Mellow Mummy: Pampers – The Dry Max Adventure Continues : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 15 July 2010

Pampers – The Dry Max Adventure Continues

You may have seen me vent about disposable nappies and my guilty conscience earlier this week. Now that I have got that off my chest, let me share with you the fascinating parts of my trip to the Pampers research and development centre in Schwalbach, Germany.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Űber-Scientist, Frank Wiesemann who has worked for Pampers for 15 years. I was slightly disappointed that Frank didn't have a long scientist's beard or a pristine white coat (although we did see him slip is lab coat on later in the day!). In his own wonderful German way, Frank gave us a brief run-through of the history of Pampers disposable nappies and the key technological milestones that have shaped their development.

Keen to show us the research and development centre where the new Pampers with Dry Max were developed, Frank took us on a tour of the building. First we visited the play room where several hundred local babies are invited to come and do what babies do best – play! The Pampers researchers patiently observe them to see the ways that babies move and how the nappies behave in real-life situations.

Next we entered the cool climate of the skin lab where important measurements are taken from the children after set periods of time to find out how much moisture is lingering on their skin with the potential to cause nappy rash.

Moving swiftly on, Frank rushed us through the top secret development lab where (seemingly) grannies in hairnets were knitting hand-made Pampers prototypes much like the Shreddies advert. We could see scissors and glue and rulers. It looked like a school project!

Next we got to experience the noise and wonder of the machines that make the nappies. At Schwalbach they have a small number of machines with which to manufacture prototype nappies. The machines filled the room and the sound filled our ears. Every few seconds a small, perfectly-shaped nappy would plop off the end of the line to be examined by the workmen for its suitability for test.

The next part of the tour took us to the 'Sensory Room'. Here the Proctor & Gamble guests and employees get to experience what it is like to be a baby. First, a giant cot with a mattress I could fall in to and a bear that dwarfed me – on the ceiling was a blurry picture of my 'mummy', barely visible to a baby's developing eyes. Next a super-size room with a coffee table at eye-height full of tempting things for me to grab. And finally, a garden full of toys and flowers for me to run and play with.

Our last stop before our environmental debrief was the development laboratory. Here, the science kicked in. Frank showed us the poly-acrolyte gel which they call the 'Super Absorber'. The new Pampers Active Fit nappies are packed full of the stuff which means that they are absorbent enough to hold over 12 hours worth of urine. It's a fine powder which transforms slowly into jellied blobs when it comes in contact with moisture.

The new Dry Max nappies differ from the old nappies in that they don't contain a cellulose core to hold the Super Absorber. The cellulose core was the bulky, fluffy bit but now that it is no longer needed (thanks to a magic cobweb of glue???), the nappies are a lot thinner and can hold a lot more moisture. The Super Absorber is fascinating stuff but I can't help thinking that the old nappies may have absorbed less and held it in worse, but that their absorbency was quicker. I've spoken to several other mummies who have found that the Dry Max nappies seem to take some time to suck the moisture up, but once they do, it stays drier for longer.

If you want to find out more about Pampers with Dry Max, visit the Pampers Village website at

My day at the Pampers R&D department was a unique opportunity to learn about the thought and effort that goes into developing a Pampers nappy – I shall never look at a disposable nappy in quite the same way ever again. The hospitality was brilliant and the R&D centre was fascinating. Thank-you!
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