Incontinence & Toileting Buying Guide

Brianna Maguire

Written by Brianna Maguire on Fri Jun 23 2023.

Couple shopping online.

When you or your loved one is experiencing specialized needs, toileting can feel like a challenge. The right toileting and incontinence products can ensure you and your loved one feel comfortable, dry, and minimize the risk of potential falls. 

How do I know if I need incontinence and toileting supplies?

Toileting and incontinence supplies are designed to support caregivers and those receiving care that may need some extra support when toileting. Incontinence and toileting needs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes; you may need these supplies if:

  • You have low mobility and have trouble getting to a toilet, or you’re caring for someone that finds it challenging to get to a toilet on their own

  • You have light to moderate incontinence, “dribbles,” or you leak a little when you laugh, and you’re looking for ways to maintain an active, comfortable lifestyle 

  • You or someone you care for has heavy incontinence or bowel incontinence, and you’re hoping to protect against leaks or odors 

  • You or someone you care for toilets through a stoma

  • You’re caring for a bedbound loved one 

The right products will:

  • Ensure comfort, dryness, and skin integrity

  • Minimize the risk of falls and injuries from trips to the restroom

  • Prevent odors and keep your home clean

  • Minimize the need for laundry for leaks 

  • Protect quality of life, ensuring you or your loved one can continue the day-to-day activities you love 

Toileting Products: How do I choose?

The world of toileting and incontinence supplies can seem vast - but that just means there are plenty of products to choose from and ensure you’re getting the best possible option for yourself or your loved one. 

In this guide, we’ll review all the ways you can ensure you’re getting the right incontinence products for you and your loved one. You’ll learn about:

  • The different types of toileting products and who they’re designed to support

  • Custom recommendations for your unique needs - whether that’s supporting heavy incontinence, mobility challenges, colostomy, or anything in between

  • Answers to some of caregivers’ most asked questions about toileting products - like how to prevent incontinence leaks 

Incontinence and Toileting Product Types

Adult Diapers, Underwear & Accessories

Adult diapers with tabs and pull-up diapers with tabs are designed to support those who find it difficult to make it to a typical toilet. They range in all features and absorbency levels, and can support anything from a small amount of urine incontinence to very heavy incontinence or bowel incontinence.

Best for:

  • Experiencing full bladder or bowel voids (if only urinary dribbles, try an incontinence pad instead!)

  • Caring for others that are bedridden, immobile, or that struggle with mobility

  • Long periods without a restroom (traveling, etc)

Carewell Tip

Already know you need an incontinence brief or pull-up? Jump to our round-up of all the Best Adult Diapers, Reviewed by Care Specialists

Learn more

Caregiver Protection and Odor Control

Supplies like deodorizers, gloves, and adult diaper genies protect caregivers and homes from incontinence messes.

Best for:

  • Eliminating odors or cleaning messes related to incontinence

  • Protecting caregiver hands while changing incontinence supplies

  • Throwing away incontinence supplies safely while preventing odor


An alternative to incontinence pads, catheters – indwelling, intermittent, and external – can be used to empty the bladder when it is full and to prevent leakage when the person is unable to control their urination.

Best for:

  • If incontinence is caused by an obstruction, such as a tumor (medically recommended)

  • More of a “dry” feeling overnight (external catheters)

  • Extremely heavy urinary incontinence

  • Temporary use after surgery or injury

Cleansers, Rash Care & Urinary Health

Keeping skin healthy is a key priority for those managing incontinence. Perineal cleansers, barrier creams, rash prevention creams, and urinary health supplies protect the delicate skin in the perineal area and ensure you or your loved ones feel comfortable.

Best for:

  • Rash prevention and treatment

  • Daily personal care for those managing incontinence 

  • Preventing and managing UTIs

Learn more: What are Perineal Cleansers?

Incontinence Pads

Absorbent pads that sit inside of underwear to wick away incontinence leaks, incontinence pads are a comfortable, discreet option for those with light bladder leaks. With options like male guards for men, bladder pads for women, and even bowel pads that are used for those with only bowel incontinence, these come in a wide variety of lengths and widths so that they fit comfortably in most underwear. 

Best for:

  • Men with “dribbling” or light urinary incontinence

  • Women that find a sneeze, laugh, or cough now results in a small amount of urinary leakage

  • Those with temporary bowel incontinence (bowel pads only)

Carewell Tip

If you’re looking for Incontinence Pads, read our guide on How to Choose the Best Incontinence Pads

Learn more


Many people with significant bowel or bladder conditions, such as diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, or bladder cancer, require ostomy systems to remove waste from their bodies. The right ostomy bags, stoma pouches, barriers, creams, pastes, and adhesive removers can ensure that you or your loved one has a safe and comfortable experience post Ostomy surgery.

Best for:

  • Those that toilet through a stoma

Wipes, Washcloths & Moist Towelettes

Convenient pre-moistened wipes allow for simple cleaning after incontinence voids, and come in a wide range of sizes and features - including hypoallergenic, flushable, and extra large options.

