Protection differs among various styles of adult diapers
Millions of adults struggle with chronic fecal or urinary incontinence on a daily basis. Fortunately, there's a wealth of quality products on the market designed to meet their needs.
The most common solution to total bowel or bladder control loss is the brief-style disposable adult diaper. Of all the types of incontinence products out there, these protective undergarments offer the most consistent leakage protection, the highest absorbency and the most security. They generally feature a cloth-like or plastic outer surface, a highly absorbent inner core, leg elastics, and either tape tabs or hook-and-loop fasteners. Our editors found that brief products by Abena, Attends, NorthShore and Molicare consistently outshine other competitors in this category.
Alternatively, pull-on disposable protective underwear products work like regular undergarments by pulling on and off, and they are meant to offer more dignity and freedom than brief-style diapers. However, they often don't have the capacity or protection to handle severe incontinence.
Disposable incontinence pads, much like female menstrual pads, are designed to be worn inside regular underwear. They are generally not absorbent enough to protect against major bowel incontinence, but they can provide adequate protection against urinary incontinence.
Absorbency booster pads are worn inside a primary diaper for supplementary protection. When they fill to capacity, wetness passes through them and into the host garment, extending the longevity of the main diaper. Many people with severe incontinence rely on booster pads for extra overnight protection.
When it comes to adult incontinence products, the general rule is that high absorbency comes at the cost of discreetness. For the most part, the higher a diaper's capacity, the bulkier it's going to look under clothing. It's almost always a trade-off, although some are slightly less conspicuous than others.
Finding the best adult diapers
There isn't a lot of informative testing out there on adult diapers, and we based much of our findings on owner reviews and ratings. The best website by far for testing and reviews is XPMedical.com, an online retailer specializing in incontinence products. Owner Gary Evans and a small staff perform exhaustive testing on their products, and their ratings have a good reputation in the online adult diaper community. Their diaper reviews are detailed and specific, and information on each style includes wet and dry measurements, features, results of wetting and rewetting tests, cost per diaper and comments on overall quality and effectiveness. We also considered the reviews done at IncontinenceSupport.info. They are more anecdotal than scientific, and we'd be happier if we knew more about those who administer the site, but the reviews are based on hands-on testing and cover most aspects of what those who need adult diapers should know before making a selection.
To name the best-reviewed adult diapers, we considered performance (how well the diaper retains contents, how well it absorbs fluids and how well it protects against leaks), ease of use (comfort, fit, convenience of removal) and odor absorption (whether the product neutralizes odor and how long the protection lasts). Our top picks for disposable briefs, pull-on underwear, incontinence pads and booster pads all receive favorable reviews from experts and strong feedback from owners.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Disposable Briefs: Disposable briefs -- also known as adult diapers -- are the most popular type of incontinence product. These are the ones that rate best according to users and experts.
Best Pull-On Underwear: For mild incontinence issues, pull-on underwear provides protection while preserving a little more freedom. Incontinence pads can provide some extra protection as well.
Buying Guide: Not sure where to start to find the right incontinence product for you or a loved one? These pointers can help make shopping easier.
Our Sources: These are the user and expert reviews we relied on to find the best adult diapers and other incontinence products. They are ranked in the order of their helpfulness.