Why You May Want to Avoid Plastic-Backed Adult Diapers

4 Reasons to Avoid Plastic-Backed Adult Diapers & Briefs

There are two main types of adult diapers: textile-backed and plastic-backed. While there are pros and cons to both options, textile-backed diapers are the clear-cut winner when comparing the two. 

In theory, a plastic-backed diaper sounds like a great option for adult incontinence — it prevents moisture from passing through, it’s a strong material, and it locks in odors. In fact, plastic adult diapers were the top choice among seniors for many years. However, with the advancements in non-woven textiles and their application, our caregiving experts recommend opting for cloth backing, regardless of which type of urinary or fecal incontinence you’re managing.

Drawbacks to Using Plastic Adult Diapers

While it seems like a benefit that plastic-backed diapers are near impenetrable, that “benefit” isn’t quite what it seems.

Less breathability That Leads to More Skin Issues

Because of that impenetrable plastic barrier, moisture is locked in against your skin. As that moisture sits, it breaks down the layers of your skin, which can lead to serious skin injuries, such as skin dermatitis. This is usually caused by moist environments in perineal areas leading to changes in Ph levels, compounded by a non-breathable environment. With skincare being such an important consideration for less active individuals, choosing a diaper with a breathable, cloth-like backing is best.

More Noise, Less Discretion

Incontinence briefs and diapers with textile backsheets are often thin, discreet, and make minimal amounts of noise. The backing on plastic diapers, on the other hand, is a noisier material, which results in less discretion. This is especially problematic for mobile persons or persons seeking dignity in addressing their incontinence such as the little old lady at the assisted living walking to the dining room for dinner doesn't want her peer group to hear her arrive.

More Expensive

With the lower level of breathability, the increased noise, and the higher risk for skin issues, the plastic backing is not worth the additional cost.


Since plastic isn’t a biodegradable material, plastic diapers can add to landfill waste. They’re not an ideal choice for anyone looking to make an environmentally conscious purchase.

Textile-Backed vs. Plastic Backed: Which is Best?

With their respective absorbency levels being nearly the same, and taking into account the drawbacks listed above, we recommend using textile-backed diapers whenever possible. 

FAQs About Plastic-Backed Diapers

Are textile-backed diapers as absorbent as plastic-backed ones?

The debate between homecare persons and old schoolers insisting on plastic-backed diapers as the best versus the advances in non-woven textiles can be a complex one. Both types of materials have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on various factors such as comfort, absorbency, environmental impact, and personal preferences. Plastic-backed diapers, with their long-standing reputation for reliable waterproofing, are favored by some due to their familiarity and effectiveness, especially for overnight use or heavy wetting. However, in the last twenty years, non-woven textiles have undergone significant improvements, offering softer, breathable, and more absorbent options. Premium diaper brands have shifted to non-woven fabric-backed designs, prioritizing comfort, skin health, and eco-friendliness. Ultimately, the decision between the two depends on individual needs and preferences.

Are there any situations where plastic-backed diapers might be more suitable?

With the technology in diapers with textile back sheets, there are no situations where plastic-backed briefs or diapers are a clearly better option. Diapers need to be breathable in order to be truly effective. Plastic diapers do not offer the same breathability that textile does. At the end of the day, if the product works and the users like wearing it, then by all means continue.  Adult diaper performance comes down to a lot of other factors: amount and quality of absorbent fill material, performance features like leak guards and a fast-wicking top sheet, and most important fit and comfort during wear. All things being equal, we feel that textile-backed trumps plastic-backed almost universally.

What Diapers Should I Choose?

Parentgiving offers a wide range of incontinence products for men and women, including adult diapers and adult briefs. We offer new products from top brands like Dry Direct, Tranquility, TENA, and more. See our full lineup of adult diapers to get started.