Field Guide: incontinence pads and pants

Trying to stay dry with bladder leakage? Not sure what will work best for you – incontinence pads or pants?  Overwhelmed by the choices in the shops and online?

This detailed post & video discusses all the options and explains the difference between them. Don’t waste money buying the wrong thing. Tips and tricks to feel safe and dry without irritating your skin.

This is a practial, unbiased, useful overview of incontinence protection products, to help you decide what might suit you best. 

Video: let’s have a proper look at incontinence pads and pants

There is no need to feel anxious that you might have a leak that shows

Even a few drips or spurts when you cough or sneeze (stress incontinence) can quickly make your knickers feel wet and uncomfortable. It’s natural to worry that it has gone through onto your clothes and be anxious that everyone can see what has happened. 

Irritable bladders (overactive bladders) can catch you short before you make it to the toilet, or even unexpectedly empty without much warning (urge incontinence). Those leaks can be very big. 

 Fear makes you avoid doing things.  Feeling anxious takes the edge off life.  Let’s start by making you feel safe. 


Sanitary pads and incontinence pads are not made of the same thing.  It is important to use a pad designed for bladder leakage not menstruation.

Why proper pads for bladder leakage are worth the cost

The products designed to be used for menstruation are great for that purpose. However, they do not cope well with liquid.  This is because they are predominantly cottonwool based. So if they get wet, they just go soggy and misshapen. If you are moving about they can get scrunched up, rub,  and leave your skin in contact with urine causing chafing and soreness.

The right pads for the task are worth the little bit of extra cost.   With the advent of new technology, you will be amazed how slim a proper bladder leakage pad can be to hold a large amount of liquid, keep damp away from your skin and control smell.  

What to look for in the shops (or online )

Products for incontinence are usually in the same ‘feminine hygiene’ aisle (or website section of an online store) separated into one column of shelves for products for periods and one for bladder leakage.

Most brands will send you free samples from their websites.  Collect them up and see which suit you best!

incontinence pads

Some of the main UK brands are Tena, Always, Attends, Poise, as well as supermarket own-brands and Boots’ StayDry range

Natracare and Cottons (incontinence range called Comfys) are smaller brands offering environmentally aware options, with particular care to use processes kinder to sensitive skin by using natural fibre materials and avoiding the use of parabens and bleaching processes. 

How much urine leakage do incontinence pads hold?

The most common indicator of absorbency is a row of filled ‘drip’ or circle symbols to indicate the level of leakage they will contain.

In general, pads for ‘lighter’ bladder leakage look and feel like panty liners. They come in boxes to keep them flat and compact.   This makes a good starting point if you are looking for something to keep you confident and safe against a small leak (up to 6 teaspoons = 30ml). These would work for a few drips or spurts if you move awkwardly, or cough unexpectedly with a full bladder.  

If you suffer from more severe leakage, you will be worrying about getting wet clothes. Look at the pads in bags which will be more absorbent or disposable absorbent pants (see below).

A bad cough, hay fever, or trying anything bouncy for a prolonged period could leak a small yogurt pot worth (= 100ml). Of if you have an irritable bladder (officially called overactive bladder) which can trigger a sudden urge and empty at the front door, or if you wait too long, you have the risk of potentially emptying most or all of your bladder (which could be 200ml – 400ml),

If you are getting wet when you do sport or play with your kids your priority should be to solve the bladder problem further.  Talk to your physio about organising a full assessment. 

TOP TIPS for using pads

  • Shape them – to create a gully (see video)
  • Put them a bit further forward in your knickers, as the bladder tube (urethra) is just below your pubic bone
  • Change them regularly to avoid irritating your skin
  • Wear knickers that hold them snug


If you need complete confidence that no matter which way you bend, stretch, move or lie you will have full protection in all directions these are better than a substantial pad that only protects the gusset.   

  • ideal for nighttime leakage
  • exercise classes with lots of matwork or changes of position
  • crazy play with the kids
  • a bladder that struggles to make it to the toilet first thing in the morning
  • long car journeys or travel when toilets and timing are so uncertain.

The modern absorbent waterproof disposable knicker is technically sophisticated.  Still a way to go on style (they are trying).  Unfortunately, they need to be big to be absorbent and need a deep waistband to hold them snug & safe. Available in standard white, cream, and black.  Some with dodgy flowers.

I don’t believe these could ever feel “normal” (as marketed). However, they will give you freedom to move without worrying. Put a big pair of “PE” pants (aka Bridget Jones) over the top to make them a tad more “out of sight out of mind” (- and organise a physio appointment to solve this problem).

If you are often using disposable incontinence pads or pants definitely look at the next option, washable knickers.  You will be amazed to see that you can get the same absorbency in a much more “normal” looking knicker.  Worth the upfront costs and is kinder to your skin as well as the environment.


