1059 Main Avenue, Clifton, NJ 07011

The most valuable resources for teachers and students

(973) 777 - 3113


1059 Main Avenue

Clifton, NJ 07011

07:30 - 19:00

Monday to Friday

123 456 789


Goldsmith Hall

New York, NY 90210

07:30 - 19:00

Monday to Friday

Compare the strength of different paper towels

Compare the strength of different paper towels

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

The strength of a paper towel is among its most important properties. A stronger paper towel has more uses and will last longer. Another important property of a paper towels is its ability to absorb water. Almost all manufacturers of paper towels claim that their product is the strongest and absorbs the best.

What are the facts? Which one is really the strongest? Some buyers compare the price and simply buy the more expensive one assuming that there must be a good reason for the price difference. Those who are more price conscious may choose the cheapest one assuming that they are all the same. In this project you will compare three (or more) different brands of paper towels for their strength and their ability to absorb water.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.  

Project advisor

Information Gathering:

For each paper towel that you choose to test see if there is a home-page on the web and find any information the manufacturer provides about their product. Also search the web for the term “paper” and related terms such as “paper manufacturing” to gain useful information about papers.

Visit your local library and find books about paper. Get an idea of what materials are used in making different papers.

Following are samples of information that you may find.

The papermaking process begins in the pulp processing area, where ten or more semi-trailer loads of our raw material, (raw fiber), are received each day from suppliers within a 500 mile radius of Ladysmith. Post-consumer recycled paper such as sorted office paper comprises most of the CityForest’s raw fiber. The mill also uses post-industrial printing grades of recovered paper, virgin pulp and some purchased de-inked fiber to meet specific customer needs.
Raw fiber is mixed with hot water in one of the plant’s three pulpers, (pulpers are like giant blenders), and re-constituted. Contaminants of all types are removed through a series of screens, cleaners and de-inking/de-watering operations. The end result is a “slurry” or “slush” of exceptional uniformity and cleanliness that can be processed into high quality specialty tissue grades on our two paper machines.


See a different diagram Here and more links to information about paper manufacturing.

***The Irving Forest Discovery Network
A great Canadian Web site with lots of teacher information for educational activities about forests, papermaking, etc.

Pulp and Papernet Jumplist
A list of links to paper companies.

Boise Cascade
A good paper company website.

  • The Future of Our Western Forests: Working Toward Science-based Forest Management
    This is a good site to interactively experience the paper company point of view about Passive or Active Forestry Management, Biodiversity, Managing Streamside Forests, Planning for Forest Health, etc.
    Boise Cascade: Environmental Perspectives http://www.bc.com/epcover.html
    These perspectives express Boise Cascade’s point of view on a number of important environmental issues.

Mead Paper Company
Look for:

International Paper Company
See Sustainable Forestry Challenge.

Consolidated Paper Company
Consolidated Paper Company puts their Environmental Policy Statements and Position Papers on this site. See How Paper Is Made, and the Virtual Tour of the Paper Machine Complex Also look under Fun and Learning for “What Do We Use Trees For” and Games – “Online Concentration”, .

Willamette Industries, Inc.
Lots of good information on Environmental Issues.
See also Chip Mill 101

Union Camp: Mission statement about Forest Resources

Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.

The problem is that some paper towels don’t have sufficient strength and quickly fail and break apart while being used.

The purpose of this project is to find out which paper towel is stronger.

Identify Variables:

The independent variable is the brand of the paper towel

The dependent variable is the strength of the paper towel.

Controlled variables are weight of the paper towel as well as air temperature and moisture

Constants are:

  • method and procedures of testing the strength
  • Size and orientation of the paper towel


You will state which paper towels you are comparing and then the hypothesis will state which of the paper towels is believed to be more effective. The hypothesis may be based on your intuition or past experiences with paper towels.

Experiment 1:


In this experiment you test the tensile strength of strips of paper towels.

Materials Needed are:

  1. Samples of 3 (or more) different brands of paper towels
  2. Scissors
  3. Wood glue or paper glue
  4. Heavy construction paper or cardboard
  5. Spring scale (MiniScience part# PSS_US5)
  6. paper puncher


  • Cut 5 same size strips of each paper towel lengthwise. Label them with a marker to show the brand and a number. For example 5 samples of brand A will be labeled as A1, A2, A3, A4 and A5. Recommended size for strips is 10′ x 1′; however, you may choose to cut all strips in another size.
  • Cut 10 strips of cardboard or heavy construction paper about 2 inches long and the same width as paper strips. Fold them from the middle so they can be glued to the paper.





  • Apply some glue to the inside of each cardboard fold and connect it to the ends of each paper towel strip. Let them dry overnight.
  • Make a hole in the center of each cardboard on the end of each strip.



  • Secure one end of each strip to a nail and start pulling the other end using a Newton spring scale. Gradually increase the force until the paper tears apart. Record the highest force (in Newtons) that the paper strip resisted before tearing apart.



  • Repeat this test for all samples and record the results in a table like this:



Strength of paper towel strips cut lengthwise

Paper Towel Brand Strip #1
Strip #2
Strip #3
Strip #4
Strip #5
  • For each brand of paper towel add the strengths of 5 samples and divide the results by five. Write this number in the last column of your results table.
  • Use the average strength of paper towels to draw a conclusion.

Experiment 2:


Repeat the experiment number one but this time instead of cutting strips of paper towel lengthwise, cut them crosswise. The title of your results table will be:

Strength of paper towel strips cut crosswise

Compare your results in two tables.

Optional experiment:


You may repeat experiments number 1 and 2 for testing wet paper towels. In this case you will need to wet the paper just before pulling it with Newton spring scale.

Experiment 3:


In this experiment you test the absorption ability of paper towels.


  1. Cut one sheet of each paper towel that you are testing and label them with a letter or a name that indicates each brand.
  2. Fold each sheet four times. That will make a small square that has 16 layers of paper towel.
  3. Use a stapler and connect these layers to each other from the center.
  4. Pass a string of thread through the last fold so you can hang this to a spring scale.
  5. Hang this folded paper to a spring scale and record its dry weight. Then submerge it in a cup of water so it gets soaking wet.
  6. Pull it up and let excess water drip for 30 seconds. Then record the wet weight of the folded paper towel. Record your results in a table like this:

Water absorption ability of different paper towels:

Brand Dry Weight Wet weight Water capacity of each sheet

7.Subtract dry weight from wet weight for each brand and write the results in the last column of your table.

8.Use the water capacity column to determine which paper towel is a better absorber of water.

Material and Equipment:

For our sample experiment we used the following material:

  1. Samples of paper towels
  2. A pair of Scissors
  3. 2 sheets of heavy cardboard paper
  4. Paper puncher
  5. A set of Newton Spring Scales (MiniScience part# PSS_US5)

Results of Experiment (Observation):

The data could be presented in written form or a bar graph would be an excellent visual method of displaying the final results. Each brand tested should have its own bar. The length of the bars would be proportional to the strength in Newtons of each strip.

Summary of Results:

All measurements should be recorded in the project book and may be presented in the final project report either as numerical data or shown as a bar graph. For each brand of detergent tested, the length of the bar should show the percentage of stain removed.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.


Your references are this website and the books that you will find in your local library about papers. You can also include the websites of manufacturers and some of the following:



Paper Making Process


Paper University