Kudos Diaper Teardown: What Makes Kudos Different?

Do you know what’s inside a disposable diaper? If you’re like most people, the answer is no. 

But as Kudos’ lead diaper engineer, it’s my job to know what’s “under the covers.” Consider me your tour guide, a la Miss Frizzle in the Magic School Bus, inside a disposable diaper.

OK class, it’s time to take chances, get messy!  -- whoops, got a bit excited at the Miss Frizzle analogy. We try not to get messy when talking about disposable diapers. 

 

One thing to know about diapers is that just like the earth, an onion, or a Great British Baking Show cake, they are made up of lots of layers.

Layer 1: Top sheet (liner)

The first layer of a diaper we are going to explore is called the “top sheet” or liner, and it’s the part of the diaper that contacts your baby’s skin. When you unfold a diaper, this is the material you feel, and typically it feels really soft. Kudos diapers feel soft because our top sheet is made from 100% cotton. In fact, Kudos is the first and only disposable diaper where the top sheet is 100% cotton. When you feel the top sheet on other disposable diapers (including most natural diapers such as Honest Company, Pampers Pure, Bambo Nature, Seventh Generation and Hello Bello), you’re typically touching plastic that is engineered to feel soft but unfortunately can contain harmful VOCs and phthalates.

You can read more about cotton’s clinical benefits here and more about our sustainable sourcing here. One thing of note with Kudos’ natural cotton is that our mechanically cleaned cotton is not bleached, so it may contain some black specs -- we think of those like vanilla bean texture -- that are present in all cotton textiles but are typically bleached out. They are perfectly safe, and just evidence of how natural our cotton is.

Layer 2: Acquisition/Distribution Layer (ADL)

OK class, let’s dig deeper! Beneath the top sheet is my personal favorite layer of a diaper: the Acquisition / Distribution Layer -- ADL for short. This fine piece of engineering is what makes disposable diapers more effective than cloth diapers at getting moisture away from a baby’s sensitive skin and into the absorbent core of the diaper. Typically made of a very lightweight fiber, the ADL is built layer-upon-layer to have a lot of air pockets to help moisture (aka pee) move effectively from the top sheet down the length of the diaper and across the width of the diaper into the core (more on the core later). 

In typical disposable diapers (including Pampers Pure, Honest Company, Bambo Nature, and Seventh Generation), the ADL is just one piece of material made from a petrochemical-based material like polyester. Kudos diapers, however, are designed with patent-pending DoubleDry™ tech that incorporates two ADL layers of protection instead of one, to ensure the even distribution of moisture and provide superior overnight-level protection. The cherry on top? Both layers are derived from plants.

Layer 3: Absorbent Core

Beneath the ADL is the absorbent core. This part of the diaper is another area where disposable diapers shine over cloth diapers in terms of moisture-grabbing performance. The core is made of three parts: 

  1. The core wrap: Acts as the “bread” on the outside of the absorbent core sandwich that acts to hold the absorbent materials in.
  2. The fast-absorbing fluff pulp: Made from trees and facilitates the transfer of moisture into the final part of the core, the SAP.
  3. Super absorbent polymer (SAP): the most absorbent part of the diaper, which can absorb up to 20 times its weight in liquid and hold in moisture even when a baby sits, rolls, and crawls. Unfortunately, most SAP is derived from petrochemicals, meaning it is a byproduct of the petroleum refinement process. That’s not very green. There are several companies working on bio-based SAPs right now, but none are at commercial scale yet. As soon as a viable plant-based option for SAP is available at commercial scale, Kudos will make that switch.

What distinguishes Kudos now? Kudos’ absorbent core features wood fluff pulp that is totally chlorine free (TCF) and sustainably harvested through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Our SAP is also a premium performance grade, designed to absorb lots of moisture and keep it locked in the core of the diaper. Typical absorbent cores use wood fluff pulp that is bleached and standard (non-premium) SAP.

Layer 4: Barrier Film

The next layer beyond the absorbent core is the barrier film, which works to keep moisture inside the diaper so it doesn’t feel wet to the touch. Kudos offers a breathable barrier film, which allows air (and some moisture) in and out of the diaper. Why would that be a good thing? Breathability in the barrier film (just like we have in our cotton top sheet) ensures moisture doesn’t get trapped next to baby’s skin. When the surface of the skin stays wet, especially when in contact with wetness from pee or poo, it can get irritated, triggering diaper rash. 

Because making the barrier film breathable is a more complicated and expensive process, however, many diapers opt instead to use a non-breathable polyethylene film from synthetic resin sources. If your baby is experiencing diaper rash, it may be worth it to try a diaper like Kudos which is made with breathable materials throughout the diaper.

Layer 5: Back sheet (outer cover)

Ever felt a diaper so soft you wanted to rub it on your cheek? That’s how we feel about Kudos, thanks to the last layer on this “field trip:” The back sheet. The back sheet is the super soft material on the outside of the diaper, and it’s typically the first thing felt when a diaper is picked up. Just like with the top sheet, when you feel the back sheet on other disposable diapers (including most natural ones), you’re touching fossil-fuel-derived plastic that is engineered to feel soft. The back sheet of  Kudos diapers is made of sugar-cane derived polyethylene, which is naturally soft and sustainable!

Layer 6+:  Additional Components

The final elements of the diaper are small and are typically placed toward the outside of the diaper. At Kudos, though we have prototypes with plant-based elements of each of these components, we opted to launch our diaper with standard materials for these parts until plant-based options become more commercially available (and we feel confident that time will be soon!). The leg elastic, closure system (landing zone, ears, tabs, and hooks), and waistband elastic are each critical to the successful operation of a diaper. That’s why we opted for proven solutions in these areas, which unfortunately means typical plastic-based materials along with a polyolefin based adhesive, for these limited parts of Kudos diapers.

I hope you enjoyed our field trip through the layers of a diaper! Picture me as a smiling Ms. Frizzle, pleased with another day of learning with her class on the Magic School Bus. If you have any more questions about how diapers are built, reach out to me at hello@mykudos.com!

About the author

Mom of 3 and an engineer-by-trade. Emily is leading up diaper engineering at Kudos and pushing the industry to be more sustainable. Whether the topic is diapers, babies, or Mama Earth, she's on a mission to find and share the best info there is to offer. Engineer and mama by day. Blogger by night.

Questions? Email us at hello@mykudos.com

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