If you have ever bought a power wheelchair and used it extensively, I can bet that you love it as you would love your car. This one device must have made a world of difference to your life and made things accessible to you once again. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you should be taking good care of your wheelchair.
Cleaning a Power Wheelchair
In fact, better cleaning and care extends the life of a wheelchair by an average of 2 years at least. On an average, you would ideally be doing a full servicing for your wheelchair, once every year. The service centre will thoroughly clean your wheelchair during servicing. However, this is only once a year, the remainder of the times, you will have to clean it yourself. In this article, I have tried to outline some of the best practices on how to go about cleaning your electric wheelchair to a spanking new look, time after time.
It is very important that you unplug your power wheelchair from its power source (if you were charging it) before doing any cleaning activity. Also, you should carefully inspect the battery box for ways to open it, or better, read through your instruction manual to understand how to remove your battery box cover. Once you have opened the protective cover, take out the battery and keep it aside in a dry place.
Make sure that you have the required cleaning supplies at hand. You should also ensure that you set up your cleaning activity where there is enough room for you to move about. For many people, the driveway is a good option. If you do not have a driveway, any open space should do.
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Cleaning supplies for a thorough power wheelchair clean up
You can either use a cleaning spray or a combination of a cleaning spray and a disinfectant if you so wish to clean your power wheelchair. Take care not to use any abrasive substances as cleaning agents. This can corrode the body of the wheelchair, and also are not the best for your hands.
You would also need a good quality micro-fibre cloth for cleaning, two brushes – one soft and one with hard bristles for the tires. You may also like to have a moderate suction capacity vacuum cleaner and a dust blower (like the one shown in the image) at your disposal, for a thorough cleaning.
Cleaning the power wheelchair body
Wheelchair bodies are generally made up of aluminum alloy and it is all right to clean them with a damp cloth (water and cleaning spray). If there is dried mud below the wheelchair, you should ideally use the hard brush to remove the bulk of the mud and then wipe the rest clean with the damp cloth. Depending upon your enthusiasm, you may consider a layer of wax polish on the body. We discuss polishing your power wheelchair’s body in a subsequent section.
Cleaning cushions, arm rest, backrest, headrest
You should detach your cushions before washing them. Therefore, generally, cushions are cleaned more frequently compared to the entire wheelchair. Most wheelchair cushions or seats will not be machine washable. Even if they are, it is best that you wash them by your hands rather than machine wash.
Depending how dirty your cushions are or how often you wash them, you may keep your cushion immersed in a solution of cleaning detergent or spray for about fifteen minutes. If there is a lot of loose dirt on your seat and cushions, you may consider to vacuum clean using a handheld vacuum cleaner (like the one shown in the image) them once before using wet cleaning. Once they are done soaking, please use a dry cloth to wipe off the extra water and keep them aside for thorough drying.
The armrest and the backrest, mostly the upholstery and cushioned parts will not be removable. You will have to use the micro-fibre cloth with little cleaning spray (just enough to moisten the cloth) and wipe these surfaces thoroughly. Finally, it is a good idea to apply disinfectant to the seat cushion and armrest / backrest. Use a separate micro-fibre cloth or a generous layer of cotton to wipe these surfaces with the disinfectant. Disinfectant will dry up very fast. If your cushions have leather cover, they will take less time to dry. If they are of upholstery material, please see to it that they become completely dry, before putting them back on the wheelchair.
Cleaning the wheelchair’s battery box
This is probably the trickiest part of the cleaning process. You should ideally not use even a slightly damp cloth to clean the insides of the battery box. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the battery box would require cleaning as it always closed by the protective cover. If possible, you should let it be for the servicing center technicians to clean it once a year. If you feel like it requires cleaning, please use a dust blower to blow out the dust which may have accumulated in the box.
