A newborn might require around seven diaper changes a day. If you have been using disposable diapers, imagine the number of diapers needed until the baby is pee- and potty-trained. Therefore, stockpiling the diapers is something most parents do.
But what if you overestimated the requirement and bought more than what you needed? Or bought diapers that are very near their ‘best before’ date? Do diapers expire? Is it safe to use old diapers? How to identify an expired diaper? As diapers stay close to a baby’s skin, it is natural for parents to worry about their longevity and the safety of using old diapers.
In this post, we answer these questions. But let’s begin with the various components of a diaper.
What Are Disposable Diapers Made Of?
A typical disposable diaper constitutes four layers, with each layer made up of different materials.
- The inner layer or absorbent top sheet: The innermost layer, which is in direct contact with the baby’s skin, is typically made of polyester and polypropylene. The sheet is soft, allows free flow of air, and is leak-resistant.
- The middle layer or absorbent core: Beneath the inner sheet lies the absorbent layer where all the magic happens. It contains fluff pulp and chemical crystals, also known as super absorbent polymer (SAP).
The fluff pulp is usually made from natural ingredients such as wood pulp, corn, or wheat-based material. It distributes the liquid equally across the absorbent sheet, while the polymer absorbs and locks the liquid up to 30 times its weight.
- The outer sheet or cover: As it prevents the liquid from oozing out of the diaper, the outer cover is made of waterproof material. Again, polypropylene and polyethylene are used to make the outer layer. It is soft, breathable, and durable.
These sheets have some prints or the brand logo of the manufacturer. The manufacturers make sure the ink used for the print is safe for the baby’s delicate skin.
- Fasteners and other material: While some diapers come with fastener tapes, some have waistbands with stretch panels. Leg cuffs are standard for all the diapers. These components are also made with plastic fiber and elastic in most cases to provide a perfect fit and comfort to the baby.
To sum up, paper, plastic fiber, cloth, elastic, and SAP are the significant components of a diaper.
Do Diapers Expire?
Like any other baby product, diaper packaging also mentions an expiry date. As the components of a diaper are mostly paper and plastic-based, technically, they should last longer than the manufacturer-recommended timeframe of two to three years. Then why do brands mention the “Best Before” date on every diaper pack?
It is because they want you to use the diaper within a certain period to receive maximum benefits. Within the mentioned timeframe, a diaper is tested to deliver optimum performance.
Once the period is over, the manufacturer does not guarantee the same performance as advertised. After the diaper exceeds its best period, you might notice some aging effects such as discoloration of the outer layer, decreased absorbing capacity, leakage issues, and change in fragrance.
How To Identify An Old Diaper?
As mentioned above, an old diaper might exhibit various signs, making it easy for you to identify.
1. Change in color and odor
Keep a piece of paper aside for a few days without disturbing it and see how its tone changes to a yellow shade. Any paper product, when exposed to oxygen for a long time, tends to lose its color.
The same applies to a diaper, which is made with a mix of paper and plastic. The outer layer of the diaper might turn yellowish. You may also notice the patterns on the cover fade off with time.
As a change in diaper’s color is just a cosmetic factor, it may not affect its performance.
2. Change in fragrance
Not all disposable diapers have fragrance. But a few brands add scent or deodorizers to absorb unpleasant odors.
Irrespective of the addition, old diapers smell different from the new ones. It could be due to the molecule breakdown in the fragrance or exposure to external conditions. While the strongly scented diapers might lose their smell, the ones with the deodorizer might leave an unpleasant odor while using them.
This fancy feature may not affect the diaper’s efficiency.
3. Decreased absorbing capacity
The chemical crystals (SAP) used in diapers are highly efficient in absorbing water from their surroundings. Even when not in use, they tend to pull the moisture from the air and the environment.
When using an old diaper, you might find a drop in its absorbing capacity as it is partially filled with moisture (from the surroundings). The longer you leave a pack of diapers open, the greater would be the loss.
A decrease in absorbing capacity affects the efficiency of a diaper. While using such diapers, you may have to change them more often than usual.
4. Leakage and fitting issues
Spandex, the material used for elasticity in leg cuffs and waistband, is resistant to heat and moisture. But if rubber or latex is added to it, it might breakdown over time. When there is no elasticity, especially in leg holes, you may have to deal with a leaky diaper.
Further, if the elastic in the waistband becomes loose, the diaper won’t stay in place and again leads to a leaky mess.
It’s not worth using a loose or ill-fitting diaper, as it affects the very function of a disposable diaper.
Is It Okay To Use Old Or Expired Diapers?
There is no such component in a diaper that has an expiry date. Even the chemical crystals used in the core do not get spoiled or turn harmful.
The changes you might notice in an old diaper are probably mild and may not cause serious problems. However, if you use the diapers within the manufacturer-mentioned period, say two to three years from the date of packing, you can expect maximum performance.
While using an old diaper, frequently check for any leaks and try to change it as soon as it becomes full. Most importantly, check for any skin rashes or itching, in which case stop using the old diapers.
How To Increase The Life Of A Diaper?
While it’s natural for the diapers to lose their efficiency after years of manufacturing, careful storage might extend their life. Here are a few things you can do to preserve the diapers for future use.
- Moisture, heat, and light are the main factors that could damage diapers. Store them in a dark, cool, and dry place.
- If you’re left with a full pack of diapers, don’t open it. Store it as-is in a cardboard box to prevent exposure to air and moisture.
- When you have an opened pack of diapers, tightly wrap it with a thin plastic sheet and secure with strong tape. Make sure there is no air inside.
- You can use a vacuum sealer to make a water- or airtight seal. It also helps you store more diapers in less space.
To conclude, there is no exact expiry date for a diaper. It’s just that it loses its effectiveness over time. With careful storage, you can make the diapers function as they are supposed to. While using old diapers, look out for any leakage or fitting issues, and you’re good to go with your old stock. Also, remember to check for any skin reaction.