How Does Color Affect Drying Time?

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Updated on Mar 10, 2010

Difficulty of Project


Grade Level




Any safety issues to be considered?

There are no safety concerns.

Material Availability

Materials are readily available at home and at a local linen store.

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

1-2 days


To determine if color of a garment affects the length of time required to dry. The goal of the project is to obtain cotton, linen, and silk garments in different colors and compare the length of time for each garment to dry following a rinse in a washing cycle.

Materials and Equipment

  • Washing machine
  • Dryer
  • Cotton 1 Yard
  • Scissors
  • Timer
  • Thermometers


The visible spectrum of light on the electromagnetic spectrum is the region of light that can be detected by the human eye. The wavelengths of light in this region of the spectrum give rise to different colors. Wavelength of light travel through medium at frequency and amplitude characteristic to the color of the visible spectrum, wavelengths of light travel at a higher frequency and therefore transfer more energy in the form of heat compared to the red-yellow region of the electromagnetic spectrum, where frequency of wavelength is much lower. The color of matter including garments arises from the reflection of certain wavelengths of light and the absorption of other regions of the visible spectrum. For example, a blue or violet colored shirt reflects wavelengths of light in the blue-violet region of the electronmagnetic spectrum and absorbs the lower frequency, lower energy regions of the electromagnetic spectrum such as red-yellow wavelengths. In this experiment, it is expected that red, yellow, and orange colored garments will dry faster because these garments absorb high energy, high frequency wavelengths of light that will raise the temperature of the garment and increase the rate of drying.

Research Questions

  • What factors optimize the rate of evaporation?
  • How is energy transferred in the form of light?
  • What is the electromagnetic spectrum?
  • How does the light travel through objects?

Terms and Concepts to Start Background Research

  • Absorption
  • Amplitude
  • Condensation
  • Electromagnetic spectrum
  • Energy
  • Evaporation
  • Frequency
  • Optimal conditions
  • Rate of evaporation
  • Reflection
  • Wavelength

The diagram illustrates the visible spectrum of light and the possible temperature difference associated with different regions of the spectrum.

Experimental Procedure

  1. Obtain one type of fabric in the following colors: Blue, violet, red, green, yellow, and orange.
  2. Place each color fabric in the rinse cycle of the washing machine.
  3. Immediately remove each garment from the washing machine and lay the garments flattened on a table that receives direct sunlight.
  4. Wrap each garment around a thermometer and record the initial temperature of each colored garment. Once the temperature is recorded, remove the thermometer and flatten the garments out on the table.
  5. At ten minute intervals, record the temperature of each garment as a measure for how dry each garment is becoming. It is expected dryer garments will assume higher temperatures more rapidly compared to the wetter garments. The garments that dry the fastest will reach room temperature before the garments that dry the slowest.
  6. To identify the most rapidly drying color, a histogram can be devised to compare the time of drying of each colored garment.


  1. Electromagnetic Spectrum
Christine Ryder Combs, B.A. Honors Biochemistry, teaches high school Chemistry and Biology and serves as her school's science fair coordinator and science club sponsor. Since the development of an intensive science research program at her school, Christine has been nominated as an exemplary science teacher and has won awards for exemplary student participation at the regional science fair and recognized as teacher of the year.

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