Applications of Nonwoven Hygiene Materials

Nonwoven Hygiene Materials

Modern disposable, absorbent nonwoven hygiene materials have made an important contribution to the quality of life and skin health of millions of people. The advantages of using NHMs (nonwoven hygiene materials) instead of traditional textiles are: excellent absorption, softness, smoothness, stretchability, comfort and fit, strength, double fluid barrier effect allowing moisture to be absorbed and retained, good uniformity, high strength and elasticity, good strike-through, low wet-back and run-off, cost-effectiveness, stability and tear resistance, opacity/stain hiding power, and high breathability.

Nonwoven Hygiene Materials
Fig: Nonwoven Hygiene Materials

Market segments and products falling under the heading of NHMs


  • Baby diapers
  • Nappies
  • Training pants

Feminine hygiene

  • Sanitary napkins
  • Feminine pads
  • Sanitary towels
  • Panty liners
  • Panty shields
  • Tampons

Adult incontinence

  • Adult diapers
  • Briefs
  • Insert pad and pant
  • Bladder control pads
  • Undergarments
  • Guards
  • Shields
  • Panty liners
  • Underwear
  • Underpads
  • Bed pads

A diaper is a type of underwear that allows one to defecate or urinate in a discreet manner, without the usage of a toilet. Disposable baby diapers were first introduced in the early 1960s and since then have been marked by continuous product innovations resealable tapes and elasticized waistbands. The average baby diaper comprises 35% fluff pulp, 33% SAP, 17% PP, 6% PE, 4% adhesives, 4% other, and 1% elastics.

Baby diaper
Fig: Baby diaper

Diaper coversheet
The nonwoven fabric that is positioned next to the skin of the wearer of a hygiene material has been given various names, including: (a) cover, (b) coversheet, (c) coverstock, (d) facing, (e) topsheet, and others. Fiber selection, processing conditions and binder considerations all are focused on the requirement for maximum absorbency of the diaper facing.

The property of hydrophobicity in a diaper facing is necessary but not sufficient for optimum performance. The fabric must also quickly pass liquid through to the interior of the diaper.

Secondary facing
The secondary facing is intended to facilitate rapid passage of liquid from the back of the cover into the adjacent pulp pad or ply. This takes the form of a very lightweight fiber web with little or no bonding between the primary facing and the absorbent core. In another form, the single facing is fabricated with a rough top (outer surface) and a smooth bottom (inner surface). In this system, liquid tends to move from the rough side to the smooth side, enhancing wicking toward the center.

Acquisition/distribution layer
The mechanism of enhancement of liquid movement has been further advanced by the use of an acquisition/distribution layer (ADL) between the topsheet and the absorbent core. The ADL provides for more rapid liquid acquisition (minimizing flooding in the target zone), and more rapid transport and thorough distribution of the fluid into the remainder of the absorbent region.

The absorbent core
The absorbent core is the heart of an absorbent hygiene material. There are several properties to be considered in the design of the polymer matrix for the diaper core. The absorption rate of the diaper must not be slower than the urination rate of the baby, otherwise leakage will occur.

The back sheet
Finally, the back sheet is an impermeable thin film or barrier fabric that prevents leakage. To improve the handle and aesthetics, it is often embossed for flexibility and to provide a cloth-like appearance.

Feminine Hygiene
Feminine hygiene is a general term used to describe personal care products used by women during menstruation, vaginal discharge, and other bodily functions related to the vulva. Sanitary towels (also known as maxi-pads or napkins), panty liners, tampons, menstrual cups, and feminine wipes are the major categories of feminine hygiene products.

Sanitary napkins
The functions of sanitary napkins are to absorb and retain menstrual fluid, and isolate menstrual fluids from the body. Important and desired properties are: no leakage, no unaesthetic appearance or color, no odor, no noise, stay in place, comfortable to wear (thin body shape), and a high level of hygiene. The average sanitary napkin comprises 48% fluff pulp, 36% PE, PP and PET, 7% adhesives, 6% superabsorbent and 3% release paper.

Sanitary napkin wear in dummy
Fig: Sanitary napkin

Panty shields
The function of panty shields is to protect underwear from vaginal discharge. Important and desired properties are sufficient absorption capacity, discretion, comfortable to wear (softness, body shape), and good hygiene. Pads and panty liners are mainly made of materials such as wood pulp, nonwoven fabrics made from polymers and adhesives of natural and synthetic resins.

The most common type of tampon in daily use is a disposable plug that is designed to be inserted into the vagina during menstruation to absorb the flow of blood. Its function is to absorb and retain menstrual fluid inside the body. Important and desired properties are no leakage, no odor, easy to insert, easy to remove, softness, comfortable to wear (dimensionally correct), high level of hygiene; the tampon should also be discreet. Modern tampons are mainly composed of cellulosic absorbent material, either viscose rayon or a mixture of these fibers.

Adult Incontinence
Incontinence is the lack of voluntary control of excretory functions; the term is a contraction of a complete expression, such as ‘incontinence of urine’ or ‘incontinence of feces’. Adult incontinence products (AIPs) need to combine performance, comfort, discretion and aesthetics to fulfill all the needs of this emerging market. Comfort is a vital element for AIPs. Part of comfort is fit – the garment must fit snugly to prevent leakage, but should not bind or chafe the skin of individuals wearing them all day.

The average incontinence product composition is: 62% fluff pulp, 12% SAP, 10% PE film, 10% nonwoven PP, 3% adhesives, 2% others and 1% elastics.

Heavy incontinence
The primary functional requirements of products designed to deal with heavy incontinence are to absorb and retain urine, retain feces inside the product, isolate wetness from the skin, and reduce odor. Important/desired properties are maximizing comfort, simplicity (ease of use and putting on/taking off), low noise factor (particularly for non-institutionalized persons), and hygiene.

Medium–low incontinence
The primary functional requirements are to absorb urine during micturition and distribute the urine throughout the absorption pad, provide medium capacity absorption, retain urine effectively in the absorbent core, isolate wetness from the skin, and reduce potential odor problems caused by urine degradation. Important and desired properties are maximizing wearer comfort, good product fit, good level of discreetness with the product, and a high level of hygiene.

Products for adult incontinence
The absorbent product sector of the personal care industry related to adult incontinence contains the products such as adult diapers, adult pant diapers, twopiece insert items, personal/medical wipes, protective underwear, briefs, undergarments, guards, underpads and panty shields. The current product range is extensive and designed to meet the needs of people of all ages and both sexes. Additional protection can also be provided by products such as underpads.

Protective underwear
There is a way to achieve effective adult incontinence protection without compromising dignity. Protective underwear is a stretchable, disposable low-profile undergarment that offers superior containment and fit. Less bulky and without the tapes or belts of traditional adult briefs and undergarments, it slips on and off just like ordinary underwear for easier, more dignified and discreet use.

Protective Underwear
Fig: Protective underwear

Adult brief with waistband
The adult brief meets the need for the most demanding protection against urinary and fecal incontinence. The brief’s innovative design features a flexible waistband and six adjustable tape tabs that provide superior fit and security. The addition of a dryness strip promotes optimum skin care by keeping moisture in the brief and preventing it from coming back onto the skin.

The underpad is designed in an extra-large size and offers maximum absorbency, making it ideal for overnight use. Its (super absorbent polymer) SAP gels fluid, pulling it away from the skin, and the strong waterproof PP backing protects against leakage. Its oversized 30 inch × 36 inch (76 cm × 91 cm) dimensions protect a larger area of the bed, reducing bedding changes and laundry costs.

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