On May 18, 2001, Brooke and I decided to perform some experiments with tampons.  Absorption experiments.

Tampons are used to stem the flow of blood, like a cross between a hydroelectric dam and a band-aid.
We bought a triple-pack of Tampax tampons. It featured a variety of sizes, perfect for parties!

It had Regular, Super, and Junior tampons, each of various sizes and weights, presumably with different rates of absorption. The box was $5.68, so individual tampons are about US$0.14 each.

Once we got the box back to the lab, we opened it up and pulled some out.
The first step was to measure each, and compare sizes. The Super didn't look that much larger than the others, but it promised a much higher absorption.
It was certainly more impressive than the "junior", which, incidentally, Junior is not allowed to play with.

The longest is the Super, about 4 1/2 inches long, and the others are nearly as long.  They vary in girth also, from just larger than a cigarette to about the circumference of a Sharpie marker.

 Out of the Cardboard applicator, the tampons themselves are pretty short, about 1 1/2 inches.

Each pack of tampons comes with a warning about Toxic Shock Syndrome and some pastel-tinted "anime" style pornography.

I was under the impression that simply the powerful absorption of super tampons could cause Toxic Shock syndrome, but it is actually the tendency to let a tampon camp out for an extended period which introduces the risk. It is for precisely this reason that Tampax stopped manufacturing their "fortnight" tampons in the first place.



It is logical that tampons are carcinogenic because they contain rayon, which is made from petroleum. I know you aren't supposed to leave motor oil on your hands, so maybe the same logic applies here. This is a risky proposition to some women. An alternative to Tampax are Natracare organic all-cotton tampons.
Imagine wearing the same socks for 12 hours if your feet were bleeding...that would be gross, right? But! the thing is, imagine you can't see the socks (as if you had boots on or something), so one can apparently forget all about them, pass out and die.
Tampons come with either a cardboard applicator or a plastic one.  Brooke avoids the plastic ones because they have a "pincher-mouth" opening that looks like something out of a John Carpenter movie.

This tubular applicator is used when...ah ..uh .....well ...maybe you better ask Jeeves about this one.

Each size has a string, which is pulled to activate the tampon's secret ingredients. Colleen informed me that strippers use tampons on stage, but cut the strings short and/or color them red to conceal them.  Let me assure you the men that go into strip clubs do not know this information.

Tampons do not glow, even if you shake them.


Leif, Mike and Brooke plan our defense against the Red Terror.  We toyed with different household fluids to use.  We needed to accurately replicate the viscoscity of blood in our experiments. After failed attempts, we decided to use Surf laundry detergent. 

FACT: menstrual blood is bright blue.


Unfortunately, the true test of a tampon is in stopping this flowing blood from reaching your Victoria's Secret.  We needed to test the product's ability to absorb ALL the fluid it was exposed to without allowing a single drop to escape.  We used a bottle to mimic the ..uh ..environment ....uh ...that the tampons operate in, yeah, operate in.   Because the cotton-blend expands as it absorbs, it provides a very effective blockade until it is saturated.

This junior tampon was able to hold back the fluid in this inverted Travel-size Scope bottle.  A tiny bottle of Scope is a lousy substitute for a real vagina, especially when you are traveling.

The tampon protected the precious Pooty blanket from damage from dripping faux blood.

We were pleased, finally we could see it working.

We measured the maximum absorption potential of tampons one at a time in a shot glass. The junior absorbed one tablespoon, the regular two tablespoons, and the super absorbed three.  The measurements were pretty straightforward. 
I later learned of a super-extra tampon, which I would bet can absorb an additional tablespoon.
This one's almost ready!
Here the saturated tampons are displayed next to each other, exhausted after a hard day.

Only after the photos and careful measurements did Ambur point out that the damn box shows how much each tampon can hold.

These are industry-wide absorbency standards: Junior <6 grams,  Regular 6-9 grams, Super 9-12 Grams,  & Super Plus >15 Grams.  

Women are left to calculate their own needs by trial and error, but I suppose they seem to catch on pretty quick. Some girls say there is nothing worse than a tampon not doing the job.

After a hard day of science, the whole team enjoyed a round of Mike's blue liqueur...delicious!


Remember kids, tampons are dangerous, always use them with caution.

Contact Rob
more science club | How much is inside? | Home | Incredible Stuff I Made
July 4, 2001.
  • Photographic Height/Weight Chart
  • The Weight of Clothing
  • The Television Commercial Database
  • Terms and Conditions Copyright 2001 Cockeyed.com