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Baby shoes that dissolve in water

Swatches | February 1, 2023 | By:

Made from a water-soluble plastic called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), Woolybubs stand up to normal use, but dissolve when placed in boiling water. Photo: Woolybubs

Don’t throw out used baby shoes—boil them. That’s what Woolybubs founders Jesse and Megan Milliken say parents can do with the company’s biodegradable baby shoes that dissolve in boiling water. The company, based in Portland, Ore., says more than 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year. 

The husband and wife team founded Woolybubs in January 2020. Jesse Milliken spent 15 years at Nike in product creation and innovation, working closely with design and manufacturing. Megan worked as a program manager at CLEAResult, developing strategies for clients in energy efficiency industries. Woolybubs combines their backgrounds in footwear and sustainability.

The shoes are made from a water-soluble plastic called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which uses less energy and water than other textiles during production, according to the company. The inspiration came from similar dissolving technologies commonly found in laundry detergent pods. The dissolved solution is nontoxic and can be safely poured down the drain.

“We stitch the Newbies with durable, planet-friendly materials that hold up to normal baby wear and tear,” says Megan Milliken. “But when placed in boiling water, the shoes dissolve. Bacteria then decompose the dissolved solution back to CO2 and water.”

In the future, Woolybubs plans to expand beyond baby and toddler shoes into a full children’s footwear company. The company has two employees and is self-funded.

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