Proper cleaning and disinfection of a wheelchair is essential to extend its life and keep it looking new for longer; but it is also essential to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19.
Due to the easy transmission of this virus, the WHO has given some essential recommendations to prevent its transmission, including social distancing, frequent hand-washing and intensive cleaning of the surfaces and products that we use regularly. As we are now beginning to spend more time outdoors it is even more important to keep wheelchairs clean and properly disinfected.
Today we want to share some guidelines and tips to help you disinfect your wheelchair on a daily basis and thus prevent the transmission of the virus.
How to clean and disinfect a wheelchair
Cleaning vs. Disinfection
The first thing to remember is that cleaning is not the same as disinfecting. By cleaning, we remove germs and dirt from surfaces, but we do not kill germs. Removing them only decreases the number of germs and risk of spreading infections.
On the other hand, by disinfecting a wheelchair we kill microorganisms like bacteria by using chemical products. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces. Killing germs on the surface after cleaning has been done can further prevent the decrease of infectious diseases.
With this in mind, you need to carry out regular cleaning of your wheelchair, and disinfect it using a special sanitiser for surfaces. These products are labelled as bactericidal and virucidal. You can find a guide to these products on Public Health England UK Government website. Please read carefully the manufacturers’ instructions for proper use and disinfection.
Tips and recommendations for cleaning your wheelchair
- It is important to clean your wheelchair every time you visit a public place like a supermarket.
- All contact surfaces must be treated with a disinfectant solution. Disinfect with wipes that contain at least a 70% alcohol solution, or other approved store-bought solutions for disinfecting surfaces. The sanitiser must remain on the surface for at least 15 minutes. The surface should then be cleaned with a wipe and rinsed with an aseptic cloth.
- The joystick on an electric wheelchair can be cleaned with a damp cloth and a diluted sanitiser.
- Ensure all surfaces are rinsed with clean water and dried thoroughly after disinfection. Remember if your wheelchair is not properly dried, it can cause damage. It is always better to clean any component of your chair with a slightly damp cloth, not wet.
- Do not use solvents, bleaches, abrasives, synthetic detergents, wax enamels, or sprays.
- Have a look at the instructions provided with the wheelchair for more information about cleaning the controls.
- Don't forget to disinfect the armrests, handles and other components that are frequently touched by users and caregivers.
Below is a list of the most critical components of a wheelchair.
Critical components of a wheelchair
Although it is recommended to carry out a complete cleaning of the entire frame after visiting any public place; there are some accessories and components such as the cushion, the armrests, or the hand-rims to which you should pay special care as they are frequently exposed to viral contamination.
- Front and rear wheels: The wheels of your wheelchair are in direct contact with the ground and as a result, in contact with all kinds of germs. Even if a daily disinfection is not carried out, it is recommended to perform a cleaning routine every time you return home. Ensure the disinfectant is safe for use on your mobility chair before application. You can also use soapy water and dry the seat thoroughly. Never hose off your electric wheelchair or place it in direct contact with water.
- Handles: The handles are one of the main sources of infection in a wheelchair since they are usually in contact with many hands, thus facilitating the transmission of the virus. For this reason, it is necessary to clean them with a sanitiser. These products are labeled as bactericidal and virucidal. You can check the guide of surface cleaners and disinfectants recommended by the Public Health England UK Government website here.
- Armrests: The armrest is also a frequent contact component that should be disinfected, if possible, with one of these surface sanitisers.
- Joystick and hand-rims: When cleaning a wheelchair, we cannot forget to disinfect the joystick in the case of electric wheelchairs or the hand-rims in the case of manual wheelchairs. These two elements are in full contact with our hands and can concentrate big amounts of germs.
- Cushion: Both the seat cushion and the back cushion are in full contact with our body. Rubbing and sweating can contribute to the accumulation and spread of bacteria. If possible, disinfect it with a sanitiser, leave it for about 15 minutes and dry with a disposable paper or cloth.
If you use other types of support products such as crutches or canes, you can follow the same recommendations and disinfect the areas that are frequently touched, especially when using them in public places.