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Buying Guide: Adult Diapers

By: Damon McClure on August 03, 2017

What the best adult diaper does

  • Absorbs and retains liquid. Absorbency and leakage protection are the most important things to consider when buying a new brand of adult diaper.
  • Proves easy to use and comfortable to wear. If the adult pull-up or disposable brief doesn't fit snugly, it could lead to leaks or discomfort.
  • Neutralizes odor. Most styles and models of adult diapers contain an absorbent core that has been designed to suppress odors, although the effectiveness of this feature varies widely.

Know before you go

Consider your personal needs. A light pad may provide enough protection for mild stress incontinence, and a standard diaper for more significant incontinence issues may work well enough if it's changed after each use. For those with severe incontinence or those who want to use a single diaper for multiple wettings, a premium brand is the most reliable choice.

Choose a diaper that's compatible with your clothing. Although premium diapers are the most effective, they can also be bulkier. While the increased bulk shouldn't be an issue for those who wear fairly loose clothing, a less absorbent style or a highly absorbent pad worn inside close-fitting underwear will be more discreet under tighter clothing.

Adult pull-ups allow for easy removal. Users say pull-on underwear or pads are far easier to pull up and down than adult briefs, which need to be refastened on each side after a trip to the bathroom. Another option is to place a booster inside a brief and change the booster as needed while leaving the brief in place.

Start with a sample pack. Because of the variation in people's body shapes and lifestyles, experts say there's no incontinence product that works for everyone. Many makers and/or retailers offer small sample packs -- usually two or three diapers -- at a reduced price, so you can try the product before you commit to a larger order.

What about the backing? Adult diapers are available with either a plastic or a cloth-like paper outer shell. Experts say that plastic does a better job containing moisture and odor. However, plastic can sometimes make a crinkling sound when users move about. Some products have colored rather than white backing, which some say may show through lighter-colored clothing.

Buy the smallest size that fits well, unless you need extra protection. Adult diapers and disposable pull-on underwear come in a range of sizes from extra small to extra-large and beyond. The snugger the fit, the less likely leaks will occur. Larger sizes, however, offer more absorption.

Try new products out at home first. An incontinence product that works well for one person's body shape may be uncomfortable or leaky for someone else. Experts caution that even a top-rated brief, pull-up or pad should be tested in a private setting before being worn out in public.

You are not alone. While the necessity of turning to adult diapers for yourself or a loved one can sometimes cause distress, it's important to realize that you are far from alone. Quoting data from the Urology Care Foundation, Bloomberg Businessweek says that as many as 1 out of 3 adults, many of them women, have bladder control issues. "Causes include pregnancy and childbirth, health conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and changes that accompany aging, according to the Mayo Clinic." the article notes. Already, adult diapers are the fast growing paper-based household staple, and experts add that in a decade, sales of adult diapers could outpace those of baby diapers.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

The cost of adult diapers varies widely based on retailer, quantity and size, so it's difficult to pin down exact numbers. In general, you can expect to spend between 60 cents and $2 per diaper, but buying in bulk can sometimes reduce the price. Another great way to save is to buy booster pads, which are much more affordable, so that the primary garment needs to be changed less often.

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