We are so lucky to be in the era of textile research and design. I am delighted to see this being applied to continence underwear. 


  • good for the environment. 
  • great if you are usually fine but like to know if you have back up. 
  • more discreet if you need a thicker pad. 
  • look much more like real knickers.
  • most are machine washable
  • available in a range of colours and styles
  • Natural products and airflow around your vulva, less irritation


  • once you are wet you need to change the whole knicker
  • some are not machine washable

Brands: washable incontinence knickers UK: my summary!

Brandwill holdsame as…Laundry
ProTech Dry High Waist Briefs
(also called Maxi Pant)
30-60ml 2-3 tablespoonsUp to 60 degrees
Speax. Hi-Waist, Hiphugger,
French Cut, Bikini
40ml 8 tspsCold wash, tumble or line dry
Speax Thong 15ml3 tspsCold wash
Love Luna (Sainsburys),
Lady Leaks No VPL, Lady Leaks Maternity Knickers, Lady Leaks Midi Knickers
30ml 6 tspscold machine wash, do not tumble
GiggleKnickers 30ml 6 tsps 40 degree, tumble or line dry
Hush Hush
Seamless Panty or Lace waist panty
100ml small yogurt pot
Wearever Underwear
regular absrobancy
Maximum absorbancy
half a cup or a full bladdermachine wash warm, tumble dry (cotton style only)

My review of UK brands of washable incontinence underwear

PROTECH DRY High Waist Brief (also called Maxi Pant)

made from sturdy cotton, 3-layer mesh-style gusset, surprisingly flat: an absorbent layer (40ml = 8 tsps), odour retention layer & wick away surface, smoothly sealed seams.


From the manufacturers of Thinx period pants. Five different styles: from Hip Hugger, through classic bikini to thong.  Varying prices depending on style £16 – £24 . 

The main knicker is a quality silky material (not cotton), gusset is subtle. Fun colours!

NB: they  are  cold wash only (no bleach or fabric softener) with low tumble dry which you might miss in the instructions (and then be very cross about!).  Answers to other FAQs here:

Giggle knickers incontinence pants

Giggle Knickers

A fresh feeling, environmentally aware, small company with a quality range of machine washable cotton pants designed to replace a liner.

Brief or high waisted £12.99-£14.99

GK are zero rated for VAT (as long as you are an individual and you don’t buy more than 9 at a time). Compostable mailing bags.

Love Luna sainsburys incontinence pants

Love Luna (Sainsbury’s)

Good budget choice. Silky material 91% nylon, gusset is 100% polyester with cotton padding, quite a wide stiff gusset, so a little more ‘aware’ that you are wearing them, than more expensive brands.

3 styles: full knickers, no VPL workout knickers, maternity knickers

£12 per pair.

Wearever incontinence pants


A ‘sturdier’ look but this range can cope with more leakage than the more fashion based ranges. Variety of styles, colours and absorbancies (regular or maximum).

pair shown here are silky panel at front with lace panel at back

available from iMedicare at

You are eligible for VAT relief on your order if you are an individual purchasing Wearever for the treatment of incontinence.

Jude UK brand sell washable incontinence pads and pants and underwear for bladder care and incontinence


New UK brand which a patient told me about this year. Range of incontinence pads and pants

Holding up to 8 teaspoons, 60 washes

Available only in black but two cuts, French or Full High. £25 for one pair but £22.50 per pair if you buy 3

Modibodi incontinence pants and underwear


Modibodi are already highly regarded for their period pants, they now have underwear specifically designed for bladder leakage too.

Two styles are for moderate/heavy leakage holding up to 50ml (10 teaspoons), with bikini style for lighter leaks.

What will suit you best?

Probably a mixture of different things!

Life is sweet with all it’s variety, messy moments, strategic plays and aspirational hopes. No one product will solve a typical situation or day. Be open minded, treat yourself. Mums matter. And your mum, aunty and best friend too.

And don’t forget – you can CURE this!

80% of women can improve or completely cure their incontinence through the simplest strategy of sticking to a 3 month programme of pelvic floor exercises. Best success comes from a 1:1 assessment of your situation and a bit of supervision by a specialist physiotherapist. You can self refer to an NHS physio or many private clinics all over the UK.

Look after yourself, share your troubles with a friend, encourage other women to seek help. #No More Miserable Mums

Please let us know which products you like best in the comments below or join our conversations @propelvic. Have you changed your life through the right knickers or exercises?

Content Disclaimer:

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of my blogposts, articles and my videos are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of if you are not a face to face client of mine. Professional and/or medical advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Amanda Savage disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article, blog or video.

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