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A good night’s sleep can feel especially elusive when you have incontinence concerns.

From frequent wake-ups to needing to change your sheets — incontinence pads are one solution that can help you protect your bed linens and mattress. You traditionally place these pads over your sheets to keep fluids from reaching your sheets and mattress.

We’ve compiled a list of the best incontinence bed pads and other options to help you sleep better (and drier) at night.

You can use incontinence bed pads any time you’re worried your bed linens may be soiled due to incontinence (urine or stool) or bleeding. Some examples include:

There are a number of conditions, including dementia and post-stroke, that can result in incontinence. Using incontinence bed pads can help keep linens clean.

Some are washable while others are disposable. What’s most important is that you choose a bed pad that protects your skin and linens.

We kept in mind that pads may be used for urinary or bowel issues and looked for a mix of disposable and washable options to enable you to pick the one you most prefer. We took into account factors like:

  • absorption
  • material comfort (for example, smoother and softer surfaces are better for skin integrity)
  • size
  • components
  • construction when selecting the best options

We scoured medical supply sites and some of the country’s largest retailers to identify the best incontinence bed pad options.

As a nurse, I’ve used many of the products that made the list, and I was able to rule out some that didn’t work as well for protecting bedding or skin.

Most discreet

Medline Deluxe Fluff/Polymer Underpad

Price: $$ for a box of 50

When I worked in a busy intensive care unit, these disposable pads were always our top choice for those who were bed-bound and had thin skin or pressure ulcer concerns. These pads are super-soft, so they’re less likely to cause friction and shear injuries.

In addition to the soft benefits, they’re very absorbent. I also like that they’re pre-folded, which makes it easy to stash a few in your suitcase when you’re traveling. If I can say one drawback, it’s that those who toss and turn end up with some of the soft “fluff” on their backside. So if you’re a restless sleeper, you may want to check out the next option in the odor-reducing category.

Ultra absorbent

Medline Ultrasorbs premium underpads

Price: $$$ for 70

These disposable, ultra-absorbent pads were what the nursing team at my hospital affectionately called “the good pads.” They’re soft, ultra-thin, and have a backsheet that’s impermeable to liquids. As an added benefit, because they’re so absorbent, they offer odor-controlling properties.

The main drawback for these pads is they’re slightly smaller than some other pads. Most of the sizes I reviewed were 36 by 36 inches. But these are 23 by 36. If you need a larger-sized pad, consider some I recommend in the oversized category.

Best for larger-area protection

Extra-large waterproof mattress pad

Price: $

If you’re constantly tossing and turning in bed, finding a protective pad that spans most of your bed can prove difficult. This mattress pad comes in an extra-large size of 34 by 54 inches (a queen-size mattress is usually about 60 inches in width).

As an additional advantage, the darker color is less likely to show stains than some of the lighter-color pad alternatives. This can serve as an advantage because you’ll likely need to frequently wash and re-use the pad.

Reusable, washable bed pad

PharMeDoc reusable bed pads for incontinence

Price: $

This washable, super-absorbent bed pad can hold up to 8 cups of fluid. When I was reviewing all the options, this pad was the best all-around option because it was absorbent, oversized (34 by 52 inches), and built to withstand 300 or more washes.

The pad features four layers, with the bottom layer having an anti-skid barrier to keep the pad in place as you sleep. The soft, top-most surface is also skin-friendly.

Waterproof, reusable bed pads

Cardinal Health essentials reusable underpad

Price: $

This machine-washable, waterproof pad has PVC backing to offer protection for your mattress and sheets. What’s also great about this pad in particular is the PVC backing, which helps to make the pad non-slip.

The darker pattern will also help to conceal stains until you wash the pad. Its soft, quilted material will be skin-friendly (an added bonus).

Best breathable bed pad

KelisitingIncontinence washable bed pad

Price: $$

If you always wake up sweating or need to use all-natural materials, this bed pad is an excellent option. While many bed pads are made with artificial fibers (like polyester or PVC), this option is made with cotton and bamboo.

The pad is made to be used on either side. So if it’s summer and you’re feeling the heat, switching the pad to the bamboo side may help you stay cooler.

