All About Underpads

Underpads- A Good Place to Start

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About underpads

What is an underpad?

An underpad, also known as a bed pad (or in case of disposable underpads they are sometimes referred to as chux) serves both the purpose of protecting the skin of folks who are experiencing incontinence in addition to protecting the underlying mattress and bedding from damage. How an underpad protects the skin is by absorbing moisture and offering a quick-drying surface for the person who is sleeping or resting in bed. The same goes for how it protects furniture, linens and clothing. The absorbency of the underpad will prevent the liquids from coming into contact with underlying furniture, bedding and linens.

Typically, an underpad is a large rectangular shape. As mentioned above, they can be used for incontinence, but in addition to urine it is also useful for bowel voids, wound drainage or enteral or parenteral feeding.

One of the first decisions to be made when buying an underpad is whether to go with a reusable/washable or a disposable.

Disposable vs Washable

The biggest difference here is usage. A reusable/washable can be laundered repeatedly, while a disposable, on the other hand, is intended for primarily a single use, in other words, use it once and then thrown away. Hence, the disposables are sometimes referred to as chux (used one time and then ‘chucked’ into the trash).

Advantage summary of a disposable underpad:

  • Quick, easy and convenient clean up
  • If no void occurs and they are clean and dry, they can be used again
  • Since this type of underpad is convenient and compact, it is nice to use when traveling

Disposables certainly have a place, there is no doubt, as a tool for incontinence, and whether choosing a disposable or washable, both are crucial to prevent skin irritation, rash and possibly even infection. At the end of the day, the choice between the two comes down to personal preference, often based on the situation and circumstances for usage in the first place.

For the purpose of this article, however, we will focus on reusable underpads.

As mentioned, washable/reusable underpads, as the name implies, may be used over and over again, typically saving the facility or the individual money. The material is made of a soft, cloth-like fabric and basically made by quilting the soft cloth top later to a soaker material that is sewn to a Vinyl back barrier. The back barrier is a waterproof backing that prevents liquids from seeping through and damaging the bedding, linens and clothing. The absorbency of the pad will pull the liquids into the fabric and help prevent skin irritation. A washable underpad is all about being cost effective, environmentally friendly and comfortable.

Advantage summary of a re-usable underpad:

  • The materials tend to be soft and cloth like.
  • Environmentally friendly as it can be laundered and re-used repeatedly
  • Cost effective
  • Holds more weight, making it easy to reposition the person using the underpad

Commonly asked questions:

How do you use an underpad/bedpad?

Just place the pad on whatever you'd like to protect from incontinence (chairs, beds, car seats, or anything else). Use them for tending wounds as well as incontinence and bowel voids.

What are the available sizes?

Underpads can come in a variety of sizes. This decision is one based on the size of the person using the pad, the size of the furniture being covered and personal preference. Some common sizes are 24 inches x 36 inches, 34 inches x 36 inches and 36 inches x 42 inches.

What is a re-usable/washable soaker underpad?

An underpad is mainly designed to soak up urine. If you shop around you will see that an underpad will feature different soaker capacities. The most popular are 6 ounce, 8 ounce, or 10 ounce poly/rayon soaker (per square yard). The soaker cloth of an underpad is sewn under the top layer of the bed pad and wicks away the moisture from the person on the pad. The soaker ounce weight does not mean the underpad only absorbs 6, 8, or 10 ounces of liquid. These numbers actually describe the weight of the material being used per square yard. An underpad with a higher percent of rayon in the soaker will absorb more liquid.

How much liquid do they absorb?

The lighter the soaker weight the less urine will be absorbed. The heavier the soaker weight the more urine will be absorbed. A soaker that has a higher percentage of rayon in the poly/rayon blend will absorb more liquids.

How to choose the right underpad for a given circumstance?

There are several things to consider.

  • A heavier soaker will take longer to dry, therefore laundering costs will increase.
  • Determine the level of incontinence – heavy incontinence should use a heavier soaker
  • Determine how often you will change the pad. Once a night or several times a night.

I have heard of an underpad called Haloshield. What is that?

Haloshield underpads are a washable type of underpad with a patented odor controlling technology. These underpads kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacterai on contact, eliminating unpleasant odors. Simply wash with chlorine bleach, even for first time use, to activate the odor control technology. To learn more, click here 

The bottom line is that for folks who experience urine or bowel incontinence, an underpad/bed pad is a crucial tool that is readily available in our care giver toolbox. We all want to live an independent and dignified life. Using a bed pad makes this an easier goal to accomplish.

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