History of the diaper

22/04/2021 Historia del pañal

The name of our company, Sanyhot, comes from two words: sanitary + hot-melt.

When the company was founded in 1981, we created the first hot-melts for manufacturers of diapers, sanitary napkins and incontinence products in Spain.

Today, we have more than 10 product lines with more than 200 active formulations for different markets, though the healthcare sector remains one of the pillars of our business.

Historia del pañal

From the moment babies are born, diapers are a staple of the shopping basket, and to keep babies dry while caring for their skin is one of parents’ biggest concerns, hence the large number of different diaper brands and sizes.

But it hasn't always been like this: in the past, babies didn't have all the comforts that exist today. That's why we’re going to look back over the history of diapers to learn a little about how they have evolved until today.

Origin of the word

In British English, the word nappy originally came from the ‘nap’ of cloth.

However, in American English the term ‘diaper’ is used. The word ‘diaper’ was originally the term for a small pattern of repeated geometric shapes. Later, it was used to describe white cotton or linen cloth with this pattern. The first cloth diapers consisted of soft fabric cut into geometric shapes and this pattern was called ‘diapering’. It eventually gave its name to the cloth used to make diapers, or nappies, and then to the diapers themselves.

The name ‘diaper’ entered the English language used in the USA and Canada. In Britain, the word ‘nappy’, short for baby napkin, became more popular and replaced it.


Until the 1940s diapers used to be made of a thick rectangular cotton cloth, which started with the Industrial Revolution in 1820. In 1887, Maria Allen was the first person to start mass producing cloth diapers for commercial purposes.

During World War II, women were employed in industrial work to fill the vacancies caused by men going off to war, leaving them little time to wash diapers by hand.

In SWEDEN, due to the shortage of material (cotton was a strategic material during the war), the first disposable diapers were designed using cellulose sheets. One of the first disposable pads was made by Paulistróm: a cellulose cloth held in place by rubber underpants.

Meanwhile, in the USA Marion Donovan invented the plastic cover to prevent the leakage of liquids. It was the result of the frustration she felt one night at her baby's constant crying. On changing the baby’s diaper and seeing the wet sheets, it occurred to her to cut up the shower curtain, sit down at her sewing machine, and design the first leak-proof diaper cover.


Marion Donovan sold the patent for the waterproof diaper cover for one million dollars.

In the 1950s, the disposable diaper was a luxury item, used on special occasions, and by wealthy families. This first diaper had a simple design in which the absorbent core was made of TISSUE PAPER and the outside was plasticized, although the FASTENING was not included.


A layer of CELLULOSE FIBRES was introduced which improved the absorption capacity of the diaper and reduced the frequency of changing.

Better fabrics and softer rayon covers were then developed.


The diaper segment became hugely competitive worldwide, leading to lower prices for consumers.

The first diapers to include paper ADHESIVE SIDE TAPES were introduced.


Elastic began to be used to improve the FIT OF THE DIAPER, which changed to a rectangular shape.

The first ANATOMICAL DIAPERS appeared, which adjusted much better to the baby's anatomy.


There are now SPECIFIC DIAPERS available for every AGE.