Wheelchair tires (front and rear) and leg rest
Wheelchair tires generally have very deep treads fro better grip on the road. This also results in a thick layer of muddy deposit within the treads from regular use. In fact, 2-3 days of outdoor use is enough for the tires to have a lot of deposit in between the treads. It is important that you clean the tires much more frequently than the entire wheelchair, because the deposits would otherwise reduce the tire grip on the road.
You should use the hard bristled brush (as shown in the image) to remove the deposits as much as possible. If the deposits have turned very hard and stiff, you may want to carefully spray some water on the tires so that they become softer in sometime, making it easier to remove the deposits. Take care not to wet the other parts of the wheelchair in doing so. You can clean the rim and spokes of the tires with water and cleaning spray.
Same goes for the leg rest. Use the hard brush to remove stiff deposits, if any, and then use the brush along with water to wash out any remaining mud or dirt.
Cleaning the cables
You should use the soft brush to dust the cables carefully. If you feel the need to wipe them with a piece of cloth, by all means go ahead, but you should be careful not to loosen the cable connections by accidentally pulling at them. Also, take care not to use a damp cloth. Just use a dry cloth as you do not want moisture close to any frayed cables. Moreover, even if the cables are not frayed, any water or even dampness, which is not dried, may result in short circuiting the electrical wiring of the wheelchair.
Cleaning your power wheelchair’s joystick and panel
Another tricky part to clean is the joystick and the joystick panel. It is best to remove the joystick and panel from the armrest before cleaning it. The joystick panel is quite sensitive and the less pressure applied on it the better. If there are any botches or mud spots on the panel, consider removing it with a damp cloth. The joystick itself is fairly sturdy in almost all wheelchairs and can be cleaned with the same damp cloth, only difference being you may not have to handle it as delicately as the panel.
You may also consider wiping down your power wheelchair’s joystick and panel with a disinfectant wipe (as shown in the image) as these are the most touched parts of the wheelchair. Take care not to put too much of disinfectant, so that it should not seep into the internal circuit of the panel. Once it fully dries up, you should again install it back on the arm rest.
Optional: Wax polish for your power wheelchair
Finally, a wax polish will give it the brand new look and shine that you had fallen in love with the day it had arrived at your home. Needless to say, this is an optional activity and you would have to spend another half an hour to give your wheelchair the wax shine. If you decide in favor of polishing, you should buy a good quality alloy surface polish, like the one shown in the image. A car polish will also work just fine.
Most of these polishing liquids come along with a sponge like material, which you will use to apply the polish on the alloy parts of the wheelchair. You will have to follow the instructions written on the box of polish. For best results, the polish is generally applied in small circular motions along the surface. Once you are done applying the polish to all alloy parts of the wheelchair, you will notice that it has left a slightly greasy texture on the surface. The next step is to slowly wipe the polished surface with a good quality cloth, in similar small and circular motions, till the greasy part is absorbed on the cloth. You will be able to see the shine from the thin layer of polish, that is left behind on the wheelchair alloy surface. At this point in time, you can stand back and admire your power wheelchair, back to an almost new state.
Finally, once you have finished cleaning up and all parts have dried up completely, it is time to assemble your power wheelchair. You should take good care to replace the battery inside the battery box and screw in the protective cover firmly. You will also replace back the seat and cushion and detachable head rests, if any. Once the device is whole again, do give it a test ride within the secure perimeters of your home, till you are satisfied that it is functioning properly.
You can follow the above process to bring back your wheelchair to its youth, at least in outward appearance. If you want to know how to lengthen your wheelchair’s life, read our article on how to use an electric wheelchair correctly. There is no denying the fact that it is a lot of hard work to give your power wheelchair a thorough clean. It might take you, upwards of an hour to get done, excluding the drying time. Conversely, if your wheelchair has been knocked out of appearance by grease and mud, it may be worthwhile to get it professionally cleaned for a small fee, rather than getting your hands dirty. But, if you are the ‘do it yourself’ type, go ahead by all means and reset your device to a spanking new look.