Many people wear a wrist brace for a variety of reasons: surgery, injury, support to prevent wrist stress, and even for protection during athletic activities.
No matter your reason for wearing a wrist brace, it’s important to your health and you’ll need to make sure it’s kept clean while you need it.
Why Keep It Clean?
Well, the brace itself will sit incredibly close to your skin while you’re wearing it and your skin will emit sweat and bacteria into the fabric of the wrist brace.
It may not feel like it’s especially sweaty or hot while wearing the wrist brace, but this is something our skin does naturally – even if it doesn’t feel like it – so it can cause the wrist brace to start to smell or even grow bacteria in the fabric.
Since wrist braces are made of fabric that is porous – you wouldn’t want to put plastic or metal against your skin all the time, right? – it will absorb almost anything it comes into contact with and therefore it can start to smell and be harmful for you and your skin.
How Does a Wrist Brace Work?
Since people wear braces for different reasons, there are a number of different braces but they all work in a similar way to help keep your wrist supported and prevent further injury.
The brace will help to keep your wrist firm while allowing you to move it without restraint, and it can help to reduce the pressure on the median nerve.
Additionally, it can allow you to move without pain where you previously had discomfort. It will keep your wrist in a neutral position so you can easily make natural hand movements.
A wrist brace gives support while you’re healing to get your wrist stronger, but you will likely want to avoid long-term use of the wrist as this can make your wrist dependent on the brace and actually make it weaker.
You may need to use it for shorter amounts of time (like during an athletic activity) for many years, but wearing it all the time over the span of years could cause damage (although always follow the advice of your doctor as to what is best for you and your health).
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Types of Wrist Braces
Some wrist braces can be purchased without a prescription, while others are specifically made for you through a physical or occupational therapies (in special circumstances, if needed). Most wrist braces are made with lightweight materials so that you can keep moving without it feeling like it’s weighing you down.
There are various types of wrist braces available, depending on your individual needs.
Level of Support
Braces are built in various ways to give different levels of protection and support, and what you need will depend on the reason for needing the wrist brace. They will vary in support levels from low to high.
High levels of support will typically be made of plastic of metal, covered by foam and a layer of fabric to make it much more comfortable for someone to wear. These are typically for people with severe conditions.
Medium levels of support braces are usually made from a neoprene material. This will give the person wearing it much more comfortable and keep their wrist warm.
Low-level support wrist braces are typically less structured, and are a fabric wrap to keep the area compressed and heated so it heals. There may be a different kind of brace recommended by you, so you will need to follow the advice of your doctor to make sure you get the right one for you.
Knowing all of that, it’s important to understand how to clean your wrist brace properly so that you can keep wearing it and it’s beneficial to your health.
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How to Clean Your Wrist Brace
Anything we wear on our body, close to our skin can get dirty and soiled. Your wrist brace can become dirty by sweat, dust, food particles accidentally dropped on it, and dirt from the surfaces it may come into contact with.
Ensuring your wrist brace is clean can help avoid a bad smell from developing, getting an infection (especially if you need to wear the brace because of surgery and you have an incision), or even from getting a skin rash.
It’s always best to hand wash your wrist brace. This can be done with warm water and a mild soap that includes a disinfectant.
After you have washed it this way, you will want to hang it up or lay it flat to dry so that it dries completely and keeps its form for when you need to wear it.
Cleaning it this way is the easiest, likely, for you and will keep your brace clean and free of bacteria.
Tips for washing your wrist brace to make sure it keeps its shape and works for you so it will support and heal your wrist.
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Read the Instructions
Each wrist brace will come with care instructions, including how to wash it and ensure it keeps its shape and support. If your brace has special instructions as to how to clean it then always follow those instructions.
If you had a specifically made wrist brace by occupational or physical therapy, they will have suggestions as to how to keep the brace clean.
Do Not Machine Wash
The majority of wrist braces made today cannot withstand being machine washed, and it’s very important to not use any kind of bleach or fabric softeners while hand washing them. When it’s time to clean your brace, they should always be hand washed and laid out to dry.
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Remove Metal and Plastic Pieces
If your brace has metal or plastic pieces to help support your wrist, you will want to make sure they are removed before you wash it. Wrist braces with this type of support will have the option to remove them.
Lay Flat to Dry
As mentioned, you must make sure that you hand wash your wrist brace (do not machine wash or send for dry cleaning). When you’re done washing it, find a spot on your counter where you can lay the brace out completely flat.
Make sure you don’t place it in direct sunlight, nor should you place the brace in a microwave for drying. Either one of these options will alter the shape of your brace.
By altering the shape of your brace, you can change how it supports your wrist and that may end up doing a whole lot more damage than good and your might not heal fully at all.
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Buy a Wrist Sock
This is an option to put under the brace when you wear it, especially if you need to wear the brace for longer periods of time. The sock can protect the brace from the oils of your skin meaning it won’t start developing a smell or bacteria.
The sock will stop sweat from getting into the wrist brace, and you can wash the sock without having to wash the brace as often. You can easily purchase multiple socks (for much cheaper than multiple braces!) and which means you can switch them out daily when you put your brace on.
Do Not Use Chemicals
Chemicals can damage the material or elasticity of the brace, which can alter how it supports your wrist. This can do a lot more damage, long term, than healing for your wrist and could result in you having to wear the brace for longer than intended.
Choose the Brace You Can Maintain
Some braces will require much more care and maintenance than others, so if you know that you don’t have the time or ability to properly care for this kind of brace you may want to find one that you can take care of.
Additionally, if you need to wear the brace for longer periods of time then finding a brace that is easily cleaned (or wearing the wrist sock) may be more beneficial since you don’t have the time for complicated cleaning processes before you need to put it back on.
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Wearing a wrist brace may be a very new concept for you, and it might take just a little while to get used to the feeling of having it on your wrist. It’s meant to support the movement of your wrist while helping you heal and strengthen the muscles.
While the point of wearing a brace is to keep your wrist in a neutral position while healing your wrist and keeping it strong, without restricting the movements you will need to do on a daily basis.
So the brace is working for you, and you will need to make sure you keep it clean to avoid skin rashes or infection from developing, especially if you have a surgical scar under the brace (and that’s your reason for wearing it).
By taking some time to make sure your wrist brace is clean, you can keep it in (close to) perfect condition so that you can continue to use it for as long as needed.
If you have questions about your wrist brace, make sure to reach out to your physical or occupational therapist to clarify those questions.