Urinary incontinence is a common medical problem among the elderly. The condition mainly results from age-related loss of muscle control, particularly the muscles that regulate bladder movement. 

One way to manage urinary incontinence is by using adult diapers. Like diapers for infants, adult diapers work by soaking up the urine unintentionally passed by an adult. These products minimize the risks of the affected individual soiling their pants and consequently suffering the embarrassment associated with involuntary urine passage.

But as you shall find, urinary incontinence isn’t the only reason you’d want to get your senior folk adult diapers. The products may also help address bowel incontinence, which is basically the loss of control of the muscles controlling bowel movements. 

Now, when shopping for adult diapers, you’ll realize that the phrase is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘adult pull-ups.’ Knowing the difference between the two products is essential before hitting the stores. 

Read on as we delve into the fundamental differences between adult diapers and adult pull-ups.


What Are Adult Diapers?

Adult diapers are diapers designed for use by anyone other than infants. They’re also known as briefs with tabs or incontinence briefs. As already indicated, the primary function of adult diapers is soaking up the urine passed unintentionally by adults due to bladder incontinence. 

Now, the past few years have witnessed a steady increase in the number of briefs for adults manufacturers and retailers. That’s great news for buyers as it means there are plenty of products to sample. However, it doesn’t eliminate the importance of treading with caution while shopping for incontinence briefs for your elderly folk.  

At the very least, you’d want to ensure you’re purchasing adult diapers from reputable brands. And the best way to establish the reputation of a brief incontinence manufacturer is to check for reviews. 

It would also help to purchase the correct diaper size. Absorbency ratings, comfort levels, and material are also other core considerations when looking for the best adult diaper.

What Are Adult Pull-ups?

Adult pull-ups are underwear or pants that contain an in-built urine-absorbing material. These products are also known as incontinence underwear or incontinence pants. 

Like adult diapers, adult pull-ups are designed primarily to address urinary incontinence issues. The products may also be instrumental in managing bowel incontinence. 

The buying guide for incontinence briefs and incontinence underwear is also more or less similar. You’d want to establish the waist size and leaking condition of the intended wearer before scouting around for the most comfortable adult-pull up from a credible manufacturer.  


How Do Adult Diapers Differ from Adult Pull-ups?

Based on the two definitions above, the fundamental difference between adult diapers and adult pull-ups relates to their design. 

Incontinence briefs pretty much resemble regular diapers, only that they’re intended for anyone other than infants. On the other hand, adult pull-ups are underwear fitted with a pee-soaking pad. 

The following are other significant differences between incontinence briefs and incontinence underwear.

1. Reusability vis-a-vis Disposability

Adult diapers come in both reusable and disposable varieties. As the name implies, reusable diapers can be worn multiple times before disposing of them. You only need to wash the product according to manufacturer guidelines. Disposable diapers can only be used once. 

Since adult-pull ups are essentially underwear or pants, nearly all these products are reusable. It would make no economic sense to purchase a single-use pair of pants simply because it has an in-built urine-absorbing layer.

2. Relative Cost

Expectedly, the average price of adult diapers mainly comes down to reusability. Reusable diapers generally fetch higher than their disposable counterparts. 

However, even the most durable incontinence brief will still cost substantially lower than adult pull-ups. That’s because numerous factors determine the price of adult pull-ups besides their sheer urine-absorbing capabilities. 

3. Absorbency and Efficiency 

Adult diapers are more efficient at soaking up pee than adult pull-ups. That’s for the simple reason that incontinence briefs are designed primarily for addressing inadvertent urine passage. As such, they contain a thicker pee-absorbing layer than pull-ups.

However, it’s important to remember that adult diapers also differ in their absorbency ratings. The best way to choose the most absorbent incontinence brief is to check its thickness and material. Cotton offers better absorbency than most common adult diaper materials.

4. Weight and Comfort 

Incontinence briefs tend to be considered bulky. Even the most comfortable adult diaper will still exert substantial weight around your crotch. 

The contrary is true for adult pull-ups. Pull-ups are lighter, less bulky, and feel a lot like regular pants or underwear. 

5. Changeability 

Adult diapers are easy to change. That’s due to their removable side panels. 

For comparison, most adult pull-ups can only be removed the same way as regular pants. This can be especially challenging for elderly people with knee joint pain or those with other mobility issues. 

Besides, the difficulty in changing adult pull-ups reduces their efficiency in terms of managing bowel incontinence.

6. Activity Levels 

Incontinence underwear are more suitable for people who lead active lifestyles. That’s due to their discreet nature. 

On the other hand, adult diapers would better suit people with reduced mobility. Although these products feature relatively strong side panels, the side tabs may become loose while engaging in energy-intensive activities like cycling or running.


Both adult diapers and adult pull-ups can help address urinary incontinence. But as you may have gathered from this post, the choice between incontinence briefs and incontinence underwear mainly comes down to individual needs.

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