Best for:

  • Cleansing loved ones with incontinence

  • A more thorough and comfortable clean after toileting

  • All over cleansing in between baths

  • A quick refresh at any time

Toileting Solutions For Your Unique Needs

No two people experiencing difficulty toileting are the same. We have unique needs based on our level of incontinence, level of ability, and specialized needs like skin sensitivity. 

Light Bladder Incontinence

Many people of all ages and ability levels experience “dribbles” or “tinkles” when they laugh, cough, or after an injury or surgery - we consider these small accidents to be “light incontinence.” 

You most likely need:

  • Bladder Pads or Male Guards. Ranging in many different lengths, widths, and absorbencies, light pads like bladder pads (for women) and male guards (for men) offer peace of mind while maintaining comfort and discretion. 

  • Adult wipes. Those with light incontinence use adult wipes in between products for a quick refresh and to neutralize any potential odors.

  • Knit underwear. Those wearing larger bladder pads - and post-partum women in particular - may benefit from stretchy knit underwear, which holds pads in place while gently stretching over sensitive areas and offering extra breathability.

  • Skin protectant ointments. Over time, skin contact to the ammonia in urine can lead to damage, discomfort, and odor - skin protectant ointments create a barrier that protects skin. 

  • Laundry detergent. Pads go a long way in protection wearers from leaks, but on rare occasions, they may happen - if you forget to put one on, have a particularly long trip and can’t make it to a restroom to put in a product, and so on - having a great laundry detergent on hand that neutralizes odors and stains is a must.

Moderate Bladder Incontinence 

For those with occasional full bladder voids (1-2 full voids per day), a bladder pad may not be heavy enough for your needs. We consider these wearers to have “moderate bladder incontinence,” and they can range anywhere from extremely active to bedbound, but with support getting to a restroom. 

You likely need:

  • Pull-ups or protective underwear. With the look and feel of regular underwear, pull-ups offer comfort and protection from light to moderate urinary incontinence leaks. Some overnight options even offer bowel protection (though most often, those with bowel incontinence should switch to a brief with tabs).

  • Adult wipes. Double the size of baby wipes, adult wipes support cleanliness, reduce odors, and promote comfort.

    • Waste Containers and Liners. Specially designed adult diaper genies lock away odors and separate incontinence-related refuse from other trash.

    • Perineal Cleansers. Specially designed to gently cleans delicate private areas, perineal cleansers allow you or loved ones to feel fresh while protecting skin. 

    • Barrier Creams. These provide moisture and an additional “barrier” between skin and incontinence, which can otherwise be damaging. Most often used for comfort and to prevent diaper rash.

    • Underpads. Large, absorbent pads that lay on a mattress or another piece of furniture, underpads, which are also sometimes called “chux” or bed pads, absorb potential leaks and keep your home clean.

Heavy Incontinence or Bowel Incontinence 

If you or the person you're caring for experiences full involuntary bladder voids or bowel incontinence of any kind, that is considered to be "heavy" incontinence and requires almost everything a moderate incontinence wearer needs, plus a few other things.

You will most likely need everything in the moderate incontinence section plus:

  • Briefs with tabs instead of pull-ups. Full coverage, extra absorbent, and featuring tabs that open at the sides, briefs with tabs are designed for those caring for others or anyone looking for heavy incontinence protection.  

  • Booster pads. Designed with a flow-through backing, booster pads add an extra layer of targeted absorbency, paired with a breathability that protects delicate skin.

  • Deodorizers. Offered in both scented and unscented varieties, deodorizers are sprayed in the air and neutralize odors from urine or bowel incontinence.

Carewell Tip

Managing a loved one’s incontinence can be challenging not just for you, but for your home. Read our guide to Cleaning Up Urine and Feces in the House

Learn more

Mobility Challenges

For many caregivers and their loved ones, the most challenging part of toileting can be getting to a toilet in the first place. Loved ones aren’t medically incontinent, but are unable to get to a restroom due to mobility challenges before they have an accident. Offering the right products in the home can make toileting for this group less challenging, and reduce the likelihood of accidents. 

You might need:

  • Gait Belts. Specially designed for caregivers, gait belts are designed to support weight and allow a caregiver to gently lower their loved one onto a toilet seat. 

  • Plastic Commodes. Offering a portable alternative to traditional toilets, plastic commodes are often used downstairs for those that only have upstairs bathrooms, inside of bedrooms, or anywhere close to a loved one that doesn’t require them to travel as far to use the restroom.

  • Bed Pans. If a loved one is unable to make it to the toilet, but is not incontinent, some caregivers prefer to use bed pans, which allow their loved ones to empty their bladders without leaving their beds. 

  • Raised Toilet Seats. Sometimes, it can be hard for a loved one struggles to raise and lower themself, a raised toilet seat can make toileting much more comfortable - many of these come with grab bars, allowing users to gently lower themselves without the need of a caregiver. 

  • Walkers and Rollators. Having the right walker or rollator makes getting to the restroom much safer and more comfortable - some even offer glow-in-the-dark options for nighttime support. 

