Caring for your Orthotic Devices:
So, you have received your orthotic device and now you are wondering “how do I care for this”? While this might not seem like the most important topic, we have found that this is a frequently asked question and one that we believe there should be good answers to! A well cared for device can last longer for the patient and can help prevent skin rashes and other conditions that can occur if not properly kept.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up!
Foot orthoses: We recommend that foam foot orthoses are cleaned with mild soap and water or baby wipes, nothing with too many chemicals as this can delaminate your orthoses. For hard plastic foot orthoses, an alcohol solution or something with bacteria killing power can be used. We recommend that they are not dunked in these solutions but rather sprayed or wiped down to prevent any unnecessary damage.
Ankle Foot orthoses (AFO): The major question for this is: is it made from leather or plastic? If you have a leather device the best cleaning solution is some sort of leather cleaner or polish. Unfortunately, there are not many cleaning solutions that are leather safe so leather cleaner is your best bet! With leather AFOs it is best to avoid petroleum-based cleaners as they may damage the leather over time. Luckily, if you have a carbon fiber AFO or a hard plastic you have more options: typically sticking to an alcohol wipe or something with bacteria killing power is a great choice. Make sure you allow it to dry before putting it back in contact with your skin. Additionally, if there are pads on your AFO a mild soap and water solution should be used to wipe these areas to maintain the integrity of the pads.
Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses (KAFO)/ Knee Orthoses (KO): These follow the same general guidelines as the AFOs. However, with a KAFO you are more likely to have metal componentry and a new problem you might experience with this is not a build-up of unwanted germs but instead, rust! Luckily, to keep things light weight, aluminum and titanium are often used and do not rust like steel. However, if your device does have steel components, you may want to consider a mild soap and water solution to clean. The important thing here is to make sure you dry it off!! Keeping these metals wet leads to further oxidization and corrosion/rusting. Another problem you might run into is your joints “sticking” this can be with either a KAFO or a KO. The important thing to remember here is not to use WD40 and to instead visit your orthotist for repair. Lastly, with KOs you will want to wash the pads with a mild soap and water.
Spinal Orthoses: Often spinal orthoses come with pads that need to be cleaned quite frequently, or they are made from fabrics that should also be cleaned. We recommend that these items are hand-washed. Again, a mild soap and warm water is your best friend here. If they are removable pads, we recommend that as you take the pads off you immediately replace the pads with your back-up set so they go back on in the right place and correct orientation. If you do not have an extra pad set, we recommend that you pay attention to the order they are removed to ensure they go back in the proper place. You want to especially make sure that these are dry before putting them back on. You may think because it is clean, the pads are not going to hurt you if they are wet, but moisture can irritate your skin and lead to other skin conditions.
If you have any additional or more specific questions, please contact your local orthotist/prosthetist to ensure proper care is taken for your device!