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Absorbency and Breathability Vary Among Adult Diapers and Pants Choose Products as per Incontinence Severity and Change Regularly to Safeguard Elderly Health

  • 2023.05.15

As the population ages, many older people may face the issue of incontinence. As a result, the demand for incontinence care products such as adult diapers, pants or incontinence pads has increased along with the emergence and severity of the issue. As these products have intimate contact with users’ skin, poor performance in breathability or hygiene would not only cause discomfort, skin irritation, but could even lead to dermatitis or urethritis. The Consumer Council tested 30 models of adult diapers, pants and incontinence pads on the market and found that the performance varied in terms of penetrating quality and breathability, of which 13 models had a lower level of breathability, 2 models showed higher rewet tendency to the surface, while 1 model was found with a higher amount of leakage. Even among the same type of product, the average price per piece could vary by almost onefold, bringing users’ estimated monthly expenses on relevant products up to $1,600 or more. When purchasing adult diapers or incontinence care products, consumers are reminded to consider the user's incontinence severity, mobility, and habits; compare and trial products before choosing the most appropriate option.

Average Monthly Costs of Some Models Almost Double that of Others


The Council purchased 15 models of adult diapers, 10 models of adult pants, and 5 models of incontinence pads from retailers and conducted tests to assess their performance in penetrating quality, breathability, quality, hygiene, the presence of hazardous chemical substances, pH value, etc. As these diapers, pants, and pads need to be changed frequently, consumers would naturally consider price as an important factor when picking such products. The average price per piece of the 15 adult diaper models ranged from $4.3 to $9.3. Assuming users changed diapers 6 times per day for 30 days a month, the monthly cost would range from $774 to $1,674, a difference of over onefold. The average price of the 10 pant models ranged from $6.5 to $12.5 per pair. Adult pants users usually have relatively better mobility and are generally capable of going to the toilet on their own, so the quantity used would be lower than that of diapers. Assuming 3 changes of adult pants a day, the average monthly cost would range from $585 to $1,125, a difference of almost onefold. In terms of overall performance, 2 adult diaper models received an overall rating of 4.5 or above, with an average cost of $5 and $6.2 per diaper respectively. On the contrary, the highest priced diaper model ($9.3/piece) only scored 3 points, which is less satisfactory in comparison. Test results reflect that there is no necessary correlation between product quality and price, so consumers should choose wisely.



Absorption Speed and Rewet Amount Vary Among Models

Users of diapers or pants would expect products to absorb urine speedily while the surface could be kept dry, so as not to affect the comfort of wear. The absorption test was conducted by pouring a test solution onto the centre of the test sample twice, each 8 minutes apart, and the absorption speed was assessed by measuring the time for the test solution to be fully absorbed after contact with the top layer of the test sample. The absorption time of all models met the requirements of the Mainland standard for adult diapers and pants (50 seconds or less for the first round, and 100 seconds or less for the second), but there were significant discrepancies in absorption speed among the models. All 15 diaper models took an average of 0 to 13 seconds to absorb the test solution in first round, and slowed down to an average of 7 to 19 seconds for the second round, among which 5 models showed excellent performance, absorbing all the solution within 0 and 3 seconds in the first round and in 10 seconds or less in the second round. 1 model performed less satisfactorily, taking on average 13 seconds and 19 seconds in the 2 rounds respectively.

As for the 10 pant models, the average time required to absorb all the solution in the first round ranged from 0 to 19 seconds, while that for the second round ranged from 11 to 34 seconds, showing rather significant disparities. 2 of the models were able to absorb all the solutions instantly in the first round, while the second test took on average 11 seconds and 17 seconds respectively. Another model had a slower absorption speed, requiring 19 seconds and 34 seconds in the first and second rounds respectively, which was far from the best-performing models.

