Incontinence Underpads: Choosing the Best Bed Pad

For those living with incontinence or care for someone with the condition, having the right products on hand can make everyday tasks more manageable.  Incontinence bed pads, or underpads, are square or rectangular pieces of absorbent material often backed with a water-resistant lining. Available in many sizes, absorbencies, and disposable or reusable forms, bed pads are placed on top of mattresses, chairs, car seats, or any other surface to add a layer of protection from possible leakage. Bed pads and underpads prove to be particularly useful when caring for bedridden or physically inactive patients in at-home settings. With comfort in mind, thick reusable pads are often a go-to choice. Thin, disposable bed pads are more practical if the bed pad needs to be changed very frequently.

How Do I Choose a Bed Pad?

When choosing a bed pad or underpad, first evaluate your specific needs. Where will the underpad be used? How often do you expect to change it? Does the mattress require a layer of extra support for comfort? How much volume do I need the pad to hold?

Types of Bed Pads Available

Bed pads are available in both reusable and disposable forms. Functionally, there is little difference between them, however, some prefer the economic advantage of washable bed pads rather than the convenience of disposables. Within these two main categories, several styles and features will help you to narrow down your options even further: 

Absorbency - The core material in disposable bed pads is typically made from a polymer that absorbs liquid and moisture and turns it into an odor-retaining gel. Reusable bed pads often utilize a quilted fabric made of rayon or poly-rayon soaker to hold liquids. Although fabric absorbent cores are economically and ecologically friendly, the moisture-wicking properties of disposable pads are superior.

Airflow - Several forms of underpads are available to accommodate special requirements for bedridden or physically inactive individuals as well as those who use low-air loss mattresses or airflow therapy beds. 

Air-permeable disposable bed pads diffuse heat and moisture to keep the skin dry and cool through its circulation capabilities. In addition to constant airflow, these bed pads are strong enough to turn an individual when necessary.

Airflow underpads are used with low-air loss mattresses to protect both the patient and mattress by effectively circulating air to minimize heat and moisture build-up.

Backing Material - Disposable bed pads are often made of a plastic backing and although economical, may be predisposed to slipping. Some versions offer adhesive strips to keep the pad in place. Reusable bed pads have a fabric backing that will be quieter, more comfortable, and will stay in place but will not have the exceptional moisture-wicking properties of their disposable counterparts.

Top Material - Some variations of underpads offer a soft top layer for added comfort.

What Sizes of Bed Pads Are Available?

Underpads and bed pads sizing varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but generally range from 17 x 24 inches up to 40 by 57 inches. Larger bed pads are used for mattress coverage and smaller pads are most effective on chairs and other furniture. Multiple pads can be used for full coverage. 

How Do I Use Bed Pads?

Bed pads are very simple to use. They should be placed on top of the mattress but underneath the fitted sheet. If you want to protect the sheet from getting wet, you may also place the bed pad over the fitted sheet. However, you should take care to find a soft material if you choose this option so it will feel comfortable to sleep on. You can also layer bed pads depending on your level of incontinence.

Layering Techniques

Dressing a bed for incontinence will depend on the patient’s absorbency needs and incontinence level. 

  • Begin with a waterproof mattress cover directly on top of your mattress or over your existing fabric mattress pad for added comfort.
  • Add bed pads as follows: 1 to 3 for light or moderate incontinence and 3 or more in an overlapped fashion for heavier incontinence.
  • Cover all layers with standard fitted bed sheets. For those suffering from heavy incontinence or for those who do not wish to experience moisture on the sheets, add another layer of bed pads on top of the standard sheet. 


My bed pad keeps slipping out of place.

If your bed pad keeps slipping off, securing it in place by putting it underneath the fitted sheet can help. You can also use a zippered fitted sheet to prevent the bed pad from moving around or try bed pads with adhesive strips.

The underpad is making my bed too warm.

If you find your bed pad makes your bed feel too warm and uncomfortable, you should try using a breathable bed pad. These Moisture-wicking bed pads are extremely helpful in regulating the temperature in your bed by utilizing airflow to prevent the accumulation of heat and sweat.

The bed pad is noisy or uncomfortable.

Bed pads with a plastic layer can make a squeaking noise. If you find this uncomfortable to sleep through, try a bed pad with a soft top sheet. The soft layer on top will feel much more comfortable and it will not make any noise as you move around., a leader in online medical supply, proudly offers a comprehensive selection of incontinence products for men and women at competitive prices. Shop confidently with our Price Match Guarantee and Autoship Subscription program.