The New Diaper Primer

Chapter 10: Bed And Furniture Protection (Your own and others')

As soon as realize you have an incontinence problem, and that may well be after you've wet the bed several times, you should consider starting with a new mattress and provide that mattress with proper and adequate protection.

In my opinion, a mattress that's been wet cannot be properly cleaned. Sure, there are the household tips about dealing with a wet mattress and trying to sweeten it up so the pervasive odor of urine is minimized, but that's just "first aid" and stop gap until you can get a new mattress. Aside from an inherently waterproof mattress you may have if you have a water bed or one of those inflatable types, most of us have a conventional mattress. Its construction with coil springs and lots of fabric padding will pull the urine deep into the mattress where it's virtually impossible to reach with any effective cleaning materials. What you do is up to you, of course, but I don't like any urine odor whatsoever, and I don't have to put up with it in my home because I take precautions so that I never get anything other than diapers or protective pads wet!

Start with a quality vinyl mattress cover, a total zip on cover. Yes, that means standing the mattress up and pulling the vinyl cover on, like a sock. After the plastic mattress cover is on and zipped, pull on a full, zipped cloth mattress cover. This will help provide texture for other bedding as the vinyl is slippery. Now the mattress is back in place on the box spring, encased first in a vinyl full covering and then in a cotton full covering. Now a nice thick cotton (non waterproof) mattress pad goes on. The fitted type is ideal since it stays in place better. This is for your comfort, especially in warmer weather!

Next comes a rubber or plastic "draw sheet". A draw sheet is placed cross ways on a mattress and tucks in at the sides of the mattress and covers the middle third of the mattress that is most likely to get wet. A draw sheet is about 36" wide and should be what ever length it needs to be to wrap around the side edges of your mattress and have a good foot or so to get tucked securely under the mattress to hold it in place. I have a queen size bed, so my draw sheet is about 9 feet long! It covers the 5' width of sleep surface and has two feet on each side to tuck under. The placement of the draw sheet should be at or just an inch or so below the pillows. If you want to test the location, lie down on the bed with your head on your pillow just as you would sleep. Feel where the two likely leak sites will be. One is the waist of your diaper/pants and the other is the leg bands. See if either of these sites falls dangerously close to the edge of your waterproof draw sheet and adjust the location to split the difference so a leak from either location will hit the draw sheet as far in from the edge as possible.

Over the draw sheet goes a heavy duty (thick) beach towel (or a large bath towel). One that is about as wide as the draw sheet and at least your mattress' width or more. In the case of my queen size mattress, a 36" X 60" standard towel works just fine. Get a quality towel for weight and absorbency; don't skimp with a cheaper towel or you will compromise your comfort, especially on hot nights! Now the bottom sheet goes on the bed and follow with top sheet, blankets, spread. Now, your mattress has proper protection while you (and your partner) sleep on "cotton comfort", not "hot sticky plastic". The reason I suggest a thick or heavy towel over the rubber draw sheet is for warm weather sleep comfort. We all are going perspire on a hot night and the thick towel has never failed to allow me to be comfortable; it is really a smaller version of the mattress pad you put on over the entire mattress to protect your comfort from the plastic mattress cover. The towel is your comfort protection from the rubber draw sheet.

If you wear proper cloth diapers and waterproof pants to bed, you should wake up in a dry bed and not need any of the waterproof protection we just put on the bed! But there will be times when you might be in a disposable, you may not match your diaper needs to your drinking activity after supper or what ever, and you leak. The leak will probably not be experience has been minor leaks don't cause enough discomfort to awaken me. In effect the towel and the draw sheet are "back up" diapers and rubber pants for the bed! In the morning, when you wake up in a somewhat wet bed due to a leak, pull off the bedding and remove the wet bottom sheet and the wet towel. Replace the towel and the bottom sheet and you are ready for the next night. The big full mattress pad was protected by your draw sheet. As you become accomplished with your diapering, any incidents of leaks and wet beds should diminish so you will have no daily bed laundry. I will routinely launder bedding once a week and I only do the sheets, draw towel and pillow cases. The full size mattress pad gets laundered quarterly.

So, you may wonder, why bother with that full size zip on plastic mattress cover that costs $30 bucks and takes three helpers to wrestle with the mattress to get it on? Back up! It's there, just in case! You could have a restless toss and turn night and dislocate the towel and draw sheet, which is your primary leak stopper / mattress protection. You may have curled up in odd positions cross wise and ended up leaking where the draw sheet wasn't. This doesn't happen often, but Murphy's Law dictates that if it can happen, it will happen; and when it does, there is lots of bedding to change, all the way down to the plastic mattress cover. But, that nice expensive mattress that cannot be cleaned effectively is safe and dry! Cleaning the draw sheet or the mattress cover, when there is a bed wetting incident is simply a matter of spraying with a cleaner such as Lysol bathroom cleaner and wiping with a paper towel. That will insure no residual urine odor.

