Protocol for Cleaning Wheelchairs

By Allison Lewis

Wheelchairs will develop buildup over time.
i wheelchair access sign image by Gina Smith from

Anyone who has used one before knows, wheelchairs have to last because they allow disabled people to function independently. Cleaning is an important part of wheelchair maintenance. It may seem like a daunting task but is actually rather easy when proper protocol is used.

Cleaning the Wheelchair Frame

Dirt and grime can affect the efficiency of wheels and breaks so wheelchair frames should be wiped down regularly, or at the very least weekly, depending on how often the wheelchair is used. A washcloth and a nonabrasive waxed based cleaner works best because it makes the the chair shiny and more resistant to scratches. Abrasive cleaners, such as furniture polishes, should not be used because such cleaners could damage wheelchair cushions and harden frames or footrests. If these parts harden they could become more prone to dirt accumulation. A mild detergent can also be used to remove any dirt, grime or sticky spots.

Cleaning Wheelchair Cushions

It is best to clean a wheelchair cushion after the user goes to bed so that there is plenty of time for it to dry. Use materials like baking soda or vinegar. In situations where there is not much time, deodorant spray products can be used to remove odors from cushions. According to wheelchair cleaning guidelines from Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia, covers can be removed from some wheelchair cushions and put in the laundry on the gentle cycle. Wheelchair cushions should be cleaned whenever a user spills something or has a medical emergency that may cause odor.

Cleaning wheelchair wheels

The wheels of wheelchairs should be wiped down as often as the frames are. The same type of cleaner used on bicycle tires or another type of cleaner that will not leave residue should be used. On occasion the tire insides will get dirty as well, but tire covers can be purchased to prevent that. In addition to dirt and grime, over time wheelchairs can accumulate hair, string, and other materials in the wheel axle or casters. A sharp tool or pick should be used to remove such items, according to WisTech Assistive Technology Program. If spot cleaning and wiping down a wheelchair regularly does not clean it to the owner's liking try high pressure cleaning with a hose and hot water, according to the WisTech wheelchair cleaning guidelines.