HowTo: DIY Reusable Potty Pads
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Thread: HowTo: DIY Reusable Potty Pads

  1. #1
    mieu's Avatar
    mieu is offline Village Senator
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    Feb 2013

    Default HowTo: DIY Reusable Potty Pads

    I wrote this while bored in my hotel last week and finished taking the pics today! Since Scootaloo has started this lovely new habit of shredding and eating disposable pee pads that we leave with her while we're at work (or even out of the house for a half-hour), I started making my own reusable pee pads. If you're crafty and have a messy apartment pup, give it a try!

    Materials Needed:
    - Ruler
    - Pencils or fabric marker
    - A few pins, or scotch tape (PUL does not take a fold very well)
    - A sewing machine with fabric-appropriate needle and thread (no-sew discussed at the bottom)
    - Absorbent material
    - Waterproof material

    Choosing Your Fabric:
    Naturally when making an item for your pet, you will want to stick to some core tenets:
    - The fabric should not be easily shreddable (so cotton batting and foam are a big 'no').
    - The fabric should be machine-washable and able to withstand many washes (because you have a life!)

    As always you will want to consider the fabric care directions and machine sewing requirements to confirm whether or not it's something you can work with.

    Things to consider with fabric care:
    - What temperature can it be washed in?
    - What type of cycle is recommended?
    - What types of detergents does it tolerate?
    - Does it tolerate fabric softener?
    - Can it be machine-dried, if so, on what heat setting?
    - Can it be ironed?

    Things to consider on machine sewing requirements:
    - Will the foot of your machine be able to hold multiple layers of this fabric in place?
    - Is your machine strong enough to get a needle through multiple layers of this fabric?
    - What kind of needle is best used with this fabric?
    - What kind of thread is best used with this fabric?
    - What should the tension setting be with this kind of fabric?
    - Due to thickness and workability restrictions, what are the best seam finishing styles for this fabric? Can you alter the pattern to suit it?

    Absorbent material:
    This is the material that will do all of the heavy lifting in terms of absorbing your pet's mess. I chose plain old 100% cotton flannel, which can be found in online fabric stores for $5/yard. Why? Because that's what folks make reusable baby diapers out of!

    Waterproof material:
    This is the material that will go on the bottom layer and outside edges of your pad to prevent leaks. With waterproof materials, however, comes the limitation of workability. If you have a heavy duty chewer, you may want to opt for something like waterproof canvas or other outdoor-rated upholstery material, or material used to make rain gear. Pay very close attention to the recommendations for machine strength and needle size when choosing a material like that--too thick and you may fry your machine! I've been able to sew through 1000 denier cordura fabric (think heavy-duty luggage material) with the right material and a basic Brother sewing machine. Ye olde black metal Singers can get through basically everything with the right needle and thread.

    For my purposes, since my pup is not a big shredder of fabric, I opted for polyurethane laminate (PUL). Again, this fabric is used in DIY diaper-making to form a waterproof outer shell for diapers. It's relatively thin and very soft and quite workable as far as waterproof fabrics go. It is made with a tissue-thin layer of polyester fabric fused with another tissue-thin layer of plastic coating. It is porous for breathability, (so you won't find yourself battling air bubbles) but the pores are not big enough for liquid to pass through. As one would expect of something made of thin plastic, it is NOT ironable, and is NOT machine-dryable, but it can withstand a stain-removing soak in baking-soda and water and a normal cycle with warm water. I found PUL fabric for $10/yard online. Below is what it looks like (here's a higher-res image)

    How much fabric do I need?
    To determine how much fabric is needed, first you must decide how big you want the pad to be. There will be three core measurements we will work with:
    - Desired length of the finished pad (L)
    - Desired width of the finished pad (W)
    - Desired thickness of the pad borders (B)

    I make my pads 20" x 20" (L = 20, W = 20) which is about the size of most store-bought disposable pee-pads. My borders are 2" (B = 2) thick, which gives my pup a 16" x 16" space of absorbent surface to mess on--the borders keep the mess from leaking off the edge of the pad onto the floor (if your pup has poor aim and wees ON the border, I can't help you there!)

    Waterproof: You will need one solid piece of waterproof fabric whose length = L + 4B and whose width = W + 4B.

    In my case, the piece of PUL I used was 28" x 28"

    Absorbent: Each layer of absorbent material will be exactly length = L and width = W.

    This one you will have to play by ear depending on what fabric you chose. Unless you chose polar fleece, you will likely need multiple layers of this fabric. Something to keep in mind to make sure you order your fabric cost-efficiently, is that most fabrics are sold on bolts of either 60" or 45-48" thickness--that makes all the difference in how many squares you can get out of a yard of fabric! It helps to be planful about this so you can fold to create layers instead of cutting multiple squares.

    I used three layers of cotton flannel per pad.

    Now Make the Darn Thing:

    1) Before cutting, wash, dry and iron your materials (if allowed, following the care instructions), especially if it is made out of cotton, since it will shrink. Many fabrics come pre-treated with a wash that makes them a little bit stain resistant, which can make for a disappointing first use of your pad!

