Working on a space station may come with a decent list of comforts for the astronauts, but they don’t have access to every luxury that they’re used to down on Earth. Not only does this present varying challenges to daily routines, but it can require some ingenuity to find solutions. Clothing and washing are a clear example. Here is why.
So, can astronauts wash their clothes in space? At this time, there isn’t a viable solution in place to wash clothes on a space station. One of the biggest factors for this regards the amount of water that would be needed, and that’s a precious commodity in outer space.
That doesn’t mean it may not be possible someday, but for now; it’s not possible.
Let us break down what this means for astronauts and their clothing!
Astronauts may have a decent amount of clothing on the space station, but that doesn’t mean they’ll last forever. They’ll alternate outfits to help keep them as clean as possible, but all of their clothes will get dirty eventually. Considering their circumstances, they may even wear the same clothes longer than they would on Earth due to a number of reasons.
Regardless of how clean they keep their bodies on a daily basis, the clothes that astronauts wear will undoubtedly become dirty and unwearable.
It’s understandable that they might wear the same clothes repeatedly, but this will become unsanitary after enough time.
Even if astronauts don’t have the resources to wash their clothes in outer space, they aren’t out of luck as they have multiple methods to dispose of dirty clothes and receive fresh garments to replace them.
One method of disposal is by launching dirty, unwearable clothes into Earth’s atmosphere, where they’ll easily burn up.
Another solution is to send them back with a scheduled shipment to NASA.
If astronauts start running low on their clothing selection, NASA can easily send them new clothes with the next shipment.
This can take a decent amount of resources, so astronauts tend to be tactful with how they take care of their clothing and overall hygiene.
Astronauts and space agencies have a system for everything to ensure day-to-day operations go according to plan.
Managing dirty clothes isn’t ever an issue as astronauts generally have everything they need for an extended period of time.
You can consider special circumstances as there’s a chance for clothing to be ruined by something on the space station accidentally.
Still, a small stain isn’t going to deem a shirt unwearable.
Within the last couple of years, NASA has been working with companies such as Proctor & Gamble to find an efficient detergent solution that’s viable on the space station.
This would allow astronauts to wear clothing for months or potentially years.
Regardless of how often astronauts request new clothes, they’ll always have a decent rotation of clothing on hand.
Astronauts most definitely change their clothes, and they do this more frequently than you might expect. You also have to recognize the fact that they have various sets of clothing for different activities on the space station. For example, astronauts have to work out every single day, which can quickly make clothing dirty and unpleasant to wear. This activity alone causes them to use a new set of workout clothes every single week.
Some may change their clothes more than others, but all of them are at the mercy of what resources they have onboard and the various shipments that come and go from the space station.
Regardless of the frequency of new clothing shipments, astronauts sometimes have to wear clothing that might be way past due for a wash.
Nevertheless, both astronauts and space agencies have systems in place on both ends to ensure a consistent flow of necessary clothing on the space station.
Although their workout clothes are changed out relatively frequently, other casual sets of clothing could potentially last longer.
Even though the clothing system that’s in place right now isn’t necessarily a burden to the astronauts, NASA is looking for a way to make the current process a thing of the past.
In the way that waterless shampoo exists, it may be possible to create a similar solution for clothing detergents.
This isn’t the first time NASA has tried looking for a solution to extended wear time for their clothing.
Years ago, they found that antimicrobial clothing may last longer than the standard, but it still won’t be wearable for months or years.
Currently, a new “space-friendly” detergent is being tested.
And the P&G company is even working on engineering washing and drying machines that are optimal for use in outer space.
It’s evident that humanity is making some advancements in this regard, but there’s still research that needs to be done for it to be optimal.
Astronauts will have more than a few sets of clothes for all of their essentials. It has been reported that some astronauts have worn underwear for three to four days, and garments such as shorts can sometimes be worn for months. It really comes down to personal judgment and what’s available on the space station.
Most items of clothing are worn at least a few days in a row before rotation.
Sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances, they may have to change their clothes prematurely if clothing gets damaged or overly dirty in some way.
For the most part, life on the space station is relatively routine, but you can imagine how good it must feel to have a new shipment of clothes arrive.
It’s often mentioned that workout clothes need to be changed much more often, and the level of filth that accumulates likely varies from person to person.
We know that humans sweat in space just like we do on Earth, which can amplify the dirt that accumulates on an astronaut’s clothing.
More than anything, underwear tends to be changed the most for obvious reasons, whereas garments such as a pair of shorts can last much longer before getting too dirty.
With the new technologies that NASA and companies like P&G are working on, it may not be too long before astronauts can do their laundry in space.
This would allow them to change their clothes more frequently and more than likely help them feel cleaner on a daily basis.
Thankfully, the ISS itself stays pretty clean on the inside, and their shower schedules also help keep clothes clean for long periods of time.
Living and working in outer space comes with what looks like a never-ending list of challenges, and astronauts have to operate within rigorous routines.
The way hygiene is handled on the ISS comes with its pros and cons, but for numerous reasons, they have to work with limited resources, water being one of the most important.
Currently, there isn’t an efficient method for astronauts to do their laundry in space, but with recent developments, it’s looking to be highly probable down the road.
Want to learn more about astronauts? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Do Astronauts Shower In Space?
- How Do Astronauts Brush Their Teeth?
- Do Astronauts Wear Diapers?
- 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.