How can I make a science fair project using paper towels?

Written by kevin carr
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How can I make a science fair project using paper towels?
Paper towels have different levels of absorbency. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Paper towel manufacturers use the word "absorbent" to describe their products, but you might wonder which brand is the most absorbent. Use the scientific method to test the absorbency of different brands of paper towels. This investigation method includes a hypothesis, an experiment, an analysis of the results and a conclusion.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 3 measuring cups
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tongs

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    Design the Experiment

  1. 1

    Choose three brands of paper towels from your local grocery store. Pick a range of qualities, including well-known national brands as well as a generic store brand. Also note the price difference between different brands and try to choose paper towels with different prices. This offers an added perspective as to whether more expensive brands are more absorbent.

  2. 2

    Research the brands of paper towels you have chosen. Often the packaging contains contact information for the brand and parent company. Familiar national brands should include a website address on the packaging. These websites are great starting places in your research, including information on their absorbency. Other resources for your research includes online consumer reports, magazines archives available in library reference departments and commercials about the products.

  3. 3

    Make a hypothesis as to which brand of paper towels will be most absorbent. For example, "If all three brands of paper towels are submerged in the same volume of water, then Brand X will absorb the most water."

    Conduct the Experiment

  1. 1

    Fill three measuring cups with 300ml of water each.

  2. 2

    Tear off a single sheet of each brand of paper towel. Stack all three sheets of paper towels. Use a ruler to measure the stack of paper towels to be 10 inches by 10 inches. Cut the paper towels to equal-sized 10 in x 10 in sheets.

  3. 3

    Wad up one paper towel into a ball and drop it in the water of one of the measuring cups. You may need to push it under the water level with the tongs to fully saturate it. Repeat this step with the other two paper towels. Let the paper towels absorb the water for at least 30 seconds.

  4. 4

    Use the tongs to remove the paper towels from their measuring cups using a single motion. Do not squeeze excess water out, and be prepared for some water to drip and splatter. Discard the wet paper towels.

  5. 5

    Read the water level of the measuring cups. Record this information.

    Analysing and Concluding

  1. 1

    Subtract how many ml were left in each measuring cup from 300ml. This is how much water was absorbed by each paper towel. Record this information.

  2. 2

    Compare the results for the three paper towels, noting which one absorbed the most water.

  3. 3

    Compare your results with your hypothesis.

  4. 4

    Write a conclusion based on your results. For example, "I hypothesised that Brand X would be the most absorbent paper towel. Brand Y was the most absorbent. One 10-inch-square piece of paper towel absorbed XX ml of water."

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