Home / AMERICAN NEWS / Why Is It That When Things Get Wet They Get Darker, Even Though Water Is Clear? – ‘The Why’

Why Is It That When Things Get Wet They Get Darker, Even Though Water Is Clear? – ‘The Why’

Welcome to today’s edition of The Why.

Everywhere you look the media is pushing you telling you who to follow, what to watch and when to watch it.   You’re even sometimes told how to do it all.  Truth is, here at American Live Wire we do a bit of that too.  The big difference is we also tell you why.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

“Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear?” you ask? Good question. All online sources agree that it has to do with refraction and light.

But before we really answer the question “Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear?” keep a few things in mind. There are some factors—some variables if you will—that are also involved that affect the specific response to the question.

when things get wet

Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear? / Image: Sodahead

Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear? Let’s start with the long version first today, shall we? If memory serves—and alas it does not always—something that is composed of more than one layer with interact somewhat differently with light and therefore the overall perception of color will rely on the general nature of light your eyes receive from whatever that particular “something” happens to be.

(Yeah, see? Stay in school, kids!) If you are wearing cotton pants there are likely to be two layers. The first will be “loose surface fibers” and the second will be the “actual surface of cloth.”

The upper layer reportedly will not significantly absorb   waves of any specific wavelengths. They will only disperse the light falling upon them.   As one respondent on Yahoo put it: “When this scattered light adds up to the reflected light from the opaque object, the result is the perception of a lighter tint.” By the same token, he adds that (w)hen the layer is removed, like if the cloth is soaked in water, the color is perceived to be darker.

That response doesn’t completely address the question: “Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear?” You are correct. Surface has something to do with this as well. For example, many objects have rough surfaces.

when things get wet

Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear? / Image: JustJared

Because of this we see the object in what some call a “multi-directional light” that is reflected diffusely in the overall direction of our eyes. When something is wet the water pools into the rough, “open” areas so that the light on it is reflected only in one direction like from a piece of glass or a mirror.  Less light is then reflected in the direction of our eyes and the object therefore appears to be darker.

Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear? Simple answer: When water soaks into something the least bit porous it alters the way the object reflects light and thus it appears “darker” when we look at it.

Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear? Now you know.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

American Live Wire . . . Listen and be heard.

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.