A final important note on mattress protection. Change the plastic mattress cover routinely, every one to three years. Vinyl does not last forever...few things do! Vinyl will age by stiffening and the flexing fatigue induced by your moving around on your mattress will result in tiny cracks in your plastic "last ditch protection" for your mattress. So, to maintain that positive protection and peace of mind, replace the vinyl full mattress cover before you find cracks, splits and potential leak sites that would ruin your good mattress. Replace lower-quality lighter vinyl covers every year. Heavier and higher quality vinyls can last two or three or more years. If money is no object, a urethane cover should outlast any of the vinyl covers. My recommendation is the heavier Softwear vinyl zip-on cover from LLMedico.

I have a rubber draw sheet which I suspect works better than plastic because it's not quite as slippery as plastic and tends to stay put better and keep the towel in place on top of it better than vinyl would. If you can't find rubber, next best would be to buy vinyl plastic sheeting such as a shower curtain and cut it to fit your bed as a draw sheet. You may want to consider one of those "waterproof" mattress pads that have a vinyl layer between flannel. Perhaps a "rubber sheet" sold in stores would work. These "rubber sheets" are flannel sheets bonded onto rubber. In any case, cut the shorter dimension to 36" and lay the longer length across the width of the mattress. They all will have plenty of traction to stay put, but if you do leak and wet the bed, the waterproof draw sheet has to come off and get washed as well; you can't just wipe it down like you could if it were straight rubber or slippery vinyl.

My twenty year-old mattress is still comfortable, and it smells as sweet and clean today as the day I first put it on the bed. There is no reason for your own mattress not to be the same. There is no reason to put up with odor! Incontinence does not mean any pungent scent has to pervade the bedroom, and I want to really emphasize that!

Other people's beds

When traveling, carry a plastic sheet that you can use sort of as a draw sheet and use a hotel towel to put down over the plastic sheet. You can put this over the bottom sheet but you run the risk of dislodging it if you toss and turn (as I do). It will stay put much better if it's under the bottom sheet. If I have a leak, you do get the hotel's sheet wet but the mattress is protected and stays dry! I will pull the bottom sheet off in the morning and leave it and the towel in the bathroom. I don't mind what the maid service may think, I'm happy that I took care not to damage the mattress! For extended stays, such as a week, I'll bite the bullet and tell the hotel I have a "bed wetting problem" and ask for bed protection. They are generally eager to accommodate that request because it can save them the cost of a mattress! I don't generally ask ahead since I am finding more hotel mattresses already protected just as a matter of course. Check the mattress when you reach your room, and you may find, as I have, that about half the time a plastic or a newer non-woven waterproof covering over the mattress.

Furniture and automobile upholstery

The same potential to leak at night exists by day and especially for those of you who wear disposables. In addition, sitting is our most vulnerable position for leaks. It is very rare to get a leak standing up, that is our most secure position. Lying down is less secure than standing but more secure than sitting. Sitting is the least secure and most leakage prone. Since we don't want to wet someone's furniture, I always seek waterproof furniture as much as possible when choices are available. Lots of people have hard plastic chairs or at least vinyl covered soft chairs. I avoid upholstered furniture like the plague. If social demands are such that I must sit and only such vulnerable furniture is available, I like to know ahead of time so I can wear rubber pants, rather than plastic pants. If I'm wearing disposables, I will not sit on "good furniture" no matter what. My most common excuse is my "bad back" that requires me to remain either standing up or sitting on a "hard, uncomfortable straight chair".

The car upholstery

Vinyl interior upholstery used to be the most common and I was really glad for that era during which vinyl upholstery was the rage and even the period when clear plastic seat covers were the rage and almost everyone had them to keep the seat cushions "like new"! Now cloth seems to be more prevalent, which is not good for us unless the person with whom you are riding knows of your incontinence. If that is the case, it's easy to bring along a chair pad, either washable or disposable. You probably know them: the nice quilted pads with a waterproof bottom sewn on. I have these on all my personal furniture in my house that I sit on. For guests, the pads are optional but most don't bother to remove the pad before sitting down. If the bulkiness of the pad is a problem, you can carry a small piece of rubber sheet that folds away to a small size to stick in pocket or purse. I happen to like the security of knowing I won't (can't) leave a wet spot when I get up after riding in someone's car.

Office furniture

The doctor's office or the dentist or whatever is usually a situation where the wait is not that long and remaining standing may be a fine option when waterproof furniture is not present. If not, you can sit... but keep your wits about you. Wetting usually produces warmth or some other sensation you may be able to detect. When you detect that you are wetting, get up! Remember standing is the most secure against leaks! Get up and do something like selecting a different magazine or go into the rest room! If that option exists, that will let you check for wetness level and leak potential before you return and decide if you dare to sit down again.

So, there are lots of ways for us to make our way in the dry and continent world without others ever knowing that we have to work at it a bit more than the rest of them do! To assure protection for bedding and furniture, it is important to provide adequate, discreet coverings to avoid irreparable damage.

We can and do share these ideas and we ask questions and get answers on the internet forums and chat rooms. We invite you to submit suggestions and tips for assuring protection for the everyday furniture we depend on.

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