Why can’t astronauts “wash” their clothes by purging the bacteria into space.


My understanding of why our clothes stink is because of bacteria eating sweat and dead skin.

So why in space can’t they just “wash” (Edit: By this I mean sterilize.) things by exposing them to the vacuum of space? Wouldn’t the extreme cold and vacuum cause all of the bacteria in the fabric to die out?

I know this is some NASA level stuff but I hope someone can atleast dumb it down to ELI-15 level for me.

In: Chemistry

Because some bacteria are super resistant. And the last thing we want to do is containment space with earth bacteria as much as possible.

It we know it will burn up in the atmosphere its one thing, but just letting bacteria and earth life go in free space is risky.

Its why we do our best to keep things we put in space and on other planets as clean and devoid of earth contamination as possible, if earth life made it to say mars, it could taint the entire planet, making it impossible to determine if original life existed there before the earth life moved on it

Space will kill bacteria but it’s not going to remove the dirt from the clothes. So the clothes are still dirty, probably still stink and new bacteria will start to breed on it as soon as you take it back inside. They don’t change clothes because there’s bacteria on them, they change them because they’re grimy and spacing clothes doesn’t help with that.

A few reasons. First is that not all bacteria will die when exposed to space. Second is that exposing clothes to vacuum doesn’t remove any dirt or grime, so clothes aren’t actually getting clean. Third is that there’s not really any place to do that. Between visiting spacecraft and spacewalks taking place, the station’s airlocks are mostly in use. Also, it’s a waste of air to have to depressurize and repressurize an airlock every time you want to do this, which again, won’t actually clean anything. It’s really just more effective to do it the way they do it now, which is to wear clothes until they’re done and then dispose of them and replace them.

All species of bacteria differ from each other. Some need oxygen to survive, some don’t. Some prefer super hot temperatures, others cold, others are tolerant of different temperatures. PH and salt preferences differ between bacteria as well. So while being in space would likely kill a lot of bacteria, it wouldn’t necessarily kill them all. Plus, if you wanted to clean a coffee stain, that doesn’t have to do with killing bacteria at all.