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P&G Developing Laundry Detergent For NASA To Use In Space

Procter & Gamble and NASA have worked together for many years and this laundry project is their latest venture.

Doing laundry on the International Space Station (ISS) is not an option right now, but Procter & Gamble, the maker of Tide, hopes to change that with testing set to begin next year.

The Cincinnati-based company announced Tuesday it has signed an agreement with NASA to develop laundry detergent so astronauts can wash their clothes instead of always having to change into new ones.

Think about all the piles of dirty laundry on the ISS - not being able to wash clothes adds up to 160 pounds of laundry per crew member per year. This could become extremely problematic with two- to three-year missions to Mars.

P&G researcher Mark Sivik says ingredient safety and compatibility is key. "In particular, for off-planet situations for NASA and water recovery, we are not able to use fragrances; we're not able to use solvents; and we have to have a fully degradable detergent system that can be degraded in the recovery of water and then be reused."

He says astronauts will have to drink the same water that is used for laundry.

But Sivik has been developing a Tide formula he thinks will work.

How Testing Will Be Performed

Scientists who are part of Mission PG Tide (P&G Telescience Investigation of Detergent Experiments) will test-clean ingredients on the ISS. One thing they have to determine is the stability of cleaning ingredients under microgravity conditions and exposure to radiation. Stain removal may be quite different in space. Because of that, P&G will also test Tide To-Go Wipes and Tide To-Go Pens.

In addition to testing on board the ISS National Lab, NASA and P&G researchers will look at how a combined washing and drying unit could be integrated into planetary habitats for Moon and Mars missions.

What they discover may help consumers on Earth. Senior Vice President of P&G North America Fabric Care Aga Orlik says, "We are eager to apply our learnings from our partnerships with NASA and the ISS National Lab to Tide on Earth, developing a low-resource-use laundry solution for everyday use while meeting consumer demand for more sustainable products."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.