Types of Disposable Diapers

Disposable diapers offer options for virtually every consumer.
Disposable diapers offer options for virtually every consumer. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Disposable diapers line every grocery store shelf in America. The types, features and intended market vary, with options changing frequently. Baby diapers feature various inner cores intended to increase how much a diaper can hold. There are options for various sizes, closures, leg openings and developmental stages. Adult diapers, like those used for bedridden patients and elderly individuals with incontinence issues, have their own variations. Diapers for adults range from large pads to full-sized diapers that resemble underwear, with each featuring different material construction.

Material Construction

Whether intended for babies or adults, disposable diapers typically feature an outer plastic layer with inner layers of natural or synthetic fiber. Many diapers include a chemical gel compound within the inner layers for better urine absorption. Some manufacturers even offer layering designed to better meet the anatomical differences between genders. Other manufacturers treat materials used in diaper construction with chemicals such as sodium polyacrylate for increased absorbency. With the increased interest in environmental concerns, some manufacturers now offer biodegradable disposable diapers made from paper-like fabric and natural fibers.

Specialized Design Features

Both baby and adult disposable diapers have a host of special features, depending on the manufacturer. For example, baby diapers often have different prints or patterns. Both types of diapers have different closures from plastic or paper tape to Velcro. Leg fittings also vary, with most diaper manufacturers offering elastic leg bands to reduce the likelihood of leaks. Each special feature is meant to increase performance or differentiate one brand from another. In most cases, name-brand diapers have more special features than store-brand diapers.

Perfumes, Deodorants and Dyes

Manufacturers use a variety of methods to bleach or dye diaper material. Likewise, many disposable diapers for babies include baby powder, perfumes or some form of deodorant to reduce unpleasant odors. Some adult disposable diapers also feature similar chemical treatments or additional ingredients to mask or absorb odors. Alternatively, for those individuals with sensitivities to such chemicals, most manufacturers also offer disposable diapers without such additives to reduce the likelihood of rashes, allergic reactions or other skin irritations.

Underwear-Like Designs

For adults with incontinence, many disposable diaper manufacturers offer options that feel more like regular underwear. In fact, some disposable diapers for adults resemble feminine pads for menstruating women, rather than full-sized undergarments. The goal is for the wearer to feel less self-conscious about wearing an undergarment associated with babies and the elderly. For toddlers, manufacturers also offer a similar underwear-style disposable diaper. Such diapers have elastic waistbands and leg cuffs, just like underwear. Unlike underwear, these disposable diapers have an absorbent inner core for accidents. The goal of such diapers is to aid in toilet-training a toddler, allowing the child or parent to pull the diaper up and down like underwear, yet provide absorbency in the event of an accident.

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