Soggy Paper – Testing Absorbency

In science we have been learning about Properties of Matter. Properties of matter are the ways that we can describe matter. Some physical properties of matter are: weight, texture, color, buoyancy, transparency, and many others.

Last week we did an experiment to learn more about absorbency – the ability to soak up liquid.

We compared four types of paper products – tissue, napkins, store paper towels, and school paper towels – to see which was the most absorbent.

Testing Absorbency

Testing Absorbency

The other week, In our experiment about buoyancy when we made eggs float, we talked about why different groups were able to make their eggs float with very different amounts of salt.

We decided that science experiments need to be fair.

This means that all the materials and conditions need to be identical, except for the one thing that you are comparing.

As Amanda wrote, “It’s important to have everything equal in a science experiment because if you have a little more of one thing in different tests, then it won’t give you accurate results.

So, we had to make everything equal and only change the type of paper for each test.

Measuring the water

Measuring the water

We cut all the paper to 4 x 4 inch squares, we measured the water to 15 ml., and we kept track of how many squares of paper it took to soak up all the water.


Here is a slideshow of what we found out:


In each group’s experiment, the store paper towel used the least amount of squares to soak up the water. That means that it was the most absorbent.

Graphing the information

Graphing the information


Why is it important to have everything equal in science experiments?

Why do you think the store paper towel was most absorbent?

Do you like “controlled” science tests, or “problem solving” science challenges more? Why?

11 thoughts on “Soggy Paper – Testing Absorbency

  1. Dear Mr. Salsich,

    I loved that experiment!
    It was a lot more accurate that the egg experiment. In stead of pouring random amounts of water into cups, we measured out 15 mililiters of water very carefully! 😆

    I think that we need to have everything equal in science tests because if you have more water than another group it will change your results. But, if you have exactly the same amout of water and paper, almost everyone should get pretty close to getting the same results.

    I think that the store-bought paper towel was the most absorbant because it was so thick, light, and fluffy. The napkin and tissue were to thin they were alost transparent! The school paper towel was rough, and kind of in the middle. It was better to soak water up with than the other kinds of paper, but it was not a ton better. Almost 2 school paper towels squished together would make one store paper towel, and 3 or 4 tissues or napkis would make one store paper towel!

    I was surprised that some groups got different answers, Even though all of our measuring was all perfect. For example, some groups only needed 6 napkins and my group needed 7 and a half! But everyone had the storepaper toel the most absorbent and most groups had the napkin or tissue the least absorbent.

    I also have some questions for you: Do you know why some groups got very different answers? Do you know how we can make our answers even more accurate? Were there specific answers for each paper tht we were supposed to get? Can we try it again to see if our answers are better this time? Can we do more science experiments?

    Happy Blogging! 🙂

    Margot* 😆 🙂 😉
    in Mr. Salsich’s class

  2. Hi,just dropping by and enjoying your science experiments.
    I miss not having my own class to teach on a regular basis. I was thinking about measuring the speed different liquids that we find in kitchens run down a slope. There are lots of good liquids and there is a lot of opportunity for making predictions, observing and measuring.
    Your blog is always so bright and breezy, it’s a pleasure visiting and the children are stars.
    Do you have an Easter holiday?

    Mr E

    • Dear Mr. E,

      Thank you for the comment!
      Yes, we do have Easter holidays. Ours are next week! I am planning to work on my blog, go swimming at our local fitness center, and go to The Mystic Aquarium were I get to see all kinds of marine mammals and learn about important water-related facts that have happened in history.

      If you like the last few science posts that we have done, than I also have a experiment that you might like! First you get 2 or 3 foods. Then you get a tally graph. You have different people eat a tiny bit of the food holding their nose. Then you try it with out the person holding their nose. You can also try it with drinks. Then ask evryone if they liked the food better holding their nose or without. I hope that is useful! (You can get someone to be the tie-breaker if you have a even number).

      I also have some questions for you: What do you do on Easter holidays? Do you know any other science experiments? Do you have any suggestions for our science experiment?

      Happy Blogging! 😆

      Margot* 😆 🙂 😉

  3. Dear Mr. Salsich,

    I loved the slideshow!
    It also looked like a very fun experiment! It’s a shame I couldn’t be there. 🙁 And since I couldn’t be there I have some questions on what it was like
    *Did you use special tools to make it accurate?
    *How much water did you use?
    *And did everyone work in groups of three?
    I hope you reply with the answers! 🙂


    • Dear Alexandra,

      Wonderful comment! We did use good tools to make this
      accurate like a Water Bottle, tweezers, a plate, and a milliliter cylinder for the water.
      We used 15 milliliters of water.
      some groups did have three but the other ones had to work in fours.


  4. Dear Mr. Salcich,

    Wow! I love your wonderful post about making experiments! It was funny when all of you guys got different answers, but you did the right measurement.
    It is interesting when all of your students got to wet the store paper towel with squares until it got soaked.

    I have a question:

    Have your students ever cut off 5×5 of the squares?

    (Mrs. Yollis’ student)

  5. Dear Mr. Salsich,

    The experiment was really cool. I thought the store paper towels would take up the most water, and it did. I couldn’t believe that the tissues took up more water than the napkins! The napkins took up 7 1/2 and the tissues took up 5 1/2.

    When you put the tissues in the water you had to move it around a lot, but with the other materials you barely had to move it. The napkins absorbed the water the fastest but it wasn’t the most absorbent.

    😆 Sam K.

  6. Dear Mr. Salsich and class,
    I really enjoyed reading your post and watching your slide show. I love science and thought you developed a great experiment for testing one of the properties of matter.

    We talked a lot about experiments in our class recently when we were working on our science fair projects. The 2/3’s learned that it was really important to only change one variable just like you did in this experiment. They also learned that a good experiment is repeatable. I found it interesting that different groups got different results. Why do you think that happened? Would you do anything differently if you tried the experiment again?

    I can’t wait to see more of your experiments!

    Mrs. W

  7. Mr. Salsich,
    Sam told me how much he enjoyed these experiments he participated in in class. It was nice to see the kids in action performing their tests! I’m curious as to how many of the students predictions were correct regarding the most absorbant material. Do you know why the store paper towels were most absorbent?

    Very interesting–science in action!
    😆 Sam K.’s mom–Emily

  8. Hello Mr Salsich’s class.
    What a great experiment to do.. I too have done this with my class to see which paper is the best for growing cress seeds (ie which holds the most water – and cress seeds grow very quickly!)
    One other thing you can do to show how paper absorbancy can help with forensic science, is to try Chormatography! Get some reasonably absorbent paper ie blotting paper or a paper towel.
    Put, in the centre (center!!) a amall blob of black felt tip pen. )Later try other colours and other felt tip pen brands.
    Black is best to start with!
    Then try dropping one droplet (a pippete is useful) of water on the black felt pen spot……. wait for it to soak in and then drop another droplet!…. Once you have tried this 5 or 6 times, ie 5 or 6 drops! you will see the felt tip pens ultimate colours dilute and spread in a circle. It works really well with either water based felt tips – permanent ones don’t work but this is a useful comparison. I hope you are successful!
    Mrs Bell

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