KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), July 12, 2022 – Here on Earth, environmental challenges like water scarcity and climate change are a growing concern. Procter & Gamble (P&G), a brand of household products used by more than half of the world’s population, has committed itself to making eco-friendly and sustainable products for consumers on Earth. To that end, P&G has turned its gaze to space.
As part of SpaceX’s upcoming 25th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission, P&G is launching an investigation that will evaluate how its Tide to Go Pens and Tide to Go Wipes work in space. The study, sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, is a continuation of P&G’s space-based research, which has already taken initial steps toward improved products for consumers.
The microgravity environment of the space station provides a unique platform to study how fluids interact with each other on a fundamental level. Many of P&G’s products are emulsions, which are tiny drops of liquids dispersed in another fluid, and better understanding how the different fluid components interact can lead to improved products.
In December 2021, P&G sent samples of one of those products—a fully degradable laundry detergent called Tide Infinity—to the ISS. The goal of that investigation was to advance cleaning solutions for resource-constrained environments like space and even areas on Earth where water is scarce. Additionally, it evaluated how well the components of the detergent held up in the microgravity environment.
According to P&G, initial results have shown that Tide Infinity could provide a good balance between cleaning clothes effectively while also being environmentally friendly. The findings also indicate that leftover water produced from washing could be recycled and even reused with the help of water reclamation systems.
The company’s latest investigation launching on SpaceX CRS-25 is part of an effort to evaluate the stain removal ingredients in P&G’s Tide To Go Pens and Tide to Go Wipes. The investigation’s main objective is to evaluate the stain removal ingredients and performance in microgravity. The team hopes to better understand the fundamentals of how fluids wick into and interact with woven fibers, which could provide insights that will lead to better products.
“We are incredibly excited to send these products to space,” said Jennifer Ahoni, director of scientific communications at P&G. “Our goal is to provide our customers with the most effective products while also making those products more sustainable.” According to Ahoni, the crew will perform stain application and removal activities by applying 10 different “fresh stains” commonly found on the orbiting laboratory to polycotton swatch samples and then remove the stains using the Tide To Go Pens and Tide To Go Wipes. The crew will also test “aged stains” that were applied to swatches prior to launch.
“One of the things we will be testing is sriracha hot sauce,” Ahoni said. “We know the astronauts tend to use a lot of it on their food, so we will be using it to test our products and see how they fare in microgravity.”
Videos and photos will be taken during the investigation to help researchers understand how microgravity affects the movement of the detergent through the Tide To Go Pen compared with how it flows on Earth. Additionally, the research team seeks to evaluate the efficacy of amine oxides—a family of common surfactants used in emulsions such as laundry detergent to decrease the surface tension between two substances. The team will examine how well the amine oxides in the detergent work on stain removal and determine the relationship between the amount of detergent solution applied and its efficacy.
Data collected from this investigation will help the P&G team learn more about the stability of cleaning ingredients under microgravity conditions and radiation exposure in space. In doing so, the company hopes to gain insights that could improve the production of Tide products for consumers on Earth. Results could also further knowledge on the development of laundry detergent solutions to support future long-duration spaceflight missions.
SpaceX CRS-25 is targeted for launch from Kennedy Space Center no earlier than July 14 at 8:44 p.m. EDT. This mission will include more than 15 ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads. To learn more about all ISS National Lab-sponsored research on SpaceX CRS-25, please visit our mission overview page.
Image: Kristi Niehaus, a Procter & Gamble (P&G) scientist
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About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.
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