June 14, 2018

Whatman paper filtration 101 – Part 1: Introduction

By GE Life Sciences

Choosing the right filter paper helps make filtration more efficient, but how do your workflow and the nature of your samples affect filter paper selection?


Scientists have used filter papers to separate solids from liquid for many years. Although alternative separation techniques have been developed, filter papers remain an effective, frequently used technique, both in industry and in research.

At first glance, filtration appears to be a simple technique, however, there are many ways to carry out paper filtration. By understanding the basics, you will often find there are simple changes to improve the quality or speed of your filtration.

In this series of blogs, we’ll discuss some initial considerations (below), the properties of filter paper, handling and folding, and selecting appropriate paper for your sample.

Filter Paper: What else to consider

Understanding the basics of filtration begins with understanding your samples: What do you need to know about your samples that will affect filtration? Many parameters will play a role, including solids content, method of precipitation, temperature, particle size, and particle shape.

With this in mind, you can start thinking about how you would set up your filtration. Consider:

  • Do I need to carry out quantitative analysis?
  • Do I need to do any purification or other preparative work?
  • Do I need to filter using a vacuum?
  • Is the liquid likely to react with or affect the filter paper?

In various industries, filter methods are highly standardized - usually for a good reason. Consistency is an important aspect of many processes, and often the benefits of consistency outweigh the benefits of a more efficient filtration. Yet, it is important to be aware that all samples are different, especially when working with natural materials, and that no single method is perfect for every sample.

In the other blogs in this series, we will delve deeper into various aspects of filtration and filter selection. Check out our other blogs to find out more, or use our filter selector tool to guide you through finding the right filter for your application.