Astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS vacuum the station every week, making sure not to miss any spot.

When was this practice put in place?
What other cleaning practices were used before that?

The Salyut 6 space station apparently had a lot of mold, to the point that it was a deciding factor in its retirement, and the Mir space station reeked of mould, mites and degenerated into a disgusting orbital stinkbomb.

Is the vacuuming done on the ISS sufficient to avoid this and could it have been avoided had it been used on those stations?


2 Answers 2


For the US space program, it started in Skylab.

Vacuuming of the Orbital Workshop mixing chamber screen, the waste management compartment screen, and other environmental control system screens was performed on an as-needed basis, usually about every other day. Screens with large mesh did not require vacuuming since most of the debris passed through them. The fine mesh screens however, collected a great deal of debris such as lint, food particles, hair,and paint chips.The debris was easily removed with the vacuum cleaner.

Skylab Mission Report, Second Visit, Chapter 10.2.7 "Housekeeping"

You can see the vacuum cleaner in use to collect hair during a haircut here.

enter image description here

From Wikipedia but by NASA

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! My question was also about Salyut, mir and potential mold so I'll wait for at least another answer before accepting one. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2020 at 20:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Speedphoenix that's a good idea. Maybe one of the Russian members will weigh in, I hope so anyway. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2020 at 20:36

Partial as short of time, will add later:

This is partially useful:

(describes cleaning in both Skylab and Salyut)


During the Soviet space station era it became obvious that with operational time, surface and atmospheric contamination increased. To keep the contamination level down, the interior of the Salyut stations and the housekeeping strategies evolved from the first station to Salyut 7.

Salyut had a trash ejector compartment - well not really, it was supposed to be for science experiments that needed access to space but it was also used for dumping things, when not filling up Soyuz with it.

As noted in the link they had cleaning days and access to vacuum cleaners.

Most of the article is devoted to Salyut 6 but given Salyut 1 (1971) had a long duration crew they would have had to clean too.

Salyut 3 (launched 1974) introduced a shower.

Even before Salyut, Soyuz had a toilet in the orbital module (and still does) so they would have considered cleaning regimes for then too.

Amusingly, and replicated much later in the ISS:

Dumitru-Dorin (Salyut 6) "We had a vacuum cleaner with back exhaust air, sold in Eastern European stores under the name 'Raketa', that looked like a rocket (...) fed by a long cable from he station's electrical network, and sometimes (...) you just took the vacuum cleaner between the legs, turned it on and then you flew like a rocket inside the station."

enter image description here


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