel to clean off the soap and let it dry.
Tip: In case the fabric cushions are too dirty and stained, consider soaking them first in warm water with detergent for around 15-30 minutes or spraying them with cleaning spray before washing them and hanging them out to dry. In this case, they will take a longer time to dry.
3. Backrest, armrest, and headrest
The armrest, backrest, and headrest are usually detachable from the power wheelchair body. Also, they are cushioned and lined with upholstery. Moisten the micro-fiber cloth with a cleaning spray and then use it to wipe off the surfaces of the armrest, backrest, and headrest. You can repeat the process every time rinsing off the micro-fiber cloth until you are satisfied that it’s clean.
Once done, consider disinfecting them using a clean micro-fiber cloth. Depending on the material used to layer them, the disinfectant typically takes a short time to dry up. Bottom line is to make sure that they are all thoroughly dry before re-attaching them onto the wheelchair.
4. The power wheelchair joystick and joystick panel
The joystick panel is quite delicate as some level of pressure on it can end up damaging it. This calls for utmost caution during cleaning and maintenance.
First, you will need to detach the joystick and the panel from the armrest and clean them separately. Wipe off the joystick panel with a damp cloth and avoid exerting pressure on it. Rinse the cloth clean, wring it, and use it to clean the joystick.
Also, consider wiping it off with disinfectant to kill germs and bacteria as these two come into most contact with your hands. Once you are done, let it out to dry, and then attach it back on the armrests when you are done cleaning all parts of the wheelchair.
5. The wheelchair battery box
By this time, you may have opened the battery box and taken out the battery. As it is often sealed, you might find that you do not need to clean the inside of the battery box as often. However, if you must clean it, simply blow off the dust, debris, and other particles using a dust blower and you will be good to go.
Caution! Never wash or use a damp cloth to clean the inside of the battery box as this is highly risky.
6. The wheelchair wheels
As is typical of tires, the power wheelchair wheels are designed with deep threads to give them traction on various terrains. Tires tend to collect mud or other deposits in between the threads which affect their performance if not cleaned up.
You can do this by scrubbing out the deposits using a wire brush. In case the dirt has hardened over time, consider spraying some water and leaving it for some time to loosen up before scrubbing the dirt off. Once done, clean the tires along with the rim and spokes with water and allow them to dry. While at it, ensure that other parts of the wheelchair don’t have any water.
7. The wheelchair footrest
The footrest also tends to get dirty with mud and other deposits especially when you go outdoors as it is the surface that you step on. For this reason, you can clean it using the same process you use to clean the tires. First, wet the dry, hard mud to loosen it. Next, scrub the mud off with a wire brush and then wash the footrest with water and mild detergent, or cleaning spray.
8. The power wheelchair cables
The most important point to note while cleaning the power wheelchair cables is that you should take care not to tug them as this will loosen their hold on their connection. Secondly, avoid using water or anything damp to clean the cables, especially near their connection points as this could easily result in a short circuit. Alternatively, use a soft brush to scrub off the dirt and wipe the cables with a dry cloth.
After you clean your power wheelchair parts and dry them, what’s next?
Once you finish cleaning all the parts, recheck to be sure that they are all thoroughly dry. Be sure to wipe away any dampness with a dry micro-fiber towel before reassembling all the parts back to your wheelchair. Consider applying Scotchgard protector on your upholstery on the back cushion to maintain the fabric quality. This also makes it easy to get rid of stains in future cleaning sessions.
Carefully replace the battery and screw its cover firmly in position. Also, attach the headrest, armrests, footrests, backrests, and cushions as well as the joystick and the joystick panel. After you attach all the parts back and you are done assembling your power wheelchair, be sure to give it a test ride first before going outdoors with it to be sure it is working well.
Should you polish your power wheelchair with wax after cleaning?
While it is not a must, polishing your wheelchair’s metallic parts gives it an appealing outlook. You may opt for a wax polish or regular liquid polishes. Before you start, take time to read the instructions on the polish you have purchased. Using the material packaged with the polish, apply your polish in small circular motions on the metallic surfaces of your power wheelchair.
After applying the polish, use a soft, dry cloth moving it in small circular motions to rub it dry to achieve a shiny look.
Important tips to bear in mind when you clean your power wheelchair
- Never use flowing water, for instance from a hosepipe to clean your wheelchair. This is because there is a high possibility of the water coming into contact with electric cables and their connection point, which increases the risk of a short circuit. We recommend using a damp cloth (except for the wheelchair cables which you can wipe with a dry cloth).
- Check whether your seat cushions have a removable cover since the ones with this design tend to clog up the dirt underneath. You can machine wash some removable covers which makes cleaning easier.
- While cleaning, give special attention to the most touched areas of the wheelchair for instance the armrests, joystick panel, and push handles. These parts will need both cleaning and disinfecting.
- A soft brush is a great option for scrubbing ingrained dirt and a hard-bristled brush for hardened mud and other solids stuck on the wheels of the wheelchair. For the latter, soaking with water first to loosen the dirt helps to give you an easy clean.
- Always use a lint-free cloth for your screen and metallic surfaces. Also, avoid using an abrasive pad to keep your surfaces free from scratches.
- Be sure to put on protective clothing, particularly when disinfecting your wheelchair as the chemicals in the disinfectant may be harsh on your skin.
- Have a regular wiping and maintenance schedule for your wheelchair as this will extend its life by keeping it in excellent condition.
A regularly cleaned and well-maintained power wheelchair not only lowers health risks related to infection but also maintains its top performance and new look. Remember that it takes more than the regular cleaning and maintenance to keep your wheelchair in good condition and extend its years of service. You also need to ride and store it properly.
We have provided a general guideline on how to clean a power wheelchair. Thoroughly cleaning your power wheelchair may seem like much work. Yet, it is worthwhile. If, however, you feel that your wheelchair is too dirty for you to clean it, there is no harm in enlisting professional cleaning services to do it for you once in a while.