Keeping clean hair in space sounds like an easy task, but it is a challenging issue for astronauts traveling beyond Earth’s gravitational pull. No gravity in space means no natural organization of things, and washing hair, even showering, becomes a challenge once you leave Earth. Getting used to the idea of “dry shampooing” and learning how to wash your hair without creating a mess in the spacecraft requires preparation and knowledge. With this Ultimate Guide to Zero-Gravity Cleanliness, we will explore the methods and techniques for keeping clean hair in space.
Why is Washing Hair Difficult in Space?
Washing hair in microgravity environments is a challenging task. The absence of gravity means that the liquid and the hair do not interact as they do on Earth. Liquid does not stay in one place in space, and once it comes into contact with hair, it sticks to everything, from the walls to the astronauts. Besides, water poses a severe risk to spaceflight. Free-flowing water in a spacecraft could make its way inside the electronic equipment and potentially short out the critical systems. So, how do astronauts keep clean hair in space?
Dry Shampoo: The Primary Option
When in space, astronauts use dry shampoo as their primary hair cleaning option. Invented in the seventeenth century, dry shampoo is a powder-based hair cleaning solution that requires no water or rinsing. The powder is applied to hair, massaged into the scalp, and then brushed or wiped away. Dry shampoo became an ideal solution for astronauts as it reduces the use of water: just a minimal amount of water is released when using this powder.
The Effectiveness of Dry Shampoo in Space
The effectiveness of dry shampoo varies from person to person. Once applied, the powder absorbs sebum, sweat, and environmental pollutants accumulated in hair. However, without gravity, the powder becomes more of a mess. The powder is highly susceptible to floating around in the first few hours of application. While this sounds like a minor issue, floating powder tends to find its way onto nearly everything, including critical communication equipment or the equipment that regulates the temperature inside the spacecraft. Knowing how much to use and cleaning up after using dry shampoo is essential for successful Zero-Gravity Cleanliness.
Wet Towels as an Alternative
In situations where dry shampoo is unavailable, astronauts can use wet towels for hair washing. To clean their hair, astronauts use no-rinse shampoo and a clean washcloth that has been dampened with warm water. The shampoo is squeezed onto the washcloth, and then, the hair is massaged and cleaned. The washcloth is then rinsed and wrung out repeatedly, ensuring that water doesn’t go astray. The no-rinse shampoo gets rid of the need for water remaining in the washcloth, facilitating hair cleaning with one wet towel.
What is No-Rinse Shampoo?
No-rinse shampoo is a water-free cleanser that’s developed specifically for situations where there’s limited water availability. It’s a water-free alternative that doesn’t require rinsing after application. No-rinse shampoo is an alcohol-based cleansing solution that loosens dirt, grime, oils, and bacteria, leaving hair clean and fresh without needing water. No-rinse shampoo is an ideal solution to keep clean hair in space because it eliminates the need for water-based washing solutions.
Hair Wash Process in Space
Astronauts must take extra care when washing their hair in space. Proper preparation and technique are necessary to prevent a catastrophic water spill.
To prepare for hair washing, astronauts first cover all necessary equipment with plastic. They wear sealed caps to protect their eyes and mouths, and use a vacuum hose to contain loose hair. The hair washing process occurs inside a bathroom area with an air-filtration unit that captures any droplets that may be floating around the room.
The hair washing process in space consists of four different steps. First, as mentioned, astronauts vacuum any hair and hair particles floating in the air. Second, they apply dry shampoo in the exact same manner as they do on Earth: by shaking a small amount of powder onto their scalp and then massaging it into their scalp and hair. For using a wet towel approach, they work the no-rinse shampoo into their hair with the damp towel. Third, they use a comb to spread the shampoo to the rest of their hair. Fourth, they use the vacuum system again to remove any remaining product and loose hair particles.
The Final Word
Keeping clean hair while in space remains a significant problem. Fortunately, with new technologies and creative approaches, astronauts can keep their hair clean and healthy. It takes extensive preparation and extra care to avoid mishaps, but it’s one more crucial aspect of space hygiene that astronauts must pay attention to. As long as they continue to practice good hygiene, there’s no reason why our astronauts can’t look, feel, and perform their best in zero-gravity conditions.
- How often do astronauts wash their hair in space?
There is no particular routine when it comes to hair washing routines in space. Instead, astronauts decide based on the situation and their preferences when to have a wash. Most astronauts wash their hair once a week.
- How do female astronauts manage their long hair in space?
The same principles are employed in dealing with long hair as in short hair. Female astronauts pin their hair back or tie it up with a hair tie. However, the downside of long hair is that it can get in the way during work activities in space, which can hinder performance.
- Do astronauts get to cut their hair in space?
As of now, cutting hair in space is not a viable option. The mess created by trimmings could float, creating a severe threat to mission control or critical instruments. Astronauts have to shave any part of their hair that has become too long.
- How do astronauts clean their bodies in space?
Astronauts use washcloths to clean their bodies and maintain hygiene. Similar to washing hair, they can use no-rinse shampoo to clean their scalps.