Pull on a sweatshirt in winter and watch as your hair stands up wildly. Step out of your car. Zap! Your fingers feel a quick shock as you close the door. These shocks are caused by static electricity, which is created when two objects rub together. The cold, dry winter air makes it more difficult for electrons to discharge without creating a spark. However, there are steps you can take to lessen these shocks during the winter months.
Things You'll Need
- Small metal object
- Fabric softener sheets
- Natural fiber clothing
Decrease Static Electricity
Use a humidifier in your home or office during the winter months. Humid air helps electrons discharge without sparking. This is why you're less likely to notice static electricity during the warmer, more moist summer months.
Ground yourself before opening a car door or touching a door knob. Touch a small metal object, such as a key, to a metal surface before touching it with your hand.
Use dryer sheets when laundering clothes. This will reduce static cling in your clothing. Also rub a dryer sheet against your car seats. Sometimes this will help reduce the charges created by your clothing rubbing against the car's seats.
Wear clothing with natural fibers rather than synthetic materials. Natural fibers are less likely to create a charge when rubbed against other materials. Wear sweaters and sweatshirts made of natural fibers and launder them with dryer sheets to keep your hair from standing straight up when you pull clothes on or off.
Use moisturizer if your skin is particularly dry in the winter months. Dry skin, just like dry winter air, increases the chances you'll experience a shock.
Tips & Warnings
- Touch a non-conductor before touching a metal object with your hand. For example, place your hand against a wooden door before grasping a metal doorknob.
- Avoid dragging your feet or wearing socks only, especially when walking across a carpeted floor. This decreases the chances of transferring a charge from the floor to your feet that creates a spark when you touch another object.
- Take precautions at the gas pump. Stay at the pump while fueling up instead of setting the nozzle to pump automatically, returning to sit in your car, and then getting out to touch the metal pump nozzle again. Static electricity discharged in such situations has sparked fires.
- Avoid shoes with synthetic soles. Shoes with leather soles are less likely to create a charge between the floor and your body.
- Electrostatics.net; Static Shocks and How to Avoid Them; Does the Weather Affect Static Electricity?
- Cornell Center for Materials Research; Dry Air Makes Static Electricity More Noticeable in Winter; Philip Krasicky; Jan. 2004
- School for Champions; Static Electricity; Ron Kurtus; Feb. 2009
- The Washington Post; Capital Weather Gang; Winter: The Season of Static Cling; Ann Posegate; Jan. 2010
- Photo Credit Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images