Find out why there is so much static electricity in your home and how to get rid of it to stop static cling on your clothes and hair, as well as 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?
Static electricity is the imbalance of positive and negative electrical charges. Some things have positive charges, and others have a negative charge. When items with opposite charges get pulled apart, electrons jump from one to another. That jump gives you a shock which can be painful but isn’t usually dangerous. There are a couple of exceptions, though.
First, if you’re planning to repair electronics at home, look into anti-static devices to protect them from damaging electrostatic discharge (ESD). Also, store flammable items like cans of paint, aerosol cans, nail polish, and gasoline or propane away from carpeted areas prone to static shock.
How To Eliminate Static Electricity In Your Home
Static is mainly a problem in autumn and winter. During these cold, dry months, the best way to prevent static electricity in your home is by improving your indoor humidity and avoiding synthetic fabrics. The following steps will prevent static buildup and help protect you from static cling and shocks. If your home is very dry, you may also want to use the homemade anti-static spray to get rid of static electricity buildup.
Ways to Prevent Buildup of Static
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 the following 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 your 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, like a door handle, you’ll get a static shock. Switch to shoes with leather soles 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. To stop getting shocked by static every time you get up from the sofa, run a dryer sheet over it daily or cover it with a sheet made from natural fibers. Or, use the homemade anti-static spray below.
6. Carry a coin or other metal object. Since static shocks happen when opposite charges jump between you and metal objects, you can use a coin to transfer those charges painlessly. Keep a coin, key, or paperclip in your pocket and occasionally touch it to metal objects to discharge static that’s built up on your body. Voila, no more painful shocks.
Ways to Stop Static Cling On Clothes
Static cling happens more on synthetic clothes like 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 create a barrier to prevent static buildup or discharge buildup that’s occurred. Here’s how.
Air-dry clothing to avoid static. When clothes tumble around during the drying cycle, 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 surfactants that prevent the buildup of static. Rubbing a dryer sheet over shock-prone surfaces can help prevent buildup on them, too. No dryer sheets? Use a little fabric softener on a damp washcloth instead. (Here are more ways to use dryer sheets around your home.)
Use wool dryer balls. Try wool dryer balls instead if you’d rather not use synthetic fabric softeners. 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. (I use these.)
Add white vinegar to your rinse cycle. Vinegar removes body oils and other buildup and softens natural clothing fibers. As a result, they retain more moisture, making them less prone to static cling. (Here are more reasons to add vinegar to your washer.)
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 hanger 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.
Ways to Prevent Static In Your Hair
You’ve probably 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 snowy or 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.
As with most typical household issues, preventing a problem is easier than fixing it. So once the temperatures dip, start taking measures to keep your home’s humidity levels in check and switch soft furnishing fabrics and clothing as needed to get rid of and prevent static electricity buildup in your home.
Where to Next?