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How to Choose the Best Bed Pad

How to Choose the Best Bed Pad

Some incontinent individuals require a bit of extra protection outside of the absorbent underwear they use. A bed pad or under pad is a solution that provides that extra protection by preventing fluid from getting onto furniture.

This article will guide you through selecting the best bed pads to fit your specific needs. 

What Types of Bed Pads Are Available?

Adult bed pads are broken down into two main categories:

  • Reusable
  • Disposable

Some people prefer reusable bed pads because it allows them to cut down on both cost and waste. Others go with disposable bed pads because they don’t require washing and are more convenient than the reusable version.

There are also several types of bed pads found under those two main categories:

  1. Tuckable bed pads are a type of disposable bed pad that is meant to be tucked underneath a mattress to protect it and the sheets. They are large and are made with an absorbent core. Tuckable bed pads are generally heavier than the basic disposable underpads available on the market.
    Recommended for: Standard beds. All types of incontinence.
  2. Air-permeable bed pads are another variation of a disposable bed pad. These pads allow air to circulate while keeping moisture away. Skin stays dry and cool because heat is not allowed to build up and cause irritation. These types of pads are also tear-resistant which makes it easier to turn someone if needed.
    Recommended for: Inactive or bedridden users that require airflow to avoid bed sores.
  3. Airflow underpads are bed pads that are traditionally used on a low-airflow therapy bed. They absorb liquid while allowing air and heat to circulate throughout the pad including the back of it. While these pads do promote air circulation, they are still effective as they protect the bed.
    Recommended for: Users who utilize a special airflow therapy bed.

What Sizes of Bed Pads Are Available?

The size of the bed pad depends on the type and brand purchased.

Sizes include:

  • Small: 18x24, 26x26
  • Medium: 32x36, 36x24, 36x24
  • Large: 36x72, 36x80

The smaller sizes are used on chairs and other furniture. Larger sizes are typically used on a bed. Multiple pads may be necessary to cover the bed completely or large sections.

Savings tip: If you don’t experience heavy incontinence, opt for a smaller pad that you can layer if necessary. They are less expensive and you won't need the fuller coverage of a bigger pad.

How Do I Choose a Bed Pad?

The type of bed pad that you choose ultimately depends upon how you want to use it. Smaller bed pads are for furniture while larger ones are reserved for beds. Disposable ones are convenient and easy to change. Reusable bed pads last longer and cut down on waste.

Absorbency is another factor. Evaluate what you prefer and how much liquid the bed pads need to hold to decide what you need.


  1. Consider the size of the bed pad. Are you covering a bed or other furniture?
  2. Consider the required absorbency. Heavy/Overnight or moderate?
  3. Consider the type of bed pad. Reusable or disposable?

The Best Way to Use Bed Pads

We’re often asked for recommendations on how to properly use bed pads. There’s no right or wrong way. Each person has a preference that correlates with their absorbency needs.

Having said that, here are two ways we recommend to our customers with different absorbency needs:

Layering Techniques for Bed Pads

If you experience light to moderate incontinence, 1–3 underpads is typically enough protection while you sleep. Those who experience heavier incontinence may need 3 or more bed pads to get adequate protection.

illustration of bed with waterproof cover, then layering bed pads, then fitted sheet on top

How to layer bed pads for light/moderate incontinence:

  1. Base layer: waterproof mattress cover.
  2. Second layer: 1–3 bed pads
  3. Final layer: standard bed cover

We recommend using a standard bed cover over the pads to prevent them from slipping down to your knees while you sleep.

How to layer bed pads for heavy/severe incontinence:

  1. Base layer: waterproof mattress cover
  2. Second layer: 3 or more pads staggered over each other
  3. Final layer: standard bed cover

Note: If you prefer to avoid wetting your final layer (standard bed cover), you can place the pad over the final sheet and tape it at the ends to prevent slippage.

Further reading: What is a Bed Pad?

A bed pad is a large pad that can be placed on beds, chairs, sofas, and other surfaces to prevent liquid from getting onto fabrics and other surfaces. Underpads come in disposable and reusable variations in different sizes. They are traditionally used with other incontinence products like pull up underwear, diapers, and incontinence pads.

People who benefit from using adult bed pads are those searching for an easy incontinence solution that protects and covers a large surface area without a lot of effort.

How Do Bed Pads Work?

Once a bed pad is put onto a bed, sofa, chair, or another surface, its purpose is to absorb liquid and prevent it from seeping onto the surface underneath it.

Depending on the type of bed pad used, the liquid is absorbed differently.

Reusable bed pads are often made up of fabric and vinyl with cotton inside the pad to absorb any liquids. These types of bed pads absorb more liquid than disposable versions and can be washed in a washing machine. Reusable underpads have a vinyl back on the bottom to prevent liquid from coming out.

Disposable bed pads function in the same way a regular incontinence pad does, except they have a larger surface area. The liquid is absorbed into the core of the bed pad and converted to gel thanks to the polymer beads and “fluff” inside. It will keep the incontinent user dry but require changing quicker than reusable ones.

What Are Bed Pads Made Out of?

The majority of bed pads are constructed with a surface that absorbs into the top, a middle that holds the liquid, and the bottom of the pad that keeps liquid from leaking out. The surface is soft absorbable cotton or cotton fabric with layers of polyurethane or plastic and cotton in the middle.

What Absorbency Level Should I Choose?

As with bed pad size, the absorbency level depends on the type of pad chosen, and the level of incontinence you have. It is important to note that very cheap pads that are available in large quantities will be less absorbent compared to higher quality pads.

  • Day use: find a pad that says it is for moderate use.
  • Nighttime use: find pads that say they have heavy or super absorbency. Adult bed pads can absorb between 1,200 and 1,500ml of liquid on the high end. 600ml or less is the lower end of absorbency.

Solving Common Issues with Bed Pads

Bed pads are not a perfect incontinence solution. They have their advantages and disadvantages. You may have to try more than one to find a solution that works for your needs.

Here are a few common issues our customers experience with bed pads and how we recommend they solve them:

Problem: My bed pad keeps slipping

Solution: To keep a bed pad from slipping, some come with handles to make it easier to pull it over. The best way to prevent slipping is to use bed pads with non-slip backing over a larger area to maximize coverage.

Problem: My bed pad is too warm

Solution: If the bed pad you use gets to be too hot, consider switching to a breathable air-permeable bed pad or using it on top of the existing pad.

Problem: My bed pad is too rough

Solution: Cheaper bed pads are often not as plush as pads that are of better quality. If you're using a pad of lower quality, consider placing the bed pad under a top sheet or towel you wouldn't mind getting wet. Brands such as Prevail, Attends, & Tena make plush reliable bed pads that are easy on the skin and very affordable.

Bed pads should always be placed where the protection is needed. Place it with the absorbent side up and cover a large swath of the surface to allow for protection even when the person moves.

When traveling, stock up on disposable bed pads in a few different sizes to put on chairs, benches, and on the bed. Use them with other types of protection to reduce the amount used.

If you have questions about the best adult bed pads that suit your needs, reach out to us to find your perfect bed pad.