Find out why there is so much static electricity in your home and how to get rid of it to stop those annoying shocks.
It happens every winter. Everything you touch in your home starts to give you a little shock, or you hear a crackling sound as you or your pets walk across the carpet. Maybe you see sparks at night when you adjust the sheets, or your hair stands on end when you brush it. You might even show up to work with a sock or other item of clothing stuck to your back and not even know it.
It’s all thanks to static electricity. You don’t have to put up with it, though. With these easy steps, you can reduce or get rid of static electricity in your home. There’s even a homemade anti-static spray recipe you can make for pennies, too.
What Causes Static Electricity in Your Home?
Static electricity is the imbalance of positive and negative ion charges. Some things have positive ion charges, and others have negative ion charges. When things with opposite charges get pulled apart, electrons jump from one to the other. This transfer leads to an imbalance, and this imbalance leads to you feeling a shock. Static shocks can be painful and surprising. They aren’t usually dangerous, though, but there are a couple of exceptions.
Static Electricity and Electronic Devices
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can damage electronic devices. Fortunately, this happens a lot less often than it used to. Manufacturers now insulate semiconductors and other sensitive components. Insulation protects them from ESD as long as their internal workings aren’t exposed. But, if you plan to repair your phone’s cracked screen or upgrade your computer’s parts, you should look into anti-static devices to protect your electronics while you work.
Static Electricity and Common Household Items
Static electric shocks are essentially miniature lightning bolts jumping between things. The more flammable those things are, the greater the risk that ESD will cause a fire.
Solvents are flammable. Aerosols are flammable. Several common household items are flammable, including some surprising things like potato chips. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to worry every time you reach for a snack. However, it does mean that you need to be smart about where you store flammable items and how you handle them.
How to Get Rid of Static Electricity
You’ve noticed that static shocks happen more often in winter. In warmer months, the air contains more water, which collects on the surface of things. That water prevents the buildup of charges that cause static electricity. But winter air is dry, so there’s no humidity to prevent static electricity shocks. So, the easiest way to control static is by adding moisture to the air. For some surfaces, you may also need other measures.
How to Stop Static Cling On Clothes
You’ll notice static cling more on synthetic clothes like those made of polyester and nylon. These fabrics don’t hold onto moisture, so they develop an ion imbalance. But even some natural fibers like wool or silk can develop static, too. Preventing static cling on clothing involves one of two things: either you create a barrier to prevent static buildup, or you discharge buildup that’s occurred. That’s where the methods below to eliminate static on clothing come in.
- Air-dry clothing to avoid static. When clothes tumble around in a hot metal dryer, they build up a static charge. Air-drying or line-drying your clothes prevents this. It also adds moisture to your home’s air, which can help reduce static, too. (Check out how to line dry clothes without wrinkles.)
- Use dryer sheets or fabric softener. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners leave an invisible barrier on your clothes. This barrier consists of petroleum-based surfactants that prevent the buildup of static. Rubbing a dryer sheet over shock-prone surfaces can help prevent buildup on them, too. (And here are more ways to use dryer sheets around your home.)
- Use wool dryer balls. If you’d rather not use synthetic fabric softeners, try wool dryer balls instead. Since wool attracts static, the charge builds on them and not your clothes. They’re also reusable, which is more environmentally-friendly and economical too.
- Add vinegar to your rinse cycle. Vinegar removes body oils and other buildup and softens natural clothing fibers. As a result, they retain more moisture, so they’re less prone to static cling. (Here are more reasons to add vinegar to your laundry.)
- Use a safety pin to stop static. The metal pin discharges the buildup of electrical ions on your clothes and prevents that static shock. Of course, you don’t want the pin to show or catch on anything. So, insert it in the bottom hem of your pants or an inside seam of your shirt to keep it hidden.
- Rub a wire hanger over your clothes to discharge static. Even if you prefer plastic clothes hangers, keep a wire one handy to get rid of static cling on your clothes. All you need to do is rub it along the fabric surface — the hanger will take the shock without transmitting it to you.
