Walking Water Experiment

Every now and then we like to try a more ‘traditional’ science experiment and walking water is one I’ve been trying to catch on video for ages. This super simple experiment works quickly and is very impressive. The science behind it, can be a bit tricky for little ones, but you could start by spilling a little bit of water on a table and demonstrating how the paper towel absorbs the water.


Glasses or jars of the same size

Paper towel


Food colouring



Place coloured water into the glasses on the outside, leaving the middle one empty.

Cut a piece of kitchen roll in half and fold up each.

Place a piece of kitchen roll so it runs from the glasses with water into the empty one.

Sit back and watch.


 Extension Activities

Can you predict the colour of the water in the middle glass.

Is it faster if you wet the paper towel first?

Would this work if you used a more viscous liquid, vegetable oil for example?

What happens if you use a thicker paper towel?

Why does this work?

The water travels up the kitchen roll by a process called capillary action. The water moves against gravity along the tiny gaps within the fibres of the kitchen roll. Water molecules bind to the paper towel through a process called adhesion, but also stay close to each other as they are cohesive. The gaps in the towel act like capillary tubes, pulling the water upwards.

Another example of this process is where water travels from the roots of a plant to the leaves, we call this transpiration, which is driven by capillary action.

Walking water

There are 8 comments

  1. Sheila couch

    I’ve tried this several times. The colors are mixing in the wrong cups. For example I have a red cup, empty one in the middle, then a blue at the other end to make purple. It’s making purple in the blue cup. The middle cup becomes blue instead of mixing with the red and turning purple. What am I doing wrong?

  2. Janice Garcia

    Thanks to Sheila Couch… I need to experiment where the colors go to make the correct colors in the school science fair… How sad how no one answered Sheila Couch’s question… I guess I have to guessing what goes where…

Post Your Thoughts