The Great Notebook Soak

Being of the scientific inclination, sometimes I construct and perform experiments just for the fun of it.  I am organizing this post to follow the steps of the scientific method, since it’s been beat into my brain for long that I just do it automatically now.

Step 1: Ask a question

I make it no secret that I prefer water resistant inks.  Life is too short and I am too clumsy to lose an entire page of work to a tipped-over water bottle.  But I wondered - does writing inside a closed notebook fare differently when exposed to liquid?  Obviously the answer is yes when we think about errant drips or a splash quickly wiped away, but what about a complete soak?

Step 2: Do background research

I will admit, I skipped this step.  But a cursory search of the interwebs did not show that anyone else has performed this sort of test…

Step 3: Construct a hypothesis

This is an important step not to skip.  If you blindly barrel onward to the experiment without a working hypothesis, how can you judge the usefulness of your results?

My hypothesis was that writing on notebook pages that are pressed together would survive better than the exposed writing that I use for drip tests on ink reviews.  The logic behind this is that the water between the pages would not be as mobile as drops sitting on the surface and would have a harder time dissolving the dyes.

Step 4: Test you hypothesis with an experiment

Now we get to the fun part!  Doing the science.  For my experiment, I took a pocket Leuchtturm 1917 and wrote on every tenth page with four different inks: Iroshizuku Yama-Budo (an ink with mild water resistance), lime green Pilot G2 (100% not water resistant), Sailor Sei Boku (pigmented), and a black Pigma Micron (also pigmented).  Doing this every ten pages allowed me to see how the ink diffuses across facing and intermediate pages while still have a decent amount of ink in the book.


I then closed the book, secured it with the elastic strap, and plopped it into a small basin of water for the next four hours.  That amount of time would ensure that the water fully permeated the pages but is not so long as to reduce the whole thing to a pile of pulp.  My goal was to replicate the horrible situation where your book falls out of your bag into a puddle and it takes you a bit of time to backtrack and save it.

After the bath time was complete, I blotted off the excess water and very carefully peeled the pages apart to the middle of the book.  Four days on the windowsill later, the book was finally dry enough to handle and examine.

Step 5: Analyze your data and draw a concision

Well… the results definitely did the opposite of confirming my hypothesis.  Which is always a valid result too.

After (this page had a miraculous air bubble that spared a single word of G2 writing)

Once the notebook was dry I saw that the effect on the inks was largely the same as one of my standard drip tests.  The G2 dissolved to illegibility and became a diffuse green smear that soaked through between intermediate pages.  Yama-Budo also spread to adjacent pages, to the point where the small water resistant portion of the original wiring left would have been difficult to recover if this ink were used on facing pages.  And the pigmented inks, well they stood by as if nothing had happened at all.

Close-up of writing on a page

The facing blank page

The conclusion that I draw from all this is that a water soluble ink is no safer in a tightly closed notebook than it is on a piece of paper out in the open, at least when it comes to complete submersion.  Obviously it is much better protected from random drops and spills.  Another positive for the bound notebook is that, while it’s not pretty now, it is still holding together and could be archived for reference of completed, depending on your level of notebook-finishing dedication.