Hands On Science Water Absorption Experiment

Let’s get our hands wet (just a little) with these hands on science experiments exploring water absorption. This kitchen science project for kids of all ages explores water absorption and what happens when you spill water and how best to clean it up in the most absorptive way. This water absorption science project works well at home or in the classroom.

Let’s learn about water absorption today!

Water Absorption Experiment for Kids

This water absorption project is not only hands on but it is also a great  water experiment – and kids love water.  The next time you have to clean up a spill and you know which material is the most absorptive and will do the best job, you can thank us here at Kids Activities Blog.

Definition of Absorption

Water absorption is defined as the amount of water absorbed by a material and is calculated as the ratio of the weight of water absorbed to the weight of the dry material.

–Science Direct

What Absorption Means to Us

Every day we deal with situations where water absorption is involved, but we may not even be aware.  When you dry off after a bath, a more absorbent towel will make that easier.  If you watch a paper towel commercial on TV or online, you will see the tests they show to prove their product works better.  If you have a baby in the house, diaper absorption is a the difference between sleeping through the night or not!

Absorption in the Real World

My husband tends to run for the paper towels, my son reaches for the napkins that are kept on a shelf at his eye level,  and I race for a dish towel.  With all of us trying to clean up the spill it seems to take no  time at all, but lately I have been wondering what spill removing item really absorbs the most water.

Let’s Test Water Absorption

You could do this as a casual kitchen table science experiment like we did or grab our printable scientific method for kids worksheet and go through these steps with more a more formal set of questions.

My son and I gathered a wide variety of spill removing items from around the house.  I then I tried to cut them into similar sizes.

Suggested Supplies to Test Water Absorption

Kids love hands on learning like this water absorption science activity - here are the supplies we used like towel sock letter dish towel sponge and paper towel
These are the items we tested…what will you test for water absorption?
  • paper towel
  • napkin
  • sock
  • foam backed letter
  • dish towel
  • sponge

Directions for Water Absorption Science Experiment

Step 1

Step 1 - Hands on water absorption activity for kids - this is the testing area where the dry and wet were separated
Keep the dry items dry until you are ready to test them!

We then put a cup of water into the large section of one of my son’s bento lunch containers. The container was called the “Water Absorbing Test Area” for this experiment.

The dry testing materials were put in the left hand side of the container and the wet ones were placed in the right hand side once they had been used.

Step 2

Step 2 - Kid Science Projects make great learning activities for kids - step 3 measuring the water absorbed
We will compare how much each item absorbed.

My son placed each material into the water and then the testing material was squeezed out over a silicone muffin cup.  

Science Experiment Tip: We learned that you have to hold the material up over the cup rather than put the item in the cup while squeezing it.  We ended up with water everywhere and had to redo the test with that material once it had dried.

Step 3

Step 3 - Kids Activities: Learning with a Water Experiment results center - each measurement
In the end, record what happened and which item was able to absorb the most water.

After emptying the water the material contained into the cup, I moved the cup unto a paper labeled with the names of each of the materials.  

When we had tested out each materials, I had him look at the amount of water in each cup.

Science Experiment Tip: You could use a measuring cup if you wanted a more specific measurement with older kids.

Step 4

We then discussed why some items like the sponge did a great job and the foam letter absorbed very little water.

My son decided that it had to due with the size of holes each object has. I think that was a very wise insight.

Our Experience with this What Absorbs Water Test

We have had a lot of  drink spills at our house. That means that each of us scrambles for something to clean up the liquid that is flowing off the kitchen table  and cascading to the floor.

Young children benefit greatly from hands on learning.  Preschoolers, Kindergartners and Grade School students are naturally curious which makes them the best scientists.  

Active Time
15 minutes

Total Time
15 minutes


Estimated Cost


  • paper towel
  • napkin
  • sock
  • foam backed letter
  • dish towel
  • sponge
  • piece of paper
  • marker or pen


  • several kitchen bowls or containers or a multi-section container
  • Smaller identical cups – one for each testing item – we used silicone cupcake liners


  1. Start with two containers (or one with two sections). Fill one 1/2 up with water and leave the other dry. The wet container will be the water absorbing test area and the other can hold the dry testing material.
  2. Place each dry test material into the water absorbing test area to the same depth and remove (you could also add a timed amount)
  3. Squeeze out the water into your small cups (cupcake liners) and label onto a paper underneath
  4. Add more water to your water absorbing test area if needed
  5. Continue with the next item

More Kitchen Science Experiments for Kids

Which material was the winner in your water absorption experiment?

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