"The international Space Station has some amenities but a washing machine isn’t one of them," says Jean-Marc Comtois, one of the directors of the Canadian Space Agency. “There isn’t enough water on board to wash clothes.”
Astronauts generally wear their clothes for several days, although some have found creative ways to care for small items, he notes. For example, one astronaut has been known to wash his favourite pair of shorts in a plastic bag.
“Clothes don’t tend to get as dirty on the station as they do on Earth because the temperature is constant and the environment is controlled,” Comtois adds. “Also, because they are in a weightless environment, the astronauts don’t have to work too hard to move around. They sweat only when they exercise – something they must do to counter the effects of living without gravity.”
During a prolonged stay at the International Space Station, unmanned Russian resupply capsules bring new clothes and take away the dirty ones. After leaving the station, these capsules burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, over the Pacific Ocean.
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