Tide, thanks to a new NASA partnership, is developing space’s first laundry detergent


Tide Escape PodTide, if you’re a South African internet user, was last seen in 2018 during something called the Tide Pod Challenge. The company is back now, though, with something far more awesome and something considerably less stupid — a partnership with NASA to create the first laundry detergents designed for space.

The Tide is turning (to space)

Seriously. It’s not all 3D-printed human organs and travelling to other celestial bodies, NASA’s also putting money behind doing chores on the International Space Station. And, admittedly, on longer space missions. Currently, International Space Station (ISS) astronauts wear their clothing over and over again before finally discarding them, meaning that new kit is constantly resupplied from Earth. You can’t do that on the Moon or on a manned mission to Mars and the solution isn’t just to pack more clothing.

The Proctor and Gamble-owned Tide has signed a Space Act Agreement with ISS National Lab for “…the development of laundry detergent solutions and technology development in space.” This is a point that nobody really thinks about — except, apparently, NASA: clothing has weight. ISS astronauts use about 80kg of clothing a year (each). For a five-person team on a three-year mission to Mars, that’s 1.2 tonnes of clothing. That weight could be put towards something a little more life-saving than just oxygen, if only we had space detergent.

Tide’s test will be conducted on the ISS in 2022 and will check “…the stability of cleaning ingredients under microgravity conditions and exposure to the radiation levels experienced in space”, in addition to the stain removal properties of some of its ingredients in space. But wait, there’s more!

The partnership will also (possibly) examine the potential of a space washing machine. Or, rather, “…an innovative combined washing and drying unit utilizing the special-formulated detergent”, which could be used on Artemis missions to the Moon and Mars. Any innovations will probably be put to work here at home too, hopefully making cleaning products more sustainable overall.

Aga Orlik, Proctor and Gamble senior vice president, said, “This partnership was created to rethink cleaning solutions – forcing us to rethink innovations for resource-constrained and challenging environments like the ISS, deep space and even the future of our home planet.”


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Brett writes for Stuff's digital platform and edits Stuff's print magazine, in between reading science fiction and every Batman comic he can get his hands on.

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