A client recently told us she wants to reduce static shock in her home. This is a common problem and many people are surprised and hurt by unexpected snaps and sparks around the home or office. Here are the major causes of it and tips for reducing the problem.
What Causes Static Shock?
A static shock is not a true electrical shock-like touching a live wire, but it is the natural balancing of negative (electrons) and positive (protons) charges between two materials. When two materials are in contact, some of the charges redistribute by moving from one material to the other. It can create an excess positive charge on one item, and a negative charge on the other. When the two materials are separated, each one takes the charge of it. If your body contains that excess charge, then you get near an object with the opposite charge, it can cause a spark to jump to or from your body.
Dry skin and synthetic clothing are major causes of static buildup. Other materials rubbing against each other, like your shoes on a synthetic carpet, can create changes in you through electrostatic induction. Another example is when you slide out of your car, the rubbing of seats with your clothes can create a charge. If you reduce or eliminate the sources of static build-up, you can get relief from shocks.
How to Prevent Static Shock
It is hard to tell the precise source, so the best way is to do some experimenting and see what solutions work the best in your home.
1. Increase indoor humidity
Static electricity is more active when the air and materials are dry, especially in the winter as heating the house dries the air. You can use a humidifier or boil water on the stove to put moisture in the air. Also, watering live house plants helps to increase the level.
2. Moisturize dry skin
Dry skin can cause static buildup, so you can try using moisturizers or lotions. You can experiment with different types and amounts of moisturizers. It may be enough to just put lotion on your hands since shocks usually come to fingers and hands.
3. Choose natural over synthetic fabrics
Some materials, like polyester, cause more static electricity than other materials. Try wearing more cotton or wool clothing when you experience shocks. Remember to include undergarments, pajamas, and bedsheets.
4. Try different types of shoes
Try different shoes to see which ones create the most (or least) shocks. Synthetic soles on a synthetic carpet are likely to cause shocks, while rubber and leather soles are best to reduce static shock.
5. Discharge excess static throughout the day
The best prevention is to drain off any excess static charges frequently throughout the day. Touching a grounded metal object, like a water faucet, is an easy way to do this. If static shock is a big problem for you, you can buy a static shock eliminator that you use to touch against the metal object first and draw the charge to it instead of your finger. They are commonly available for $5-$10. You could also use a key, or a nail, or some other metal object in the same way.
If you have a tendency for building up static electricity, you need to be constantly aware of the possibility of getting a shock. You need to remember to ground yourself before touching anything metal, an animal, or even another person. With a little experimenting and by taking a few precautions, you can reduce static shock in your life.