Considering the amount of time astronauts spend in space, they have to find a way to keep up with hygiene as often as possible. But what about showering, specifically? Can they have them; is it even possible? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know.
So, can astronauts shower in space? Due to the effect of zero gravity, astronauts don’t have the luxury of taking showers in outer space. Since water can’t flow the way it does on Earth, astronauts have to use numerous alternative methods to keep themselves clean. This includes utilizing wet towels and using waterless shampoos.
Unfortunately, you can’t live as you usually would on Earth, and this requires some ingenuity regarding hygiene, food, exercise, and more.
And while astronauts may want to relax in a hot shower – they’re not actually needed to stay clean in outer space.
Let us now explore why this is the case in much greater detail before turning to what this all means for the sweaty (or not so sweaty) astronomer. Spoiler alert – I’ll be covering that too!
Why Are There No Showers In Space?
There are multiple reasons why showers aren’t available on the ISS (International Space Station). The primary factor is due to the zero-gravity environment, which doesn’t allow liquids to flow like we’re used to. Other logistical aspects such as limited water supplies and no way to create a functioning plumbing system make the idea of showers in space impossible, at least for now.
It’s understandable that astronauts would love the ability to take a hot shower, but it’s simply not a possible or viable option with current resources and technology.
You also have to consider that astronauts are in outer space to work, and all of the supplies they have on board are essential to survival.
There isn’t much room to waste resources such as water, and a shower would just bring disadvantages from that point of view.
It’s possible that technology could evolve in the future to make showers an option in outer space, but the costs, tech, and resources associated with creature comforts aren’t the biggest concern for space agencies right now.
Right now, we’re more focused on how to coexist with zero gravity, and although it involves a different lifestyle, astronauts are still able to take care of their bare necessities.
You might be surprised to know that engineers and astronauts have experimented with the idea of a shower in space.
A uniquely designed shower was installed in Skylab by NASA, and although it didn’t function like the showers we know, astronauts were able to take a shower with water and soap within a confined and closed-off area.
They would use suction to suck up the excess water and soap suds and dry off with towels as usual. It’s reported that this process took about an hour or two for most astronauts, and most felt it was rather inefficient.
Astronauts on the ISS stick to the regular method of “showering” in outer space, which is by using waterless shampoos and soaps with very minimal water usage.
Do Astronauts Sweat In Space?
Astronauts do sweat in space. Our bodies go through all of their normal functions regardless of whether we’re in space or not. The difference is how these functions and changes in the body react to a zero-gravity environment.
Astronauts have to exercise to keep their bodies in shape for the job at hand, as extended periods of time in outer space can take a significant toll on the body.
During any strenuous activity, astronauts will sweat like they normally would.
One of the most significant differences is that the sweat won’t fall or drip down the body because of zero gravity, so astronauts will have to be relatively diligent about whipping it clean.
Living in a space station can become stuffy or uncomfortably hot if it weren’t for the thermal control system that’s built-in.
This helps astronauts stay cool on a daily basis so they can be as comfortable as possible during their work.
Working in a spacesuit can work up a sweat too, and NASA has experimented with multiple cool methods for spacesuits.
Currently, cold water courses through thin tubing inside spacesuits to help keep astronauts’ body temperature down.
Vents are included to draw sweat away from their bodies and aid overall circulation inside the suit.
Although astronauts have a lot of help from technology to keep them alive in the harsh environment of space, there’s still a lot more progress that can be made.
What Do Astronauts Do For Hygiene In Space?
Even with the vast number of challenges that come with existing in space, astronauts have many different ways to take care of their overall hygiene. Astronauts have to be able to brush their teeth, shave, and take care of other bodily maintenance such as clipping nails. While some of these can be accomplished with the same tools we have back home, others require specially engineered tools that can properly function in zero-gravity.
When astronauts need to brush their teeth, they take a very small amount of water from a pouch and lightly squeeze it onto the toothbrush.
After the toothbrush quickly absorbs the water, then they’ll squeeze a minimal amount of toothpaste on top.
It is relatively similar to how they do it back home, but they’re much more careful about managing their resources.
Astronauts may need to take care of their hygiene, but it’s essential that all of their resources are closely monitored to ensure their needs are taken care of.
When it comes to their clothing, astronauts don’t have the luxury of washing their clothes on the ISS.
It would simply waste too much water, so astronauts dispose of their clothing after they’re deemed too dirty for wear.
They’ll either send their clothes with shipments back to NASA or dispose of them with other waste to be burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Many astronauts don’t worry too much about styling their hair, but it’s important to be presentable.
Thankfully, combing hair in micro or zero gravity isn’t too difficult.
The biggest challenge here is that it can be difficult to keep water from going in different directions while astronauts comb it or pat it into their hair.
Considering the free movement zero gravity provides, it can take a little while to get your hair to sit how you want it, and it may require fully drying before this is possible for some people.
Even with these minor characteristics of hygiene in outer space, astronauts don’t find it to be a hassle in any regard.
Astronauts have everything they need to stay on top of necessary hygiene practices while living and working in outer space.
Thanks to clever engineering and the resources provided by NASA, astronauts are able to live as comfortable as possible in an extremely harsh environment for humans.
Nevertheless, the various comforts and tools that are available to astronauts will continue to expand as we progress in our knowledge and understanding of space.
Astronauts do not bathe in space – at least in the traditional sense of getting in a tub full of water. Instead, they keep themselves clean with liquid soap, water, a rinseless shampoo, and a wet towel.
Want to learn more about astronauts? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Do Astronauts Wash Their Clothes In Space?
- How Do Astronauts Brush Their Teeth?
- Can Astronauts Burp In Space?
- Can Astronauts Fart In Space?
- Do Astronauts Jerk In Space?
- Do Female Astronauts Wear Bras In Space?
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.