November 20th, 2006
Static is generated on the surface of our bodies constantly. This static is lost when we ground ourselves out or by quickly discharging it to another object or, in many cases, to another person. The quick discharge is the zap. Human beings are only good electrostatic generators when we are well insulated. To be well insulated, at least in electrostatic terminology, means that there is something keeping us from grounding out. When we ground out, we lose our surface charge. As insulators, we don't conduct electricity well, but we can generate and hold onto it very well.
So if we as humans were to attempt to get rid of static, at least our own personal static, all we really have to do is ground ourselves out, right? That would get rid of our immediate surface static, but it wouldn't deal with any future charges. Unless you figured out a way to be grounded all the time, it's unlikely you could get rid of static for all time. To decrease the amount of static created in the future, we must augment environmental and physical conditions that are conducive to creating static charge. These include but are not limited to humidity, carpeting, and clothing. Below are some things that can be done to help reduce the amount of static electricity in your home and on your body.
Static Control Methods
Increase the humidity of your home. Do this by getting a humidifier. The humidifier will add moisture to the air. This moisture will make your air more conductive, which will decrease the ability of things in your home to retain a static charge. The vaporizer humidifier is the best at adding humidity. It is also the safest as far as mold and bacteria propagation go. The only issue with it is that you must use distilled water; otherwise, the minerals in tap water will make your house extra dusty.
Clothing made from cotton. Some materials have a tendency to lose electrons and become positively charged. These include air, skin, fur, glass, nylon, wool, silk, and aluminum. Other materials have a tendency to gain electrons and become negatively charged. These include Teflon, silicon, polystyrene, polyester, gold, brass, Mylar, and cellophane. Put a positive like wool next to a negative like polyester, and you have an electron exchange and the creation of static electricity. Cotton is a neutral material, so if you wear cotton, you won't be as good at generating static.
Shoes that have good conductivity. Shoes that don't conduct electricity well are known as insulators. The best insulating shoes would be made from glass, paper, or Teflon. But rubber like polymers and plastic are about as good as it gets. So what material would a shoe be made of in order to be a good conductor? Perhaps a copper-soled boot? There are many antistatic safety boots on the market. They conduct electricity from the sole of your foot to the bottom of the boot. Basically, they keep you grounded so you can't retain any static charge. Or you could just go barefoot.
Dryer sheets added to the dryer. They are supposed to reduce static cling. But how exactly do they work? A drier sheet is an example of an external antistatic agent. It contains a chemical that attaches itself to the surface of the clothing during the cycle. This chemical makes the surface of the clothes slightly conductive. And since conductive things are lousy at static production, it gets rid of static cling. But if you have sensitive skin or asthma, you may be affected by the chemicals. There are chemical-free alternatives.
Getting rid of static on your pets. When your pets are all staticy and their fur is standing straight up, it is probably because your house is too dry. Adding a humidifier will increase the humidity. But if you don't want your house to be more humid, there are two things you can do. Spray your pet's fur with a little water to make their fur more conductive, thereby making it incapable of static charge. Or get an ionic brush. It ionizes air while you brush. The released ions should be enough to neutralize the static charge in the fur. The ionic brush will probably go over better than the water sprayer.
How Is Static Electricity Created?
Static electricity is made when two nonconductive objects come in contact with one another. It is not necessary to rub the objects to create a charge. Static is not created through friction. Rubbing increases the amount of adhesive contact of the the two surfaces, speeding up the exchange of electrons between the two objects. When the objects are separated, they retain their respective imbalance charges. The object with more electrons is now excessively negatively charged while the object with less electrons is now excessively positively charged. These objects will retain this charge until they are either neutralized through a quick discharge of the excess surface charge or the object is grounded and balance is restored.