What is Blotting Paper?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Blotting paper is a form of highly absorbent paper that is used to blot various substances to remove excess liquids. Most commonly, this paper is used to remove ink or oil, but it can be utilized to lift other liquids as well. Its absorbent properties can also make it a convenient medium for drug distribution; LSD, for example, is sometimes sold on strips of this paper.

People who work with traditional quill pens still use ink blotters for their original purpose.
People who work with traditional quill pens still use ink blotters for their original purpose.

The use of blotting paper appears to date to around the 1400s, although it was probably not used at all levels of society, because paper was still relatively expensive at this period in history. People who lacked access to the paper would scatter sand across written documents to absorb excess ink and then gently shake the sand away, a messy and sometimes smearing endeavor. As paper production became more efficient and less costly, blotting paper quickly spread among writers of all classes, as it was ideally suited for sopping up extra ink.

Ink blotters are designed to absorb ink.
Ink blotters are designed to absorb ink.

For written documents, the paper is extremely useful when fountain pens, quills, and dipped pens are used. These pens often leave a trail of extra ink in their wake, which can spear or blotch on the page. By using blotting paper, a writer can keep written documents clean and clear, and avoid the creation of accidental ink smears. Typically, the paper can be reused several times before it has absorbed the maximum amount of ink.

Blotting paper is also available for cosmetic uses. It is ideally suited to lifting excess oil and dead skin from the face, and some women carry around a small package of blotting tissues for this very purpose. Some companies also make powdered paper, which removes oil while laying down a layer of face powder to keep the skin fresh; it can also be found in scented packages.

Many stationery supply stores carry blotting paper, often in a variety of sizes. This product can also sometimes be found at department stores and general stores which carry a range of merchandise, or at stores which specialize in vintage items. Someone who is seeking the paper specifically for cosmetic uses may want to look for it at a store that specializes in skin care, and it can also be ordered directly through specialty suppliers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have the worst oily skin imaginable. I've tried everything from mattifiers, oil control wash, primers-- you name it. I honestly think this is what aggravated my acne issue.

I have oily, acne prone, and sensitive skin. I've tried blotting papers in Asia a long time ago and found that they work really well at absorbing my greasiness. I tried to find more in the states and left with sub par options.

I even used toilet seat covers: I do not recommend as it will dry out your skin even more and your skin will get angry and produce more oil to overcompensate, so please ignore that video.

Later I come to find out that the C&C film=is made with mineral oil! Whoa.

I received a bday gift from a friend in the beauty industry; a Japanese oil blotting paper called Tatcha. Apparently it's not made of paper but some plant that doesn't over dry skin! I am in love. The sheets have little gold flakes and are 100 percent natural. I love the fact they don't disturb my makeup!

The cost is a little more than most brands but the size of these sheets are nearly double! The packaging is so beautiful (i'm a sucker for packaging). They don't sell them anywhere near me so I just order online.


One more use of blotting paper -- in labs! Blotting paper is used for electrophoresis and sequencing gels, and also for the blotting of proteins.

My hospital's lab uses the classic Whatman blotting paper, but I know that others use different brands with the same effect.

Definitely a staple of labs everywhere.


Does anyone know where to buy desk blotting paper nowadays? The stationery store in my town doesn't sell it anymore, and I'm desperate to get some so I can use my grandfather's old ink pen on special documents. Are there any reliable internet retailers for blotting paper that you all know about?


I love those oil blotting papers -- I use the Shiseido facial blotting paper package, and those things are lifesavers.

I truly never go out of the house without face blotting paper in my purse.

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