Louise Miner gave birth to her first daughter in 2002. Her second daughter arrived 10 years later. By then a lot more than the decade had changed.
"My second baby was way messier than my first. She's really cute, but she's stinky and she's dirty and she makes huge messes in the crib," Ms. Miner says.
Skyrocketing laundry loads were only the beginning of the Ottawa mom's frustration. With her first child, she'd used a crib with a front panel that clipped down, making it easy for the petite Ms. Miner to get in and out and change the sheets.
By the time baby two came along, that model had all but disappeared from the market, she says, a logistical inconvenience that affected more than her décor.
"Being 40 and 5'2" I was dealing with sleep deprivation and it was kicking me in the butt. I was having a hard time getting up a few times a night to burp her, feed her change her, then having to clean that crib out was like a nightmare for me."
When her husband took overnight duty, the problem compounded. Instead of stripping down and changing the wet linens, he would just "throw a towel" over the mess and pop the baby back in bed. "He was cheating," she laughs.
If invention is the mother of necessity, Ms. Miner was the mother of a baby that needed waterproof sheets.
Thankfully, as the owner of Ottawa Draperies, she already had a head for textiles. Ms. Miner started experimenting with the idea of a two-part system, where a waterproof pad could easily be ripped off the bed and thrown in the wash within a few minutes, while leaving the rest of the linens intact.
The key, she felt, would lie in engineering a fabric blend that could absorb liquid but also withstand high levels of heat and cold, which would allow it to go through hundreds of wash cycles without losing its absorbent properties quickly.
Ms. Miner discussed the idea with her husband; it was a move that would require her to step away from her business and invest in the research and development of a prototype. He was on board for anything that would get him off the night duty hook.
Mostly he saw the potential for a product that could claim a swath of an incontinence market that hadn't seen much innovation for a while. At present, 10 per cent of Canadians suffer from incontinence and the highest proportion of that percentage comes from the 65-and-up cohort, where one in three people will struggle with bladder or bowel control issues.
Armed with a grant from the Rainy River First Nations Trust, an organization that supports aboriginal business initiatives, Ms. Miner sourced textiles from China and brought them back to Canada, where she customized a waterproof polyester fabric blend to her exact specifications.
She registered her product idea under the name Rip n Go – about as no frills as it gets in an age of clever startup monikers – and put it through Health Canada testing standards.
Though she won't reveal the exact components of her proprietary fabric, calling it a "trade secret," she is happy to reveal how the rest of her system works.
Rip n Go is essentially a two-part sheet set that consists of a waterproof pad and a bottom sheet. The sheets connect to one another by Velcro rims stitched around their perimeter, making it easy to attach and detach the soiled sheet and toss it in the wash without requiring a full bed change.
The top pad has three fabric layers that serve different functions. The first layer is a soft polyester and cotton fabric blend that is comfortable to sleep on and lets liquids through.
The second layer is a microfiber material that absorbs the liquid and holds it there. "It's a polyester blend that stops the fabric from squishing down and it airs out, so even if there's a mess in the middle of the night it's dry in the morning," Ms. Miner explains.
The bottom layer, made from Ms. Miner's proprietary fabric blend, is 100 per cent waterproof and protects the mattress like an additional insurance policy.
While the concept sounds simple enough, the small details devised by Ms. Miner have created a buzz in the incontinence market since hitting the retail level in November.
For starters, she patented a Corner Lock system along the fitted bottom sheet that prevents the shoulders from lifting up during a bed change. A raised rim around the same sheet keeps liquids from running off the sides and soiling the rest of the bed.
The Velcro that attaches the bottom sheet to the waterproof layer on top was devised to help people with mobility issues remove the soiled linen from a wheelchair without having to visit each corner of the bed to remove the sheet. Another patent.
"You could change out your whole sheet set from that one corner," Ms. Miner says, adding that as long as the bottom sheet remains dry you only have to change it every six months.
Finally, her pads lasts up to two years, which doesn't equate to much when you're tossing hundreds of dirty disposable diapers into landfills each month, but saves money and reduces the disposable pileup by some small measure.
More recently, Ms. Miner has made inroads into the adult incontinence market, partnering with several long-term care facilities.
"Someone can do a bed change in two minutes instead of 15. Staff can provide more care to their people instead of doing maintenance and household work. It increases efficiency, lowers the carbon footprint and saves money because they don't have to buy disposable pads anymore."
Now that her youngest has moved up to a bed, Ms. Miner has found an additional use for her textile brainchild: She's launched a junior line for older kids with bed-wetting and toilet training issues, ensuring she's got every demographic – and the people who do their laundry – completely covered for the night.