What Happens to Cloth in the Vacuum of Space

When you think of the vacuum in space, you probably imagine vast emptiness and blackness. Space is an extremely cold, dry place that seems void of almost anything.

Not only does a vacuum have nothing in it, but it also absorbs moisture and other gasses that would normally be present in a home or even in the atmosphere.

Therefore, any household article with even the smallest trace of moisture or humidity will not last long in a vacuum chamber. Unfortunately, not much is known about what happens to cloth when exposed to vacuum conditions.

The little information available says there are some materials that react poorly to this kind of environment. However, what exactly those reactions remain unknown.

What we do know is how cloth reacts to different conditions and the best way to store it so as not to lose its properties and appearance over time.

Let’s take a moment to explore all there is about cloth and vacuum storage so you can make the right choice for your home.

What Happens When You Vacuum Dry Cloth?

The first thing to remember when considering vacuum storage is that it works best with dry fabrics. When you vacuum dry fabrics, you remove any trace of moisture and humidity from the fabric.

The cloth that has been vacuum dried is like a sponge that can no longer absorb anything. That means that when you put it in a vacuum, it will not get smaller. 

If the fabric is not woven tightly, it could even get bigger as it expands due to the vacuum pulling on it.

Actually, you can use a vacuum to remove wrinkles from dry fabric. Just be careful not to pull or stretch the fabric so that you don’t break the fibers.

washing clothes
Image Credit: yankodesign.com

Can You Press Wet Fabric in the Vacuum?

If you do want to press fabric that is wet, it’s best to let it air dry first. That way, it will retain the natural shape of the fibers and maintain their strength and durability.

Press wet fabric in the vacuum anyway, and you risk altering the fabric’s structure, weakening it, and even causing it to tear. When you press wet fabric, the heat of the iron melts the fibers, reshaping them and making them weaker.

What Happens to Most Fabrics in the Dry Environment of Space?

There are a few fabrics that are known to be resilient to the vacuum of space. Silk, for example, is one of the few types of fabrics that can withstand the extremely dry conditions of a vacuum.

Silk is known for its strength and durability, and it can be stretched manually up to four times its original length without tearing. 

Similarly, synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester are known for their strength and resilience in space. Fabrics like these are good for outerwear since they are highly resistant to damage from things like UV light.

Cotton is known to shrink when exposed to a vacuum. It is a very sensitive material that shrinks when put under pressure.

What Happens to Cotton when it’s in a Vacuum?

Cotton is one of the most sensitive fabrics to vacuum. It can be damaged by the dry environment of a vacuum without any pressure or stretching involved. Over time, the fibers may weaken and break.

Fabrics like cotton are best suited for the humidity of regular environments because they are easily damaged by high pressure and extreme temperatures. 

The good news is that cotton can be dried under a vacuum as long as you do not stretch or press it. This means that you can put your clothes in the dryer on a low heat setting, or you can hang them to dry. Cotton can also be dried in the sun, although this takes much longer.

What Happens to Nylon when it’s in a Vacuum?

Nylon is another synthetic fabric that can be pressed in a vacuum. However, it is not as strong as silk or polyester and can tear easily at high temperatures and high pressures, especially in a vacuum. Nylon is known for its durability, but it is not a resilient fabric. 

This means that it can be damaged by extreme temperatures, UV light, and even oxygen. Luckily, this fabric can be pressed in a vacuum to keep it in good condition as long as it’s not exposed to extreme heat.

Nylon can be dried in the sun, and it is best to hang it upside down to encourage airflow and rapid drying.

What Happens to Polyester when it’s in a Vacuum?

Polyester, like silk and nylon, can be pressed in a vacuum without any problems if it’s not exposed to extreme conditions. This synthetic fabric is known for its resilience against damage from UV and oxygen. 

Polyester is less sensitive to heat than nylon and can be dried under a vacuum with low heat, as long as it is not exposed to direct heat. This means that you can press polyester and use the vacuum to dry it at low temperatures as long as you don’t iron or dry clean it.

Bottom Line

Cloth is a sensitive fabric that reacts poorly to extreme conditions. While some types of fabric can withstand the vacuum of space, most cannot.

Cloth is sensitive to heat and pressure, and it can be rendered useless if exposed to excessive heat or vacuum and other extreme conditions. 

If you plan to vacuum store your fabrics, remember to keep them dry for the best results. You can also use the sun and a dryer to help naturally dry fabrics when you don’t have the time or energy to hang them outside.

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