Bowling Balls – Do They Float or Sink?

Many people want to know what will be the result of doing scientific experiments with bowling balls. The most popular investigation is to see whether these bowling balls float or sink in water. It is an exciting experiment, and the results are surprising.

Bowling balls float in water if they weigh less than 12 pounds because they have lesser density than the water’s surface, while heavier bowling balls sink.

In this article, I will talk about bowling balls, whether they float or sink in water, different considerations to be taken, and the effect of saltiness in the floating or sinking of bowling balls.

Well, without wasting any further time, let us get into it.

Do Bowling Balls Float?

Do Bowling Balls Float?

Well, they do, and they do not. It simply depends upon the liquid and the materials added to the liquid, and the density of the bowling balls themselves. In pure water, some bowling balls can float while others end up sinking. The same is the case with saltwater. Depending on their concentration, weight, and material, some bowling balls can float on the surface or sink to the bottom.

The floating and sinking of any material, let alone bowling balls, depends on the concentration of the liquid versus the density of the material being thrown into the liquid itself. It is a viral experiment, and many science projects in primary school require students to perform this activity. That is because you can learn a lot by throwing a bowling ball into the water.

Determining Factors of a Bowling Ball’s Behavior in Water

Well, we talked about density and how it affects a bowling ball’s behavior in water. There are a few determining factors that affect the behavior of the bowling ball in the water. Let us take a look at some of these factors and how they work on a bowling ball.

The density of the Bowling Ball

First of all, the most important thing is the density of the bowling ball. Density refers to the mass per unit volume of a substance. However, it is often mistaken for being the mass of an object.

It does not matter how big the object might look; what matters is the density of that object. As you might already know, all bowling balls are the same size. The difference between them is the density or the weight of the materials within.

If the density of a bowling ball is less than the concentration of the liquid it is placed in, it will float, if the density is the same, then it will remain in its place, and if it is heavier, it is simply going to sink to the bottom.

Density of Water

The density of water, in this case, is also significant to consider. The density of pure water is 1g/cm3. Since you’re placing the bowling ball into the water, the density of water affects the sinking or floating in this process.

There are two kinds of water you might want to know about. Saltwater is usually ocean water and fresh water – which you will find in rivers and streams.

In both these kinds of waters, you will see a bowling ball behaving differently in terms of floating or sinking. So, let us take a look at whether a bowling ball sinks or floats in these conditions.

Bowling Ball in Fresh Water: Will it Float or Sink?

If we take three bowling balls weighing 8, 10, and 12 pounds respectively and a container with fresh water in it, here are the possible results that you are going to see. Since the density of the freshwater is 1g/cm3, the 10-pound bowling ball will remain suspended in its position as the density of that bowling ball is perfectly equal to that of freshwater.

This means that if you gently place the bowling ball in the freshwater, it will stay in its place; however, if you push it into the water, it will remain in that new position.

If we talk about the 8-pound bowling ball, placing it in the freshwater would let it float simply because the lighter ball has less density than the water. No matter how much you try to push the bowling ball into the water, it will end up coming back up and floating.

Lastly, if the bowling ball is heavy like a 12-pound bowling ball, throwing it in freshwater would make it sink to the bottom of the container. No matter how gently you might try to place the bowling ball, its density is greater than that of fresh water, which is precisely why it will end up sinking to the bottom.

All these bowling balls were thrown in the freshwater showcase that the only thing that matters in terms of floating or sinking is the density of either object. If the liquid used was not water or water in its purest form, the outcome would be different. Similarly, if the thing used for the experiment were not a bowling ball, you would end up seeing a different result as well, which is pretty fascinating.

Bowling Ball in Salt Water: Will it Sink or Float?

Well, does a bowling ball behave the same way in saltwater as it does in freshwater? Well, to answer your question, no, it does not.
Again, it all has to do with density. Salt is a component that increases its density naturally when added to a liquid, which is why using salt water, the outcomes of throwing bowling balls would be different.

Now saltwater, in this case, can also be simply ocean water because of all the matter within it. You can take ocean water or add salt to regular water in a container.

And you are going to need to repeat this process. Here are the results that you are going to find if you are taking the same example of an 8, 10, and 12-pound bowling ball:

  • In the case of an 8 pound bowling ball, the result will not be any different, and it would just end up floating to the top of the saltwater surface in the container.
  • On the other hand, the change that we will see is with the 10-pound bowling ball. Typically, you would expect the 10-pound bowling ball to maintain its position, but it actually will also float up like the first ball. This is because of the increased density of the water.
  • Depending upon how concentrated the saltwater is, the 12-pound bowling ball might float or maintain its position within the saltwater. If the water is not very salty, it might even remain sunk.

Bowling Ball in the Dead Sea: Will it Float or Sink?

The dead sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the entire world. If we compare the amount of salt in it with freshwater bodies worldwide, there’s an immense difference.

This can be understood by taking a look at the density of the dead seawater. It is 1.241g/cm3, which is a lot more than it might seem to the naked eye. This means that the density of the dead sea is much greater than fresh water and even other saltwater due to the excessive amount of salt content.

Due to this excessive amount of salt, throwing a bowling ball in there would become even more enjoyable. For example, if we throw an 8-pound bowling ball into the dead sea, it will float on top.

If we even throw a 10-pound bowling ball or even a 12-pound bowling ball, we will see no difference. These balls are also going to float on top without question due to their smaller densities. So, heavier balls are also coming to the top due to the saltiness of the water.

If you want to see any bowling ball sink, you’re going to have to start to throw bowling balls weighing 14-pounds and higher. Only then would their density be more significant, and they will sink to the bottom. Otherwise, all the balls will become playthings on top of the sea surface. So, that shows how vital the density of a liquid is.


Bowling ball experiments are pretty much fun, and they can teach you a lot about science as well. If you want your children to start playing this sport, why not start with an experiment to motivate them? On the water, bowling balls can float when they are lighter than the density of water and sink when heavier. I hope you learned a lot from this article and that you will have a lot of fun when checking out this experiment for yourself. May you have a great day ahead of you.

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