Astronauts have walked on the moon and can travel for months on expeditions, but as of 2021, they have no way to wash their own laundry in space. In a sustainable move, NASA will work with Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to assess how to clean astronaut clothes so that they're reusable, the Associated Press reports.
Dirty laundry can be a regular annoyance for those of us on Earth, but in space, a clothing pileup poses a new set of issues. A crew of six astronauts can go through 900 pounds of clothes in a year. With extended missions on the horizon, including talks of expeditions to Mars and the Moon, less is more, especially with a limited amount of working room aboard space transportation.
While NASA has written extensively about how astronauts have dealt with their laundry in the past, from disposing clothes on non-reusable spacecrafts to using undergarments to grow plants, the agency has also looked into antimicrobial clothing for its space teams. Ultimately, its next move in working with detergent and stain removal experts may provide a better (and cleaner) long-term solution for future missions.
As the AP reports, P&G will provide detergent custom-made for space later this year, providing scientists with an opportunity "to study how enzymes and other ingredients react to six months of weightlessness." In another phase in 2022, astronauts will be able to test stain-removal pens and wipes made available.
Back on Earth…Standards Support Laundry Day
For those of us not afloat in space but perhaps hovering over heaps of clothes at home instead, a number of standards support laundry day, from those that support washing machines and the acoustical noise of tumble dryers.
ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator, has developed a number of standards related to laundry, including ASTM F3159-15e1, Standard Safety Specification for Liquid Laundry Packets, which prescribes requirements for household liquid laundry detergent packet safety to help reduce unintentional exposures to the contents of the packets, especially to children. The standard applies exclusively to household "Liquid Laundry Detergent Packets," described as single-use laundry detergent products that contain a liquid detergent enclosed in a water-soluble outer layer (“pouch film”).
We may never equate laundry soapsuds with sustainability, but another ASTM standard, ASTM D7841-13, Standard Practice for Sustainable Laundry Best Management Practices, serves to identify and define sustainable laundry best management practices that are used in commercial laundry facilities to reduce their impact on the environment.
As you throw a load of laundry in the cycle, know that there is are standards for that! ANSI member and audited designator Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has published UL 2157 Ed. 4-2018, Electric Clothes Washing Machines And Extractors. The standard applies to electric clothes washing machines and extractors intended to be used in nonhazardous locations in accordance with the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I (CE Code), and the (U.S.) National Electrical Code (NEC), on circuits having a nominal voltage not exceeding 600 V. The standard applies to both cord-connected and permanently connected appliances and covers appliances for use in household and commercial purposes, including appliances provided with coin-, ticket-, or card-operated mechanisms, wringer washers, tumbler, agitator and spinner machines, combination washer-dryers, and extractors of the centrifugal type.
For much larger loads, the international standard ISO 10472-1, Safety Requirements for Industrial Laundry Machinery, identifies all significant hazards associated with laundry machinery designed for use in industrial laundry premises. These locations include hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and similar premises, as well as machines designed for use in self-service establishments subject to the minimum capacities stated in the separate parts of ISO 10472.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 72, Textile machinery and machinery for dry-cleaning and industrial laundering, Subcommittee (SC) 5, Industrial laundry and dry-cleaning machinery, prepared the standard. ANSI is the U.S. member body to ISO.
Of note, ISO 10472 consists of the several parts, under the general title safety requirements for industrial laundry machinery: Part 1: Common requirements; Part 2: Washing machines and washer-extractors; Part 3: Washing tunnel lines including component machines; Part 4: Air dryers; Part 5: Flatwork ironers, feeders and folders, and Part 6: Ironing and fusing presses.
The list goes on, as these standards are only a sampling of the work of standards developers that support clean washing. Happy and safe laundering, from here to across the universe!