How do astronauts wash their clothes in space? Aboard the International Space Station, gravity and water are both in short supply, and both are typically needed if you want to do laundry. Lacking that option, astronauts have had no other choice but to burn their dirty clothes.
A partnership between P&G and NASA aims to change that, and tackle the problem of laundry’s climate impact here on Earth as well. With SpaceX’s 24th cargo mission launched last month, experiments will now be conducted to study stain removal and laundry detergent stability in space. The experiments will test the impact of gravity on Tide solutions, particularly evaluating the stability of the fully degradable detergent Tide Infinity in low and no gravity environments. Scientists will also be looking to see whether water used for washing can be purified back into drinkable water.
The results will have implications for Earth as well. Products that biodegrade have less impact on the climate, and if they rely on less water, they’d be more accessible in regions where that resource is scarce. With a mission to become carbon-neutral by 2030 as a company, P&G is looking to innovations like low-impact laundry solutions to help get there.
“This partnership was created to rethink cleaning solutions … for resource-constrained and challenging environments … [to develop] a low-resource-use laundry solution for everyday use while meeting consumer demand for more sustainable products,” said Aga Orlik, Senior Vice President, P&G North America Fabric Care, when the partnership was announced in June 2021.
But it’s not the company’s first effort to tackle climate issues in laundry. P&G also developed Tide Cold Water to remove the need for energy-consuming hot water.
While going to space to experiment on P&G products is new, the partnership with NASA isn’t. P&G has been going to space with NASA since the Apollo 11 mission, when the astronauts all shaved with razors and aftershave provided by P&G brands Gillette and Old Spice. And a special space version of Crest was developed in the 1960s for NASA astronauts, some of whom then and since have taken their Oral-B toothbrushes with them. With this experiment, Tide tackles yet another frontier in space and here on Earth.