Everything Incontinence

Adult Pull-Ups vs Diapers ~ What's the Difference? (and why knowing is important)

By Parentgiving Admin

When shopping for the right kind of adult incontinence product, you’ll see rows and rows of different types of pull-ups and diapers. Whether you are buying online or in-store, the sheer number can be confusing - and they don’t really explain the difference besides claiming one is more comfortable or absorbent.

Let us introduce you to the real differences between adult diapers and adult pull-ups. There are significant differences that you should know about, depending on your health status and convenience wants.

What’s the difference between pull-ups and diapers?

There are a couple of significant differences between types of adult incontinence underwear.


Pull-ups are designed to be pulled up from your feet and end up covering your genitals and butt.

The fit of an adult pull-up tends to be a bit more specific to size. The pull-up does often feature a tearaway side, but it can’t be refastened easily. Once you tear the sides on an adult pull-up, you should probably take it off and throw it away.

Pull-up underwear is also normally quieter and doesn’t make as much of a rustling sound when moving. For those who don’t want others to know they are wearing pull-ups, this is a good advantage to have.

One downside to pull-ups is that they aren’t designed to handle heavier urination or stool. If your incontinence issue results in minor to moderate amounts of leakage, a pull-up could be a good option for you. Otherwise, adult diapers may be a better option; more on that to follow.

Pull-ups can be easier or more difficult to put on depending on your physical ability. Pull-ups slide on like underwear. If you have a hard time bending over to put on regular underwear, this might be a challenge. One other option is to put the pull-up on the floor and get them around your feet, then move your legs to bring them up - potentially by laying down.

The look of pull-ups is also more familiar. Underneath clothes and without, they have more of the appearance of regular underwear because they don’t have noticeable tabs. They are also designed to fit like underwear.

Pull-ups are better for an active lifestyle, with their quiet and proper fit. An active lifestyle includes the ability to walk quickly, and especially if you play any sports (no matter how gently you play) like tennis or cycling.

Adult Diapers

Diapers for senior citizens are designed to have tabs folded from the sides, creating the same effect as a pull-up.

With tabs, you have more options to change the fit of a diaper. If it’s too loose or if you’ve experienced leaking, you can make the tabs tighter. Tabs on diapers also give you the chance to adjust them without changing the diaper, to improve comfort.

One key advantage to adult diapers over pull-ups is they can handle more liquid and stool. If you tend to have a complete bowel movement or if urine or stool amounts are large, consider getting diapers instead of pull-ups.

Best for mobility restrictions

Adult diapers are better for people with mobility restrictions. They are easier to put on since you don’t need to slide them up and removal is as simple as taking the tabs off. A lack of mobility is also good for diapers because the tabs can become loose more easily when mobile.

Diapers are easier to change while laying down or sitting and don’t require much if any bending over to make them fit right.

Overnight diapers for adults are where many senior citizens seeking incontinent products get their start. With the onset of incontinence, sleep time tends to be one of the first times affected. Many times, people with bladder or bowel issues will first try overnight pull-ups if bowel movements are not typically too heavy.

One good example is Depends Overnight Briefs. Depends on feature easy-open tabs, a wetness indicator that tells you when to change, and they are comfortable for overnights too.

How often do I change them?

This is a difficult question to answer. A diaper or pull-up should be changed after it’s been soiled. Since part of the goal of a diaper is to separate your skin from the stool or urine, you might not always know that you’ve already had a bowel movement.

Many diapers and pull-ups have leak guards, and many are considered leak-proof diapers for adults. This is a good thing, but you should still change the pull-up or diaper after one use.

There really isn’t a difference in the frequency of changes in a diaper versus a pull-up.

How about the odor?

Many of the best diapers for adults feature an odor guard which prevents the smell of urine or feces from leaking out. You can also get sprays to help with odor problems.

Odor protection is more dependent upon the product than pull-ups vs diapers, but diapers are more likely to hold more urine and stool.

Is there a difference between diapers for men and women?

Diapers and pull-ups for men and women tend to be unisex, though some brands offer differences. Depends, for example, makes gender-specific products designed to provide support and absorption. You will find men’s overnight diapers here.


The difference between diapers and pull-ups can be confusing. The primary difference is in comfort, the ability to get diapers or pull-ups off and on, and the volume they can handle. A pull-up is better for a more active lifestyle or less significant bowel movements. A diaper is better for those who have mobility restrictions or have the potential to need more protection.

People tend to start with sleep diapers or pull-ups as well and move on to other products based on their individual and health needs.