Which Fabrics are Most Absorbent?

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Updated on Apr 24, 2013

We are surrounded by textiles everyday,from the clothes we wear to the sheets that keep us warm at night to the umbrellas we use when it rains. Though there are many kinds of fabrics, their most suitable applications depends largely on properties such as absorbency.

Absorbency is how much liquid the fabric can take inside and hold in its fibers. Fabric is actually made up of a network of very thin threads and in these threads are fibers twisted together. The shape of the fiber is very important to determine how absorbent the fabric will be.


How does the shape and strucure of the fibers in a fabric affect its absorbency?


  • 100% cotton fabric -- a “fat quarter” from the fabric store will work
  • 100% polyester fabric
  • 100% rayon fabric
  • 100% wool fabric
  • 100% nylon fabric
  • Water
  • Microscope
  • Pen and paper for notes


  1. Observe the fibers of the cotton fabric sample under a microscope. Note the shape of its fibers and how the threads are woven/knit together.
  2. Pour half a regular-sized drinking glass of water on a flat table.
  3. While wet, press the cotton fabric sample onto the water. Make sure it is soaked and try to get all the water up from the table in one attempt.
  4. Go back to the microscope and observe the fibers again. What do you see now that is different from before? What is happening to the fibers?
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the rest of your fabric samples.
  6. Record your results.
Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.

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