Paper Towel Absorbency of Olive Oil

Student: Raj Saha
Table: 9
Experimentation location: School
Regulated Research (Form 1c): No
Project continuation (Form 7): No

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Admin. “Why Are Bounty Paper Towels so Absorbent? - Janitorial Supplies Blog.” Why Are Bounty Paper Towels So Absorbent?, CleanItSupply, 22 Aug. 2010,

Jackson, Katie. “5 Of the Best Paper Towel Rolls to Buy in Bulk, According to Cleaning Experts.”, TODAY, 19 Feb. 2019,

Journal Review Team, Old  House. “The Best Paper Towels in 2022 - Old House Journal Review.” Old House Journal, Old House, 14 July 2022,  

Kral , Georgia, and Kevin Oliver. “The Best Paper Towels of 2022.” The Best Paper Towels Of 2022,, 7 May 2018, Updated on  15 September 2022

Vu, Bryan. “The Best Paper Towel Brands of 2022 - Reviews by Your Best Digs.” The Best Paper Towel Brands, Your Best Digs, 20 Sept. 2022,

Additional Project Information

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Project files

Research Plan:

There is known research and consumer testing regarding the absorbency of water and the strength of paper towels saturated with water. I have not discovered any research testing paper towel absorbency with other common household liquids, such as olive oil. Consumers want to know what brand of paper towel will be most effective to clean other types of liquids that are frequently found in the kitchen. Through my research, I decided to test five different paper towel brands: Bounty, Brawny, Seventh Generation, Viva, and Kirkland. I chose olive oil as the liquid for absorption because of its common presence in most kitchens. Because cooking oil spills are common, my research can help educate consumers on what brand of paper towel may help them efficiently clean olive oil. Subsequently, it can help consumers find a cost effective option for their household. There are two different types of Bounty paper towels: the more expensive 2-ply paper towels and the less expensive 1-ply paper towels called Bounty Basic (Admin). Bounty paper towels are the best at absorbency, and a variety of quilting or stitching patterns keeps the 2-ply version held together (Admin).The classic Bounty paper towel “uses a 2-ply construction with tight diamond shaped quilting for extra absorbance” (Admin). Bounty Basic, the less expensive version of Bounty paper towels, “are 1-ply and use small hexagon patterns and honeycomb texture to increase absorbency” (Admin). The stitching that classic Bounty kitchen paper towels use adds more surface area to the product. This results in a more absorbent paper towel that uses more paper than other brands (Admin). I have chosen Classic Bounty paper towels for this particular experiment. I think this will be one of the best performing brands being tested. Brawny is a thick paper towel that is cloth-like and does not usually wear thin when saturated. Brawny is durable and its strength allows the user to vigorously scrub areas that need cleaning (Vu). Because of its strength and durability, consumers can clean floors and wash windows using less paper towels (Vu). Brawny and Bounty are stronger than other brands of paper towels as well as more absorbent (Vu). Brawny has a soft feel, making it versatile in the kitchen. It can be used for cleaning as well as for napkins and tissues (Vu). In head to head tests, Brawny appears slightly more absorbent than Bounty by 0.1 ounce per sheet. Brawny is also cheaper than Bounty (Vu). Brawny is more cost effective and versatile than Bounty (Vu). I think that Brawny will be the best at absorbing and handling the olive oil. Viva’s trademark “V-weave technology” makes Viva paper towels 2-ply even though “it is advertised as 1-ply.” The grooved texture allows “dirt, grime, and grease to be removed” quickly (Vu). It is one of the only brands of paper towel that matched Bounty and Brawny in efficiency, absorbency, and strength (Vu). Viva is the most expensive paper towel brand in this research experiment (Vu). I think that the Viva paper towels will be able to absorb most of the olive oil. Kirkland paper towels are a cheaper bulk alternative to name brand Bounty and Brawny paper towels (Kral/Oliver). Kirkland paper towels are effective as cleaning products. These paper towels pick up dust efficiently instead of spreading it around in clumps (Kral/Oliver). Kirkland paper towels are strong and do not tear easily when wet, however, Kirkland paper towels do not maintain strength when saturated with water (Kral/Oliver). I think that these paper towels will rip after they are soaked with olive oil. A Scott roll has strong ridges which “clean any mess fast.” Although its sheets are thin, Scott paper towels are big enough to “clean any mess” (Journal Review Team). Scott paper towels are created with a mix of water and soft and hardwood pulp fibers. They are eco-friendly and are ECOLOGO and The Forest Stewardship Council approved. The pulp fibers come from sustainably managed forests (Journal Review Team). Because Scott paper towels are hard, I think that this will be one of the lower performing brands being tested. Seventh Generation is eco-friendly and is 100% recyclable. It feels coarse and is weak. “It is not good at cleaning up basic messes” (Kral/Oliver). Unlike other paper towel brands, Seventh Generation’s paper towels do not use chlorine bleach. Because of this, their paper towels may appear grayish and may be undesirable to some consumers who wish to have paper towels that appear clean and white (Jackson). I think that Seventh Generation will perform the worst when being tested.

Questions and Answers

1. What was the major objective of your project and what was your plan to achieve it? 

My main objective was to see which popular brand of paper towels absorbs the most olive oil and is the most cost effective. In order to achieve this, I simply planned to see how much olive oil each paper towel would hold after being dipped into the substance. 

       a. Was that goal the result of any specific situation, experience, or problem you encountered?  

I observed my parents struggling with cleaning up spills in the kitchen. This inspired me to build an experiment based on the most common substance my parents clean up, olive oil.

       b. Were you trying to solve a problem, answer a question, or test a hypothesis?

I was trying to answer the question; which brand of paper towels absorbs the most olive oil?


2. What were the major tasks you had to perform in order to complete your project?

After forming my question, I conducted some research on the different paper towel brands. From my research, I was able to form my hypothesis. Then, I planned and performed my experiment. After finishing my experiment, I analyzed my data and formed a conclusion. 

a. For teams, describe what each member worked on.

I performed this experiment by myself.

3. What is new or novel about your project?

Most paper towel absorbency tests use dyed water. However, my experiment uses olive oil, which is usually found in many kitchens.

       a. Is there some aspect of your project's objective, or how you achieved it that you haven't done before?

I have not performed an experiment like this before.

       b. Is your project's objective, or the way you implemented it, different from anything you have seen?

While paper towels are tested for absorbency, I am changing the substance used. 

       c. If you believe your work to be unique in some way, what research have you done to confirm that it is?

Initially, I searched online for paper towel tests using olive oil and did not find any. Specifically, I looked at the paper towel brands' websites and discovered no evidence that olive oil was tested. 


4. What was the most challenging part of completing your project?

The most challenging part of my project was forming my procedure. In particular, I had to make sure that the steps in my experiment stayed consistent and ensure my data was collected accurately.

      a. What problems did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?

At the beginning of my experiment, each of the different brands' paper towels were not the same size as each other. Because of the different sizes, performing my experiment would be an unfair test. I overcame this setback by cutting all of the paper towel samples to the same size as the smallest paper towel. In addition, I used a timer to standardize the time each sample had to absorb olive oil. This process was manual and may have caused errors. I solved this problem by having an adult operate the timer.

      b. What did you learn from overcoming these problems?

I learned that designing and performing an experiment is not always going to be executed as perfectly as I would expect.


5. If you were going to do this project again, are there any things you would you do differently the next time?

I would use either different brands of paper towels or a different substance.

6. Did working on this project give you any ideas for other projects? 

Yes, working on this project gave me ideas for other projects.

7. How did COVID-19 affect the completion of your project?

COVID-19 did not affect the completion of my project.