What Are the Causes of Static Electricity in a Home With Wood Floors?

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The technical name for static electricity is electrostatic discharge (ESD).
The technical name for static electricity is electrostatic discharge (ESD). (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Static electricity is the result of two non-conducting materials touching each other. When this happens, some positive or negative ions, respectively called protons or electrons, transfer from one material to another. This build up of electrical charges causes an imbalance of protons and electrons on the surface of these materials and this can cause a static charge to accumulate until it is released. In homes with wooden floors, there are many objects that can act as a source for a static electric charge.

Area Rugs

In a home with wood floors, area rugs can generate static electricity the same way wall-to-wall carpet can. If you rub or scuff your feet while walking across an area rug, you body will accumulate electrons, giving your body a static electric charge. If you touch a conductor, such as another person or a piece of metal, the surplus of charged ions transfers to that object and you will feel a small shock.

Furniture Fabrics

The same principle applies to furniture that is finished or covered in cloth fabrics. As you move around while seated in this furniture, the friction generates static electricity on your clothes and the seat. You can experience a static electric shock while you are still seated or when you get up, as your body and clothes are now statically charged.

Electronics

Physical interaction with home electronics equipment, such as computers or televisions, is another source of static electricity in homes with wood floors. Since most surfaces are made of plastic, which is a poor conductor of static electricity, electronics generate ESD by a process called triboelectrification. PCWorld describes the process the exchange of electrons when two materials touch, like pressing the play button on your DVD player, and rub or move apart. The publication warns that while the voltage of static electricity generated by these interactions may be too low to detect physically, they may send damaging shock waves through your electronics equipment systems.

Static Electricity Prevention

If you are worried about the dangers posed by static electricity, such as shocks, small fires and explosions and damage to electronics, there are steps you can take to prevent the buildup of protons or electrons on surfaces in your home. The International Association of Certified Home Inspections notes that increasing the humidity in your home to levels between 40 and 50 percent greatly reduces the chances of static discharges, as does wearing clothes and shoes made of natural fibers. Anti-static products are also available in the form of lotions, fabric sprays and personal items such as wrist wraps.

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