What do ISS astronauts do with their dirty laundry?

Without washer and dryer, all International Space Station residents throw out their clothes after just a few weeks of use.


It’s may sound very celeb-like, but astronauts aboard the ISS have no other choice: once their clothes—undies included, of course—are dirty, they shoot them into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they burn.

But this practice is quite expensive. According to Smithsonian, a crew of six goes through 408 kilograms of clothing every single year! And then there’s the stench – the crew has to keep their dirty garments until there’s enough to be ejected into space.

So, to put an end to this problem and free up storage space, researchers at NASA have developed long-lasting fibres that are easy-to-clean and germ resistant. And the first shipment left on Sunday. So for the next few weeks, ISS astronauts will be testing the new fabric.

Named the Intravehicual Activity Clothing Study (IVA Clothing Study), it replaces crew uniforms with non-cotton clothing that has to be worn during the astronauts’ daily two-and-a-half-hour exercise regime for a total of 15 days.

“The exercise clothing are hung up to dry for up to four hours and then stored in flame-resistant bags. A questionnaire is taken daily soon after exercise to document perception of the exercise clothing,” reports Shannon Palus over at Smithsonian.

Three crew members will also test a shirt that can be worn for daily activities. The volunteers will discard the shirt once they think it can’t be worn anymore, and then they will complete a questionnaire.

If the astronauts find these new clothes useful and the fabric manages to keep them fresh, we may soon see a new collection of space garments for ISS residents. And, with a bit of of luck, the fabric may also be used to create sportswear for those here on Earth – stink-free yoga wear? Yes, please.

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