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Is Water Wet?

Katy, Texas

It seems like a simple question, right? Of course water is wet! However, what really defines wetness? This opens up a very controversial topic, one that may not have a definitive answer. Let’s take a look at both sides of this argument.

Water is NOT Wet

water, adhesion, cohesion, intermolecular forces, hydrogen bonding
Diagram of Different Water Bonds

This side of the argument covers the fact that water can only make other objects wet, but isn’t wet itself. Wetness is determined by the adhesion of the liquid to the surface of the object. Basically, this means that if the water sticks to the surface more than it sticks to other water molecules, then we can define the object as being “wet”. This would mean that the adhesion (between water and surface) is higher than the cohesion (between water and water.)

For example, let's take a look at glass. Glass is a surface that has an incredibly high adhesion to water. Normally, water is incredibly cohesive, and due to this fact, water cannot make many surfaces wet. However, when you pour water onto glass, you may notice it seems to “stick” to it. The adhesion is higher than cohesion, therefore the glass is wet now.

Water is Wet

This side of the argument is based on your definition of wet. Wetness can be defined as a feeling, rather than a property. This is similar to a pillow feeling soft, or sandpaper feeling rough. Using this reasoning, we can define many liquids as being wet, rather than each liquid’s property being dependent on the type of surface it is put on. This also means that water is wet, because when we touch it, that is the sensation we feel.

water, wet, liquid
These liquids are all considered wet.

Another way to define the word “wet” is as anything that is made of liquid. This means that every liquid, including ones that may not necessarily feel wet, are considered wet. Since water is a liquid, water is wet by this definition.

In the end, there really doesn't seem to be a defined answer. Water can be considered wet or not wet, depending on the context of the situation. Now it’s up to you to decide which side you’re on.

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