Diapers and pants are worn for extended periods of time. If the absorbed urine is not effectively held, there is a risk that the urine will seep back to the top layer, which will not only undermine the user’s comfort, but also increase the risk of infection of the skin and intimate areas due to prolonged contact with a damp surface. A smaller rewet amount of the model indicates a drier surface. All models showed varying amounts of rewetting. Based on the measured average amount, 7 diaper models rewetted less than 0.5g thus had a higher degree of surface dryness, while 1 model performed less satisfactorily (13g). 5 pant models performed well with an average rewet amount of less than 0.5g, while 1 showed poor performance (20.1g).

Generally Satisfactory Leakproof Performance but Low Breathability for Some Models

If diapers or pants are not leakproof, urine may easily stain clothing and cause embarrassment and inconvenience. Most of the diapers and pant models tested had no leakage or only slight leakage, except for 1 pant model that was less satisfactory in performance. In addition, the breathability of the product is also crucial: low breathability would make the wearer swelter and could cause skin allergies or rashes, especially in summer. The breathability test was conducted by putting the samples on a mannequin and simulating urination or urine leaks. The breathability of the models was then assessed by measuring the water vapour permeability at the outer layer of the sample. Results showed that 11 out of the 15 diaper models could be categorised as “Non-Breathable” while only 3 models had good performance. The overall performance of breathability for pant models was good, with 4 models scoring 5 points, while the performance of pad models varied significantly, with 3 models scoring 4 or more, but 2 were not detected with any water vapour on the outer layer, reflecting poor breathability. Overall test results showed that 2 pant models simultaneously had good performance in breathability and leakproofness, demonstrating that by using a bottom film with both waterproof and breathable properties, manufacturers could achieve “zero leakage” and high breathability at the same time.

In terms of hygiene and chemical safety, all models complied with the requirements of relevant standards, but 1 model was detected with a small amount of fungi while 4 models were detected with free formaldehyde. In terms of the labelling, many models had ample room for improvement. 5 models only listed the production date on the packaging without specifying the shelf life or expiry date, while 2 models had not labelled relevant information at all. The Council recommends manufacturers to label the date of production, along with the shelf life or expiry date, so that consumers can purchase more recently manufactured products and promptly use them within the shelf life to avoid product deterioration.

Choose According to Health Condition of User

When purchasing adult diapers, pants or incontinence pads, consumers should consider the health condition of the user. For example, those who are incontinent due to mobility issues or bedridden are suited to diapers that are less likely to leak, breathable, and have quick absorption so as to keep the skin dry. For heavy incontinence, products with high absorption capacity should be used. For individuals who have moderate or heavy incontinence but can walk on their own, or stand and walk with assistance, they can opt for adult pants which are convenient to wear and with higher breathability and quick absorption. If the incontinence is light, for example, only a small amount of urine is discharged when laughing, coughing, or lifting heavy objects, incontinence pads would be a suitable choice. Generally, apart from choosing an incontinence care product with appropriate absorption capacity that meets the user’s needs, it is also important to ensure the product fits properly. Consumers are encouraged to compare products and pick the most fitting choice.

Consumers can refer to these tips on usage and care:

  • Diapers, pants and pads should all be changed every 4 to 6 hours as prolonged urine contact with the skin could easily breed bacteria in a damp environment, causing problems such as redness and itchiness;
  • Consider using a diaper with high absorbency level (e.g. night maxi models) at night or when no caregiver can change the diapers regularly. If the skin of a user is healthy with no open wounds, avoid changing at night which will disrupt sleep. However, if the user's skin is injured or prone to rashes or allergies, diapers should be changed every 4 hours to avoid diaper rash or even urethritis;
  • Wear right sized products and follow instructions for usage, so as to prevent increased risks of dermatitis due to frequent friction between the skin and the diaper;
  • Maintain good lifestyle habits, such as drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily to maintain a steady volume of urine, for the prevention of urethritis, and reduce consumption of diuretic beverages such as strong tea, alcohol or caffeine.


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