Why are paper towels so absorbent?

Why are paper towels so absorbent?

Interesting facts to absorb

Whether it was to clean a table or dry wet hands, what did you reach for? Was it a paper towel?

As you dried your hands or cleaned up that mess, you’ll have noticed moisture spreading through the paper towel. What is it about a paper towel that makes it so absorbent?

absorbent paper towelsPaper towels are permeable and porous

Paper towels are made up of cellulose fibres, which also make up cotton, wood, and most other plants. They also contain small spaces that both liquid and air can pass through. Capillary action in the fibres draws in the water and the spaces between the fibres then help hold that water.

First, let’s look at cellulose

Cellulose attracts water. The cellulose fibres in paper towels are giant molecules consisting of many small sugar molecules linked together. Cellulose and sugar both form relatively strong bonds with water molecules (HOH). When you get a paper towel wet, the water molecules rush in and cling to the cellulose fibres. That's the start of how paper towels are great at absorbing water.

What’s capillarity?

If you look closely at the surface of a paper towel, you'll see that it's full of tiny pores and holes. Water gets pulled into these gaps by capillary action - the reason a liquid will flow in tiny spaces without the assistance of external forces like gravity.

Capillary action is caused by cohesion because water molecules like to stay close together. Surface tension is why water forms beads and it also allows water to get sucked up into narrow tubes or gaps in materials. Absorption in paper towels is also helped along by adhesion, the attraction between different types of molecules and the ability for molecules to stick together. Capillary action is adhesion and cohesion working together and helped along by surface tension.

More fluff and moisture

Folded paper towels or puffier, softer paper towels are able to hold more water because their capillarity is greater; they have more small holes or gaps.

Once sheets of paper towels are made, the top is modified with raised areas of open spaces to improve absorption. The emboss shapes, like diamonds or circles, are like having multiple sheets of soft tissue paper with spaces in between the layers, like a quilt. 

Holding it all together

Why did you opt for paper towels as opposed to a roll of toilet paper or a wad of notebook or printing paper to dry your hands or clean up a mess? Why don’t paper towels don’t tear as easily as notebook paper or tissue paper when they are wet? The secret to paper towel strength lies in how the sheets of paper are adhered together. The paper fibres are mixed with a special type of resin to keep them strong when they are wet.

Choosing paper towels

When compared to normal towels, paper towels lessen the chances of spreading germs and they are compostable.

paper towels 1plyShop for discounted paper towels by the case or by the truckload right here with us at Insinc. We’re your online warehouse with everyday low, wholesale prices and we sell 100% recycled paper towels, many bleach free. 

Businesses can now easily find a variety of brands of recycled tissues and paper towels that are easily compostable. We carry an extensive range of sustainable, eco-friendly products, so, if you, like us, want to make a difference, simply call 0508 467 462 to speak to a member of our team.

Posted: Monday 15 November 2021