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Cotton topsheet developed for diapers

By Karen McIntyre, senior editor | January 23, 2014

The world is one step closer to seeing a diaper with a cotton component. Cotton maker TJ Beall and Huntsman Textile Effects have developed a diaper topsheet made from hydroentangled apertured spunlaced nonwoven material. The substrate, featuring TJ Beall’s True Cotton brand of unbleached (griege) cotton treated with Huntsman’s Ultraphil CO additive, outperformed polypropylene spunbond nonwovens, the current industry standard for topsheets, in tests performed by Jim Hansen at Marketing Technology Services (MTS) and diaper industry consultant Carlos Richer.

“The product really outperformed when it came to liquid strikethrough and showed better results in liquid acquisition,” says Lawson Gary, chief operating officer of TJ Beall. “We tested topsheets made of 100% cotton and cotton-synthetic blends.”

Favored for its soft and natural feel, cotton has not had much success in the diaper market because bleached grades have not provided the rewetting and strike through benefits needed in diapers. TJ Beall’s unbleached, or griege, cotton especially when combined with Ultraphil CO provides the hydrophobicity and fluid management needed to keep babies dry and comfortable.

“Our cotton performs well on its own but once we added the Huntsman product, it began outperforming the industry standard in two of the metrics,” Gary adds.

Ultraphil CO is used in a variety of hydrophilic finishes for nonwoven materials where it offers distinct fluid management benefits. Its exceptional functional and hydrophilic performance includes immediate moisture management qualities and provides a gentle and soft feel against the skin.

“With Ultraphil CO the cotton or cotton blended product becomes very efficient at managing fluids. It allows efficient wicking, fast strike through and can work after several insults” says Pat Eberlein, business development at Huntsman Textile Effects. “The top sheet is the material that is up against the baby’s skin and with Ultraphil CO the material stays super soft, dry and comfortable.”

TJ Beall will present topsheet material featuring the technology next week at the 2014 Vision conference in Dallas, TX and will be working with diaper manufacturers on bringing the product to commercialization.

Jan O’Regan, global supply chain marketing at Cotton Incorporated says the new technology provides the diaper industry with a new tool to respond to supply chain demands for more sustainable products. “It provides consumers with a naturally hypoallergenic top sheet to protect the health of their baby's skin from wetness and irritation from synthetic fibers,” she says. “For the nonwovens industry, this partnership provides a new cotton raw material option that is as close to Mother Nature as possible.”


TJ Beall is examining ways to get TrueCotton in other parts of the diaper and has begun work on celluolosic diaper acquisition-distribution layers with Lenzing AG. This technology will combine the absorbency of Tencel with the wicking properties of True Cotton.

According to Vince Edwards, research chemists at the USDA, greige cotton has potential in all types of absorbent products as well as in the medical market where it offers better blood clotting in woundcare applications. “We have great research with greige cotton because it retains cuticle waxes and pectin that work well in wound dressings and other areas of the medical market,” he says.

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