How to avoid getting shocked by static electricity during winter

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What is Static Electricity?

In a scientific perspective, static happens when there’s an imbalance of charges between two objects. When two surfaces experience an electrical imbalance, only one of two reactions will occur:

  • The surfaces will repel each other, when they have the same charge.
  • The surfaces will attract each other, when they have opposing charges (positive and negative).

We generally witness static electricity in the following scenarios:

  • The hairs on your head stand when electrons from a hat transfer to your hair.
  • When you rub a balloon against a carpet of a piece of clothing, it will stick to the wall without any adhesives.

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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.

Homemade Anti-Static Spray Combine 2 tablespoons of fabric softener or hair conditioner with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake well. Spray daily all winter on fabric furniture, bedding, and other linens, 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 static spray away from heat and light, and keep it where kids and pets can’t reach it.

Preventing shocks

The only way to prevent getting a painful static electric shock when you touch a metal object or other electrical conductor is to ground yourself to drain off those excess static charges.

Must be constantly aware

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.

Use a key or thimble

Touching a nonconductor like a wooden door before you touch the metal doorknob can help reduce the shock, but the best way for prevention is to drain off all your charges by directly touching the conductor with something in between you and the grounding item.

You can use a metal object like a key to touch a conductor and drain off your excess charges. This may cause the spark to fly from the key and not your finger. That is much less uncomfortable.

You can also use a ring you are wearing or even use a metal thimble to move the shock from your finger to the metal object. Note that sparks may blemish a ring, so don’t use a valuable one.

Using a thimble to protect finger
   from static

Using a thimble to protect finger from static shock before touching doorknob

Use a static shock eliminator

There are devices on the market that can be used to drain off static electric charges from your body. They have simple electronics that slow the discharge of electrons and prevent a spark. This can be important in preventing explosions by grounding yourself after getting out of your car at a filling station.

Static shock eliminator fits on key chain

Static shock eliminator fits on key chain

(This device may be purchased through Amazon.com

Discipline needed

You really need discipline to remember to ground yourself before touching metal objects of conductors. However, if static electricity shocks are a major problem with you, the extra effort should be worth the trouble.

Tips

  • Electric shocks are most common when the air is dry, which is often in the winter. Take extra precaution during this time of year.

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Tips To Prevent Damage By Static Electricity

Here are some effective tips to make sure that risks caused by static electricity are minimized:

  • Avoid wearing rubber-soled footwear: Rubber is an excellent insulator, and so wearing rubber-soled shoes may create a significant amount of static in your body.
  • Apply grounding in your home appliances: Some of the devices in your house may collect static electricity over time, if there’s no way to discharge them. Make sure that your appliances have a grounding mechanism in order to release the excess static.
  • Ground yourself: If you think you may be carrying some static electricity, touch an inert metal object to discharge the electricity.
  • Keep indoor air humid: Dry air increases the risk of static electricity buildup in your home. The best way to address this is to keep the relative humidity above 30%. A humidifier may do the trick.
  • Keep skin moisturized: If your skin is dry, it has a higher likelihood of developing static electricity. You may apply lotion or moisturizer on your hands and skin.

How can you avoid receiving shocks of static electricity?

These small discharges don’t represent any danger to your health, so you don’t need to worry. However, they can be uncomfortable, so here are five tips:

  • Don’t wear thick-soled shoes, and if you’re at home, it’s best to go barefoot.
  • Use a humidifier if you’re in a particularly dry environment (below 20% relative humidity).
  • Avoid nylon and polyester clothes: and as far as possible avoid carpets, which are an enormous source of static electricity.
  • When getting out of your car, hold onto the car frame.
  • If you have long hair and you receive shocks from time to time, use a comb instead of a brush. 

 

Questions and comments

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