We know about replicators and transporters in Star Trek, so something could be hypothesized (see below) with regards to this, but do we actually see any reference to what happens to dirty clothes on a starship?

I expect something like this would happen: the dirty/worn clothes are put into a modified replicator or some chute where they are broken down into their constituent parts, reassembled as clean uniforms and then transported/taken to an officer's quarters. This is pure speculation though (although highly likely), hence why I'm asking for any canonical reference (perhaps something from Enterprise - I know how they talk about toilet wastage there).

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    I'm sorry, but this really falls into the "who cares" category for me. Does it matter how every tiny detail of everyday life really works in a fictional universe? – Ward - Reinstate Monica May 25 '14 at 22:47
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    How is this 'primarily opinion based'? – Often Right May 26 '14 at 5:26
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    Do they just take their cloths off at the end of the work day and toss them on the floor for the maid to clean up later? I have never seen such tidy, dare I say sterile, living quarters. Deana does seem to be a bit of a cloths horse too. – Morgan May 26 '14 at 6:24
  • @Richard Uh, yeah, they work in a professional environment, as do I. Everyone wears clean clothes all the time. – Izkata May 26 '14 at 16:41
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    @Izkata - That's not necessarily the case in all enclosed military vessels; navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/faq.html – Valorum May 26 '14 at 17:25

TOS canon

In the Original Series continuity, uniforms and casual clothing are cleaned in the "Ship's Laundry", located on Deck H (Level 8), behind the machine shop. This is confirmed in both the Official Trek Encyclopaedia and "Mr Scott's Guide to the Enterprise".

Trek Laundry

This location is also marked on the "Star Trek Blueprints" that formed the basis for the layout of the Enterprise in several of the films

TNG canon

By the 24th Century, it seems that technology has allowed everyone to recycle their own clothing.

In TNG : "Cost of Living", Worf's son Alexander is asked to place his clothes into a 'Garment Reprocessor', presumably a modified replicator.

WORF : Before being allowed to play, he was to put his soiled clothing in the garment reprocessor.

and in TNG : "In Theory", we see this referred to as a cleaning processor:

KEIKO : One night goes by... two... a week... ten days... by now there's a pile of socks half a meter high!

O'BRIEN : Come on... it wasn't half a meter...

KEIKO : After two weeks I couldn't stand it any more -- I bundled them up and put them in the cleaning processor. And I'm still doing it.

  • O'Brien definitely is the character a normal contemporary person can best relate to...dumb job in the transporter room and everyday problems. – Philip Klöcking Mar 21 '17 at 13:26
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    @PhilipKlöcking - He hates his job – Valorum Mar 21 '17 at 13:29

I think this is worthy of an answer because it is part of a much bigger question: "how does the economy work in Star Trek anyway?"

We know that there is no money in the Federation, no wages, no "buying and selling", that everyone has all the food and clothing and other items that they want. The term for this is a "post-scarcity economy". That sounds like a nice society, but it raises questions like "who cleans the toilets?" and "who does the laundry?" and "who unclogs the plumbing after the Klingons have visited?".

If everyone has free access to all goods then what motivation is there for anyone to do the nasty, grimy, stinky, smelly, Mike Rowe dirty jobs? Are there people who actually like doing those jobs?

So, my answer to the question is: No-one knows who does the laundry (or any other dirty jobs) because none of the shows or books really explain how the Federation economy works.

Additionally, we only see a small minority of Federation citizens in the shows and books - those who choose to join Starfleet. I presume these people are exceptions to the norm - people with drive and ambition who are willing to forsake an easy life for the hard work and challenges of serving in uniform.

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    "No-one knows who does the laundry" - Erm, yes we do. – Valorum May 26 '14 at 7:18

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