Using natural fibers doesn’t mean you sacrifice absorption. According to the pad’s manufacturers, the absorptivity is up to 1 liter of fluid (that’s quite a bit). At 39 by 55 inches, it’s also a larger size. The main drawback is the pad is a little pricier than many washable options, but if it keeps you more comfortable, it could be worth the price increase.

Best positioning bed pads

Atcha BaBed positioning pad with reinforced handles

Price: $$$

If your loved one requires total care, a positioning bed pad features handles to hold onto so you can assist your loved one in turning, pulling up in the bed, or for transfers from the bed to a wheelchair or stretcher. This positioning pad features 14 reinforced handles and is strong enough for re-positioning and absorbent enough to serve as an incontinence protective pad.

The pad can help you transfer a person up to 400 pounds and is made to withstand frequent washings.

Alternatives to incontinence bed pads

An incontinence pad isn’t the only option for protecting your bed and keeping you dry. Other options include:

  • Wearable pads. There are pads that fit in your underwear and are designed specifically for incontinence, like these options by Depend for Men.
  • Incontinence underwear. The brief itself is made from absorbent fabric, like these options from Thinx.
  • Waterproof mattress covers. There are water-repellant mattress covers designed like a fitted sheet. Or there are covers that fully enclose the mattress to repel moisture, like this non-vinyl option from SafeRest.
  • Disposable fitted sheets. These PEELAWAYS fitted sheets are disposable and cover the entire bed. You can peel away the top fitted sheet layer to reveal another bed pad. The main catch with these is they’re only made for twin XL sizes, so you must have a bed that specifically fits this option.

Tips for placing incontinence pads and changing sheets

When I was working as a bedside nurse, incontinence bed pads were something we put on all the beds over draw sheets (folded sheets we use to help pull up or turn a patient in bed). The biggest issues I saw with these pads, also called underbed pads, was their constant migration up to the upper or middle back — and not where you needed them to be, which is under the buttocks.

To combat this, I recommend:

  • Placing the pad in a lower position in the bed. It usually only goes higher, not lower.
  • Making an effort to pull the pad back down any time you or your loved one gets up.
  • Doubling up on pads, if needed, to facilitate future bed changes. For example, if you know you’re likely going to have an overnight accident, going ahead and placing two pads means you can remove and dispose of the top one, and you have another ready to go.
  • Placing one pad in the horizontal position and the other vertically. This positioning can be a “catch-all” for any messes.

Tips on changing used pads and sheets when the bed is occupied

If you’re changing pads for a loved one who’s bed-bound or has difficulty with transfers, you can also use some nursing tricks to replace the pad or linens without having your loved one get out of bed.

For example, if you’re changing a pad or sheets:

  1. Turn your loved one to one side of the bed.
  2. Roll up the pad/sheet halfway until it’s rolled along the length of your loved one, slightly tucked underneath them.
  3. Placing the clean, new pad halfway on the bed, roll the pad to meet the part under your loved one. For example, if your loved one is turned on to the left side of the bed, the new pad will be flat on the right side of the bed with its other half rolled up behind your loved one.
  4. Turn your loved one over the rolled edges of both pads on to their other side and the clean pad.
  5. Finish rolling up the dirty pad/sheet and remove the dirty pad and any other dirty linens.
  6. Continue unrolling the clean pad/ putting the clean sheets in place.

This method is helpful for those who can’t get out of bed easily because they can have clean sheets without having to get up often.

Things to keep in mind when choosing pads

Here are some of the major decisions when it comes to incontinence pad purchases:

  • Cost: Washable pads are usually going to be the cost-friendly option. But you’ll usually need at least two to switch out and keep clean.
  • Earth-friendly: Washable pads create less trash, making them a friendlier option if you’re trying to create less waste.
  • Convenience: It’s hard to beat the convenience of disposable pads. You can quickly eliminate the odor by disposing the pad.
  • Time: You’ll spend more time washing and drying pads than throwing away single-use options. If you’re a caregiver or have mobility issues, this can make disposable pads an appealing option.

If you opt for disposable pads, you’ll need to make sure you keep up with your ordering. Many companies will offer discounts if you set up a recurring order, which can help you save money.

The takeaway

Incontinence bed pads can be one of several strategies you can utilize to protect your bed and sheets if you experience episodes of incontinence. You can use these pads alone or in combination with other incontinence products to help you or a loved one.