How to wash your hair in space

There are many challenges associated with living on the International Space Station. Things that are easy to do on Earth, where there is gravity, can be difficult in space. Astronauts have been living for more than a decade aboard the space station and have developed a few tricks that make these everyday tasks easier. Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg shows how she washes and rinses her hair in microgravity aboard the International Space Station.

Video source: NASA Johnson / YouTube.

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KAREN NYBERG, Expedition 36 Crew Member: Hi there! I've had a lot of people ask me how I wash my hair in space, and I thought I’d show you how I do it.

Let’s see … to get started, these are the things I need. A bag of warm water, a little no-rinse shampoo, a towel, and my comb. What I like to do is start by just putting some hot water, squirting it onto my scalp, and I have a mirror here so I can watch what I’m doing. Sometimes the water gets away from you, and you try and catch as much as you can.

Then I just work the water up through to the ends of my hair. Then I take my no-rinse shampoo and squirt it also on the scalp, just a little bit, and rub it in. Again, just working it up to the ends. Sometimes I’ll take my comb to help work it all the way to the ends.

Then I like to take my towel while I have the shampoo in there, and just kind of work it. Because without standing under running water, you kinda need to use the towel a little bit to help get some of the dirt out.

I like to follow that by a little more water. It’s called no-rinse shampoo, but I think it’s best to use a little bit of water with it.

It actually feels kind of squeaky clean right now!

Then I’ll take the dry part of my towel. We use towels for quite a while here, since we have limited supplies. We use them wisely.

There, I think that’s pretty good! And now as my hair dries, as the water evaporates from my hair, it will become humidity in the air, and then our air-conditioning system will collect that into condensate, and it won’t be long and our water-processing system will turn that into drinking water.

At the end I just do one final comb through to make sure there are no snarls and snags, and while it dries I like to let it stay free. I don’t put it back in a ponytail while it’s drying.

And that is how I wash my hair in space on the International Space Station. 

Humans in space

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