Laundry in space? P&G and NASA are testing a fully degradable tide

Tide, the detergent used by millions of people in the United States, wants to make moon laundries a thing.

Parent company Procter & Gamble Co. is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on a formula that can withstand off-planet conditions so astronauts can do laundry during missions. The first shipment made its way to the International Space Station on a SpaceX rocket on December 21, and its performance is being tested.

Astronauts wear clothes multiple times, replacing them with new clothes delivered on resupply missions. But spacecraft have limited cargo capacity, and resupply expeditions are not possible on longer trips to distant places such as the moon or one day, Mars. That makes laundry one of the many questions scientists must answer as demand for space travel heats up.

“There’s no such thing as a space-efficient laundry solution,” P&G brand manager Marc Pritchard said at CES on Wednesday.

Commonplace on Earth, washing clothes faces several obstacles in space. The first is that each load relies on a small amount of water, which then needs to be purified into something the astronauts can drink. P&G has developed a fully degradable Tide detergent that aims to meet this challenge, and the company hopes the experience will inform the development of more sustainable cleaning products at home.

The process will be optimized to use about 15 liters of water for a 10-pound laundry load, P&G said, compared to about 49 to 77 liters when washing at home.

“This innovation will not only advance cleaning solutions in space, but also for resource-limited environments, such as water-scarce areas on Earth,” Pritchard said.

For small stains that affect astronauts, P&G also tests Tide To Go Pens and Tide To Go Wipes in a microgravity environment.

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