Advertisements for paper towel brands rave about how well they work: "Picks up your messiest spills!" or "Sucks up water like a sponge!" You can test these claims by designing your own science experiment. There are two main properties you can test about the absorbency of paper towels -- absorption speed and absorption volume.
Testing Absorption Speed: Basic Experiment
You may want to design your experiment to figure out how quickly each brand of paper towel can absorb liquid. To do this, you will need several brands of paper towels, an embroidery hoop and an eye dropper. Sandwich one of the paper towels in the embroidery hoop and squeeze ten drops of water into the centre of the paper towel; time how long it takes for the water to spread out and cover the entire area inside the hoop. Repeat this process for each brand; the towel that takes the least time has the fastest absorption speed.
Variations on Testing Absorption Speed
When testing absorption speed, realise that different liquids are absorbed differently by paper towels. Therefore you may want to test milk, oil, juice or other liquids using the same procedure and compare the results. You can also vary the procedure slightly by adding drops quickly to the centre of the hoop and counting how many drops it takes until the area in the hoop is completely saturated.
Testing Absorption Volume: Basic Experiment
When there is a big spill, the best paper towel is the one that holds the most water, so that the fewest number of paper towels possible is used to clean up the spill. To measure how much water a specific paper towel can absorb, fill a graduated cylinder with one cup of water and submerge the paper towel in the water for five seconds. When you remove the paper towel, the amount of water that is missing from the graduated cylinder is the amount of water that the paper towel has absorbed. Repeat this process with different brands of paper towels to see which paper towel absorbs the most and record the results.
Variations on Testing Absorption Volume
Keep in mind that not all liquids are absorbed at the same rate, so you may want to test whether one paper towel brand absorbs water more quickly while another absorbs milk or oil more quickly. In addition, think about how much of the paper towel you want to use in each experiment. Paper towel sheets come in slightly different sizes, which can affect your experiment. You can either cut the paper towels down to the exact same size, or you can use a single sheet each time, since that is the normal unit that people use to clean up spills.