NASA and Tide partner to make a detergent for astronauts to use in outer space

It's a giant leap for laundry down here on earth, too

Tide bottles of detergent on a shelf in a store
(Image credit: Alamy)

Did you know that there's no effective way to wash clothes in outer space? Currently, astronauts do their laundry by ejecting dirty clothes into the atmosphere, where they go up in flames.

NASA hasn't yet worked out how to do laundry on space missions, but as they team up with Tide, they're getting closer.

Washing machine with its door open and laundry spilling out

(Image credit: Getty)

When astronauts run out of clean clothes, new clothing is shipped to them in cargos. So, all in all, it's a highly unsustainable system. The absence of an effective laundry process is holding back human space exploration, particularly on longer missions.

But NASA Tide is now being developed by scientists, with NASA testing cleaning solutions out in space. The space-age detergent will have many benefits for those of us back on earth, too.

It will use far less water than your average wash cycle and will be fully degradable. This is important because all fluids on a spaceship must be reused for consumption, including dirty laundry water and bodily fluids. 

NASA sign

(Image credit: Alamy)

So if it's possible to extract safe, drinkable water from the used laundry water, the new NASA Tide detergent is bound to be much kinder to the environment than standard products. It will also have a huge impact on the nation's water supplies and on our water bills.

Depending on our washing machine, we use anything between 50 to 100 litres (11 to 22 gallons) of water per load. With many households doing half a dozen wash loads a week, laundry uses a staggering amount of water.

While we might differ in our views on how often you should wash your clothes, astronauts don't have a choice but to wear the same pants for a week. Find out how to get spotless results when washing clothes with our in-depth guide on how to use a washing machine correctly.

astronaut waving to camera in outer space

(Image credit: Alamy)

The laundry innovations tie in with Tide's decade-long sustainability commitment, Ambition 2030, and will benefit missions to Mars.

Tide-To-Go pens and wipes for waterless stain removal will also be trialed in outer space. For now, we'll stick to our best laundry detergents and feel newfound gratitude for being able to have a fresh change of clothes whenever we want.

Millie joined Real Homes in early 2021 as a homes news writer. When she isn't writing about trends, makeovers and houseplant care, she spends her free time making tweaks to her rented flat in North London. Her next project is a very basic armchair reupholstering job to help create a cosy reading nook in her living room. She loves browsing antique centres, tending to her small front garden, and is never without some fresh flowers at home.