- Keep your skin moisturized to prevent static. Dry skin is flaky and rough. When clothes slide over dry skin, the friction leads to static buildup. Then, when you touch an item carrying the opposite charge, you’ll get shocked. Applying body lotion helps your skin retain moisture and prevents static buildup. Put more on your hands after washing them to prevent static shocks all day.
How to Stop Static In Your Hair
You’ve no doubt noticed static on your hair when you’ve brushed it or after you’ve pulled off your winter hat. If the air is humid enough, static disappears fast. But on icy and dry days, it sticks around, and it’s not a good look on anyone.
- Condition your hair daily in winter. The conditioner does to your hair what fabric softener does to your clothes — it helps trap moisture to fight static. Hair oils or serums also help. In freezing temperatures, or if you have thick hair, you’ll want to use both.
- Use a metal comb or natural bristle brush. Plastic and synthetic materials cause static. Using a metal comb or boar-bristle brush helps discharge it. If you must use a plastic comb, spritz it with hairspray first.
- Run a dryer sheet over it. Just as dryer sheets stop static cling in clothes, they’ll also control it in your hair. In the winter, keep a used one in your purse or pocket. You can reuse it dozens of times before it needs replacing.
How to Reduce Static Electricity In Your House
The best way to get rid of static electricity in your home is by improving your indoor humidity levels. Keep your home’s relative humidity at least 30% during winter months — though 40-50% is ideal. In older or drafty homes, or if it’s so cold that your heater has to run non-stop, you may need some of these other measures, too.
1. Use a humidifier. Even a whole-house humidifier can struggle to keep moisture levels up in freezing temperatures. Room humidifiers let you improve the comfort in the rooms you use most. Cold mist humidifiers are safest. Many also diffuse essential oils to add fragrance too. Be sure to clean humidifiers at least once a week, so they don’t grow mildew inside.
2. Leave liquids simmering on the stove. A simmering pot of soup is a classic sign of winter. The rising steam adds moisture to your home’s air and helps reduce static. It doesn’t have to be soup, though. A pot of water does the trick, too. Toss in some citrus peels or cinnamon sticks for fragrance if you like.
3. Take hot baths and showers. Let bathwater cool completely before draining the tub, even overnight if you don’t have small kids. As it cools, it will add moisture to your home’s air. A hot shower works the same way, so skip the bathroom fan during the winter and let steam help stop static in your home.
4. Don’t wear rubber-soled shoes indoors. Rubber is an excellent insulator that allows the static charge to build on your body. When you touch something with a different ionic charge, you’ll get a static shock. Switch to leather-soled shoes or wear socks indoors. (Adopting a no-shoes rule will keep your carpet cleaner, too.)
5. Cover synthetic sofas with a sheet. Microfiber and polyester are popular sofa fabrics because they’re easy to clean. But they’re also synthetic, which means they’re more prone to static buildup. You can rub a dryer sheet over it daily or cover it with a natural fiber blanket to prevent static buildup. Or, use the homemade anti-static spray below.
Homemade Anti-Static Spray
Making your own anti-static spray is easy and cheap.
Equipment and Materials
Heads up: the products I recommend here are ones that I use in my home. I share affiliate links to show you where you can order them or read reviews on Amazon. Affiliate links do not change your cost but generate a small commission for me.
- Combine the ingredients in the spray bottle. Shake well.
- Apply daily throughout winter to fabric furniture, bedding, curtains, and carpets. Since it contains water, do not spray it on leather, silk, or other materials that should not get wet.
- Store any unused spray away from heat and light, and keep it where kids and pets can’t reach it.
During cold, dry months, the best way to prevent static electricity in your home is by improving your indoor humidity and avoiding synthetic fabrics. Keeping static from building up on your clothing and hair will also help protect you against static cling and shocks. If your home is very dry, you may also want to use this homemade anti-static spray to stop static shocks too.