  • Bed Sensor Pad. For loved ones that attempt to get up in the night to go to the restroom, bed sensor pads sound an alarm that wakes caregivers, in order to prevent falls.

  • UTI Prevention and Medication. Those with mobility challenges are particularly prone to UTIs as they often sit for a long time - and sitting for a long time can cause additional discomfort for those with a UTI.

  • Other incontinence products from the lists above may be useful as well, such as:

    • Deodorizers

    • Adult wipes 

    • Underpads or chux

    • Perineal cleansers

Those who toilet through an ostomy 

For those that toilet through a colostomy bag, also known as a stoma bag or ostomy bag, unique challenges may make toileting more difficult. Your doctor will recommend a variety of products - like which ostomy size you’ll need - but other products, like adhesive removers, may make the experience more comfortable.

You likely need: 

  • Bags & Stoma Pouches. Ostomy bags are vital pieces of an ostomy system that capture waste passed through a stoma. 

  • Ostomy Barriers. Barriers protect the skin around the outside of the stoma. 

  • Ostomy Creams and Pastes. Stoma pastes create a better seal between a stoma and a barrier, while creams offer additional moisture and skin protection.

  • Ostomy Support Belts. These belts wrap around the abdomen and provide extra support, as well as conceal ostomy pouches under tight clothes. 

  • Underpads. While caring for an ostomy product, it can be helpful to have an absorbent pad to protect furniture and surfaces from any potential leaks. 

  • Adhesives Removers. Since stoma products are fastened with adhesives and pastes, removing them can be challenging for some caregivers - adhesive removers make the process more comfortable.

  • Gloves. These add an extra layer of protection for those caring for their stoma, or for another’s stoma. 

Carewell Tip

Not sure where to begin after colostomy? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Ostomy Systems

Learn more

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

Many caregivers and those with incontinence aren’t sure about the difference between “adult diapers” and “pull-ups,” which can make it challenging to find the right products for your needs.

  • Adult diapers, also called “tab-style briefs” or “adult briefs with tabs,” open at the sides. These tend to have a more full-coverage fit, and a large absorbent pad in the back, making them ideal for those with very heavy or bowel incontinence. They’re often used by those caring for others, or those that are bedbound or immobile. 

  • Pull up diapers, also known as “protective underwear,” are shaped like traditional underwear with tear-away sides, and are ideal for anything from light to moderate urinary incontinence. They’re often used by those caring for themselves, and those that are relatively active.

Carewell Tip

Still curious about all the differences? Check out Adult Pull-Ups vs. Diapers: What's the Difference?

Learn more

How can I prevent incontinence leaks?

While leaks can seem daunting, there are a few simple steps that can ensure you or your loved one remain leak-free and dry:

  • Make sure you’re in the right size. Wearing the wrong size product is what causes the majority of leaks. Too large products leave gaps in the leg holes (causing leaks) and too small products cause tears, leading to leaks as well. Each of our products comes with a sizing guide and instructions for finding the right size. Remember: a larger size does not mean higher absorbency - you risk leaks if you size up.

  • Add a booster pad. Booster pads add an extra layer of protection and can be placed in targeted areas for those that tend to leak out of one area, like side sleepers.

  • Upgrade to a higher absorbency product type. If you usually wear bladder pads, try protective underwear. If your protective underwear isn’t absorbent enough, try a brief with tabs - these can be fastened before stepping into them, to give a similar look and feel as protective underwear. 

How can I prevent rashes from incontinence?

Most often, the best way to prevent a rash is to choose the right size product, use a barrier or protective cream, and change products often. 

Your rash may also tell you something about the cause:

  • Redness around the buttocks typically indicates changes need to be more frequent (you or your loved one is sitting in moisture too long) - look for products with a wetness indicator so you can better understand when it’s time for a change.

  • Redness around the front of the pelvic area typically indicates that the product is too tight - try switching to a larger product

  • Redness around the inner thigh typically indicates that the product is too large, and you should try something a bit more snug

  • Overall discomfort or all-over rashes typically indicates that your loved one needs to be more thoroughly cleaned - adult wipes and perineal cleans support skin health and prevent these rashes.

Carewell Tip

Not sure which diaper rash cream is best for your needs? Read our round-up of the Best Diaper Rash Creams

Learn more

Need more information?

Caregiving can feel overwhelming, especially when you or a loved one are supporting toileting. That’s why we offer a whole suite of content, and a team of dedicated experts to answer your toughest questions on how to provide the best possible care. 

Read more articles about managing incontinence and toileting, including other Buying Guides and real-life caregiver stories on all your favorite categories. 

Want to talk to an authentic caregiving specialist? Carewell's here to help. If you need help finding the perfect product for your needs, give one of our friendly specialists a call (800) 696-CARE. We’re here to support you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Brianna Maguire
Brianna Maguire

Brianna Maguire heads up Carewell’s Customer Care Team, and serves as a resource for caregivers that need support. Whether it’s helping customers decide which products are best for their needs, answering caregiver questions, or just providing a shoulder to lean on on a tough day, her job is to make caregivers’ lives easier.