How Do Astronauts Keep Clean In Space?

Sometimes we take it for granted just how easy and convenient it is to stay clean: imagine how much of a problem this could pose if you were crammed into a multi-billion dollar space-station, surrounded by high-tech, but sensitive equipment in an environment where all liquid is prone to forming spheres and floating off!

Astronauts living aboard space stations like the ISS need to stay healthy to carry out their missions in an efficient manner, so practicing good hygiene and maintaining a healthy living environment are essential;


PHOTO CREDITS: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pahudson/2219197735/

Keeping things clean

Even more so than at home, astronauts aboard space-stations need to keep things clean – they do this in the following manner:

  • A germicidal soap and wet-wipes are used to wipe down wall-panels, floors, windows and passageways; with no access to a sink, the same method is used to clean cutlery and food containers.
  • Clothing cannot be washed aboard a space station, so it is disposed of: many sets of clothes are kept aboard, which are changed on a regular basis.
  • Vacuum cleaners are used to clean up dust and debris, which could pose a serious safety hazard if not removed from equipment promptly and regularly.

Keeping oneself clean

Aside from keeping the space station spotlessly clean, it Is important for astronauts to maintain a good degree of personal hygiene; in order to do this, they:

  • Brush their teeth in much the same manner as we would on earth, except they cannot spit toothpaste out without it flying off: therefore, they either swallow it or carefully expel it from their mouth into a receptacle, such as a towel.
  • Showering is carried out using water, but care must be taken to contain it: a sealed flexible plastic cylinder is raised from floor to ceiling, which encases the astronaut, who can then enjoy a shower in peace: water is sprayed onto the skin and then sucked off with a vacuum hose: as for shampoo, a special self-lathering variety which doesn’t require water is used.

Using the toilet

Access to high-quality sanitation is essential wherever you live, but aboard a space station, it is a matter of life-and-death: luckily, engineers have designed specialist toilets which are designed to cope with the rigours of zero-g waste management: the remarkable system aboard Space Station Mir was used in the following manner:

  • Cosmonauts would first sit atop the toilet and fold down restraining bars to prevent themselves from floating off the seat.
  • Urine would be extracted via a unisex funnel adapter, which would then be sucked into a recycling system, so that it could be converted into oxygen and drinking water.
  • As for solid waste, a control would be operated which would open up a suction hole: a powerful fan would then activate and proceed to suck the waste into packages, which could then later be removed from the craft by visiting vessels.

Jane Gordon is an expert when it comes to commercial cleaning services; she knows how important a hygienic and uncluttered work environment can be.

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