The absorption of water from a slurry into an absorbent substrate is analysed using Sharp Front theory. The analysis describes the relationship between the sorptivity S of the substrate, the desorptivity R of the slurry and the transfer sorptivity A between slurry and substrate, and leads to the relationship 1/A2 ≤ 1/R2 + 1/S2. Experimental data are presented which validate this equation for the practically important case of the absorption of water from soft mortar mixes by fired clay bricks. A unique feature of the experimental work is the measurement of the desorptivity of the mortars at a pressure equal to the wetting front capillary pressure of the clay brick substrate. Analysis of the experimental data also enables, for the first time, the calculation of the capillary potential at the slurry/substrate interface. The analysis has relevance to many aspects of ceramic and mineral processing, industrial filtration and construction engineering.