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Preventing Static Shock in Winter

Ever notice how cold weather brings an increase of static shocks?  Most people have experienced a jolt of electricity after shuffling across the carpet and touching a doorknob.   Try sliding across an upholstered car seat and touching the metal door or pull a wool sweater over your head and watch your hair stand up.   Whenever two materials meet and separate, a static charge occurs.  This type of event is especially noticeable when the atmosphere is dry and relative humidity is low.

Almost any material can generate static electricity.  The ability to store or dissipate the charge depends on the type of material.  If you are walking across a carpet wearing gym shoes with rubber soles versus dress shoes with leather soles, charges are more likely to build up with the gym shoes because rubber is insulative and leather is conductive.  The action of walking on the floor will generate a charge with either shoe, but the body is more likely to carry a higher charge if the shoes are insulative. Why? Because insulative materials hold on to charges whereas conductive materials allow charges to pass.  Once the charged up body touches a conductive material, like a metal doorknob, electrons jump from one material to another.  Most of the time, we don’t notice this exchange, but in the right conditions (dry atmosphere, wool or synthetic clothing, tennis shoes) we will experience an electrostatic shock.

So why don’t we feel the shock in the summer?

We all know it’s typically humid in the summer. Those jumping electrons are more likely to travel in atmospheres with moisture rather than to settle on an insulative material.  Tribocharging, the act of generating a charge between two materials, is also affected by relative humidity. If you walk across carpet wearing gym shoes in an environment where the relative humidity is 12% and touch a doorknob, you may experience a voltage level of 10,000 volts (Shocking!). By contrast, the very same action, wearing the same shoes in the same room with higher relative humidity might only cause a static discharge of 1500 volts.  The moisture in the atmosphere allows electrons to move freely whenever we touch the metal object, and we are less likely to build up as much of a charge because our clothing and bodies retain moisture in the warmer months.

Many treat dry atmospheres in their homes with a humidifier, but home humidifiers don’t always have the capacity to combat or eliminate static.  Treating the carpet with an anti-static topical like Heavy Duty Staticide is a convenient, effective, and economical solution. Simply hold the can 6 – 8 inches from the carpet and spray lightly using a sweeping motion.   The carpet should be damp and not saturated.  The fibers will absorb the anti-static and once dry, prevent tribogeneration whenever people walk across the carpet.  Static that is normally caused by friction, by walking or vacuuming, will not generate or build up.

A carpet treated properly with Heavy Duty Staticide will be static free for up to 3 months. An added benefit is cleaner carpet. Static electricity attracts and holds dust and dirt in carpet fibers. The less static, the better dirt and dust are eliminated during routine vacuuming.

Heavy Duty Staticide also works on car upholstery to reduce charges when sliding off of a car seat to exit. It even prevents static discharge on clothing. Staticide is made from surfactant materials similar to hair conditioner or fabric softeners.  Surfactants have natural cleaning, softening, and anti-static properties. Spray Heavy Duty Staticide directly onto fabrics that do not water-spot (wool sweaters, for example). Spray clothing the night before wearing so there is enough time for the material to dry.  The fabric doesn’t need to be saturated, just damp upon application so the fibers absorb the anti-stat.  The effectiveness of Staticide will last until the sweater or clothing is washed or cleaned.

Of course, we cannot always control the amount of static charges that are generated when there are seasonal changes.  As the atmosphere becomes dryer and electrons are more likely to accumulate on a surface rather than move through the atmosphere, the chances for static shock increase and extra maintenance is required to reduce and eliminate unwanted static shocks.