Proper cleaning of wheelchair cushions is not only important for maintaining the equipment’s performance and durability but also for promoting user health, comfort, and overall well-being. It plays a critical role in infection control, hygiene, and creating a safe and clean environment for wheelchair users 1.
Unlike many wheelchair cushions that can only be cleaned with a damp cloth, Vicair O2 cushions don’t need any setup or adjustments before and after washing, the cushion can be put in the washing machine entirely, making a convenient feature. Agidens conducted a study to evaluate the impact of washing on the bacterial load of Vicair O2 cushions 2. The study involved washing the cushions in a common household washing machine at 60°C using a standard detergent (Areal), which resulted in a remarkable 99.99% reduction in bacterial load across all areas of the cushion.
In addition to the study of Agidens and since the importance of cleaning wheelchair cushions, we did an inhouse study according to the ISO standard
16840-2, to investigate the influence of washing on Vicair O2 cushions. The effect of washing on the pressure redistribution of the SmartCellsTM is assessed during pressure mapping, the contact area and immersion are the characteristics of interest.
For the study, two Vicair Adjuster O2 cushions, with dimensions 40x45cm, were utilized. The two cushions had SmartCells from the same batch and were uniformly filled to the standard filling grade. The cushions were classified as follows:
- Cushion 1: ‘New cushion’, served as a control and was neither washed nor used.
- Cushion 2: ‘Washed & used cushion’, washed 24 times and subjected to simulated use between washes.
To simulate real-world conditions, a specialized setup involving SmartCell abrasion was employed. The abrasion procedure entails subjecting the SmartCells to grinding between two pressure-applied plates, which are encased in rubber material. This setup mimics the typical wear and tear that occurs with regular use of a wheelchair cushion.
The cushions underwent a total of 24 wash cycles and were evaluated after the 2nd, 8th, 16th and 24th cycle. To ensure uniformity, both cushions were preloaded 20 times prior to the washing process to facilitate a consistent SmartCell smoothing effect and reaction pattern.
In typical daily usage, cushions are used after washing, leading to SmartCell smoothing. This observation was confirmed by Cushion 2, the washed & used cushion, which exhibited no significant deviations from the new cushion. Contact area variations were limited to a maximum of 3% reduction in contact area for the washed & used cushion in comparison to the new cushion. Immersion levels fluctuated, ranging from a 1.8% increase for the new cushion to a 2.4% increase for the washed & used cushion.
The first time a Vicair cushion is used after washing it can be slightly less flexible (just like your freshly washed jeans), leading to a slightly decrease in contact area and immersion. But this effect is cancelled out by shortly using the cushion, using the washed cushion makes it perform comparable to a new cushion.
It is noteworthy to mention t hat the washing machine should be loaded to only half its capacity with Vicair cushions, as displayed by the symbol on the label, in order to prevent contact between the cushion and the washing machine door, as this interaction could potentially lead to liner damage.
In summary, our findings indicate that the process of washing a Vicair cushion and subsequent usage thereof does not exert adverse impacts on the pressure redistribution characteristics of the cushion. The cushion can be subjected to washing with confidence, a procedure that effectively eliminates 99.99% of bacterial presence.
- Conijn, N., Helming, T., Van Der Heyden, B., & Kramer, C. (2023). The importance of cleaning your wheelchair cushion 04.3REV8.23.
- Op De Beeck, J. (2023). Test Report Disinfection Wheelchair Cushion.