    If you're using PUL, it's fairly easily wrinkled if not folded neatly and can't be ironed, so take care! Once it's sewn together, it doesn't matter if it's wrinkly (and it WILL get wrinkly), but it's a pain in the butt to work with wrinkly PUL!

    2) Cut your fabric to the dimensions specified. If you were planful about the layering of your absorbent material, you may not need to cut each layer individually.

    Waterproof material:
    length = L + 4B
    width = W + 4B

    Absorbent material (final area all layered-up):
    length = L
    width = W

    (the images for the steps below assume that the white paper is your waterproof material, and your pink paper is the absorbent material)

    3) Placing your waterproof material wrong-side up (right-side being the side that will be exposed on the finished product), measure and mark a border of 2B thickness on all four edges, and place your layered absorbent material (right-side up) directly inside of this bordered space--if you measured correctly, it should fit neatly inside the borders!

    Take note of the folding lines in the image--between fold lines 3 and 4 should measure 1B, and likewise the distance between the edge of the waterproof fabric and fold line 3 should also be 1B.

    4) Fold along fold line 1. You don't need to mark it or measure it, simply fold the corner of the waterproof fabric until it touches the corner of the absorbent fabric as shown.

    5) Fold along fold line 2. This one is a little bit trickier, but to double-check that your fold is even, you can measure to ensure that the lines marked in blue in the image are exactly 2B in length. You may need a pin or a piece of tape to hold this fold in place (I'd place it right where the corner of your absorbent fabric used to be, at a 45 degree angle for easy removal later). If your fabrics are ironable, you can iron the fold in place.

    6) Fold along fold lines 3 so that the outer edges of your waterproof fabric touch the edges of your absorbent fabric, and then again along the touching edges. You should then have a nice border that is 1B in thickness all around your pad, with the folded edges of the waterproof fabric flush at each corner as shown in the image. Iron, pin or tape down these folds. You will be sewing next so take care that all pins and tape are exposed and easy to remove right now without unfolding anything so you don't accidentally sew your pins from previous folds INTO your finished pad...not a pleasant surprise for pet!

    Folding line 3:

    Folding line 4:

    7) When sewing, create a stitch that starts at the far corner and travels along the diagonal edge of your waterproof fabric. The stitch should continue along at about 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the fold and the absorbent fabric--too far and you're giving your pup plenty of room to sink their teeth in and pull the thing apart! After you've gone around the whole pad once and cleaned up any messy stitches, double-up the stitch if you think you need to!

    Bam! You're done! Here's my first pad--a little wrinkly because it was just washed and then dried in an unceremonious heap.

    If you don't have a sewing machine and don't care about the waterproof fabric, you can always do a quickie DIY pee-pad using a tie-off edge technique. Not the best for pups that go nuts for fringed edges, but if you get creative you may be able to tuck in the fringe such that they can't get to it.

    Just take your flannel or other absorbent material and add 4 inches to each dimension. Cut it out, layer it up, and then cut a fringe 2" deep around all edges (or around only the open edges if you used a fold on one edge) with each segment of the fringe 1/2" in width. Then, go and tie the layers (tightly!) together using the fringe.

    If your pup isn't a shredder, you can alternatively use heat bonding tape in place of a stitch (if your materials can be ironed). For more ideas, just google 'no-sew solutions.'
    Wonka & Nilla and Nina_W like this.

    He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, till the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

    Scootaloo's Page!

  2. #2
    staticjess's Avatar
    staticjess is offline Village Governor
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    Aug 2013
    South Dakota


    This is great, thanks! I used disposables for years with my old dog, but he would shred them too. I used to spray them with bitter apple and that worked great. Then one day after many years, he must have decided the bitter apple wasn't so bad. I started buying the washables, but they were pretty spendy. I never thought of making my own, what a great idea! I so have a good stash of washable ones aready, but will definitely keep this in mind when I need more.

  3. #3
    mieu's Avatar
    mieu is offline Village Senator
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    Doing the math with the materials I used it came out to be about $10 per pad, probably could have been a lot less if I'd hawked fabric sales, flannel goes on sale for $1/yard here in the winter!

    He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, till the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

    Scootaloo's Page!

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  5. #4
    Nina_W's Avatar
    Nina_W is offline Village Story Teller
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    Feb 2013


    This is a great DIY! Very well written :)

    I almost feel like making some just because.

    Thanks for this.

  6. #5
    lihuesue's Avatar
    lihuesue is offline Village Senator
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    May 2009
    Port Angeles, WA


    I bought and used the human incontinent pads when my Suli needed them. You can get them in all different sizes on eBay. Mostly about 36"x36" ones. They worked very well for her because of her problem.

    Yours look a lot more sturdy. Good Job!! If I had the talent... I would try to make one..

  7. #6
    Wonka & Nilla's Avatar
    Wonka & Nilla is offline Village Dancing Jitterpug
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    Oct 2005


    I just stumbled across this old thread and though I don't have puppies, I thought I would bump it up for those who do. Looks like a really great DIY item if you have a puppy who is a "shredder."
    Nina_W likes this.
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    Februrary 11, 2005 to May 10, 2020. Miss you, sweet boy!

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