major nuisance of static electricity is
that many people get unexpected shocks, simply from
touching some metal object after walking across the
room. There are also some situations where excess static
electricity can damage equipment or even pose a danger.
It is something you may want to stop or control.
Trying to control static electricity
gets you curious. You have some questions you would like
How can I stop getting shocked?
How can I stop static cling?
How can I protect from damage caused
by sparks or lightning?
Stop getting shocks
One of the biggest complaints that
people have about static electricity is that it causes
sparks or gives them mild shocks when they touch things
or even other people. Most people experience this
problem in the winter, but there are others who are are
constantly getting shocks and are actually plagued by
Some of the letters I have received from
people about this problem include:
Woman lives in Arizona and gets shocks
getting in and out of the car.
Man lives in Kansas and gets shocks all
the time during winter, even when in bed.
Girl gets shocks after jumping on a
Boy constantly gets shocks when walking
in the house.
The common factors in all of these cases
point to dry air and materials that rub against each
other to build up the static electricity. Certain
materials--including dry human skin--can especially
build up charges.
The way to reduce the problem of excess
static electricity is to try to get more humidity in the
air, change the materials or modify their surface, and
ground yourself before touching things, whenever
Static electricity is more active when
the air and materials are dry. The humidity is normally
lower in the winter, and heating the house further
reduces the humidity. Also, locations with a desert
climate usually have very low relative humidity.
One thing you can do is to use a
humidifier to raise the humidity in the house. That may
help a little.
When certain materials rub together,
they build up static electricity. Items that commonly
rub together to cause static electricity are:
Clothes rubbing on your skin
Pajamas rubbing on your skin and the
sheets in the bed
Clothes rubbing on furniture and car
The soles of your shoes rubbing against
the rug or floor
Some people have very dry skin that may
cause the buildup of static charges, especially in the
winter. One thing to try is to use moisturizers or
lotions on your skin. The only problem with that, of
course, is that you might have to put it all over your
You can experiment with different types
of moisturizers and in different locations. Perhaps just
putting lotion on you hands may be sufficient, since
shocks and sparks usually come from touching objects
with your hands.
Some clothing materials cause more
static electricity than others. Objects that cling
together when you take them out of the clothes dryer
have extra static electricity. This is called static
When you slide out of a car or off
furniture in the house, you can create static
electricity if the combination of materials is right.
Try putting a cover on the seat, changing the materials
or your clothes, or perhaps spraying things with an
anti-static spray, such as is used to prevent static
cling. I'm not sure how long the anti-static spray lasts
or if continued use can discolor things.
If your pajamas and bed sheets are the
type of materials that create static electricity when
rubbed together, you can be bothered with shocks all
night long on a dry winter night. If you have dry skin,
the problem can be amplified.
Try using pajamas and/or sheets made of
different materials. Cotton does not seem to develop as
much static electricity as some artificial fibers.
People get shocks from walking on the
rug in the house, jumping on a trampoline, or playing
basketball in the gym. Certain synthetic rubber soles on
shoes create a lot of static electricity. Experiment
with different shoes.
The reason you build up static
electricity usually comes from walking on a rug with
certain types of shoes, when the weather is very dry.
Static electricity is more common in the winter, because
the air is often dry.
On a day that you get a lot of sparks,
you can experiment walking on the rug with different
shoes to see what type of soles create the most (or
least) static electricity.
Unless you can change the type of shoes
you wear (or not wear shoes at all), it is difficult to
stop the problems of sparks. The only other solution is
to anticipate the sparks. You can touch some
non-conducting material, such as a wooden door, before
you touch something metal. This will allow some of the
electrical charges to leave your body.
Another idea is to use a metal object
like a key and touch other metal things first with key.
This will cause the spark to fly from the key and not
your finger. That is much more comfortable. You can also
use a ring or even a thimble to move the shock from your
finger to the metal object.
Using a thimble to protect finger from shock before touching doorknob
One more thing to do is to try to ground
yourself before touching another person or something
metal. You can touch a wall or wooden table or
something. Another way is to use a ring or a key and
touch something metal. Let the spark fly that way
instead of off your finger.
Static electricity can be a nuisance in
your everyday life. Clothes cling together, sparks fly
and you get shocks. All sorts of things happen. You can
easily control or prevent problems with static
Let's look at how you can control static
When you take out clothes from the
dryer, they often cling together. Also, on dry days some
clothes will get an electric charge and cling to your
There are solutions can you spray on
your clothes to prevent them from holding the electrical
charge on their surface. There are also sheets of the
material you can put in your dryer that will put a thin
coating on your clothes, preventing the collection of
electrons or charged atoms on the surface.
Just the opposite of static cling is
flyaway hair. On a dry day, after you comb your hair it
can tend to fly up and separate. That is because the
hair strands have the same electrical charge, and you
know that like-charges repel.
The solution to this problem is simply
to wet your hair or to apply some hair spray. There are
also anti-static sprays that eliminate the problem.
There are places where static
electricity can be a danger or hazard:
A spark can
Ruin your computer
Cause an explosion
A static electricity spark can damage
the internal electronics of a computer.
Normally, when operating a computer,
static electricity is not a problem. But if you have
been having problems with static electricity causing
spark when you touch things, it is wise to take
precautions before touching even the computer keyboard.
Touch something metal to ground out any charges in you
before you touch the computer.
Technicians who work on the inside of
computers should have a special pad on the floor and use
a grounded strap on their wrist that will suck any
charges from their bodies. This is to avoid any chance
of damaging the electronics with a static electrical
spark. When a person handles computer boards, it doesn't
take much of a spark to damage the circuitry.
When many gallons of gasoline are
transferred from a truck into the underground tank at a
filling station, there is a lot of friction caused by
the gasoline flow. Also, since the fuel is very
flammable, a single spark caused by static electricity
could cause an explosion.
Thus, the truck uses a grounding device
on the hose that draws the electrical charges away from
the gasoline, preventing any static sparks from
People who are filling a gasoline
container at the pump are advised to use caution to
avoid static sparks. When you slide out of your car,
touch something metal to get rid of any excess charges.
It is also recommended to place the container on the
ground when filling it.
The way to protect a building that is
out in the open—such as those on farms—is to attach a
lightning rod to the building. It is a sharp pointed
metal rod on the top of a house or barn that runs down
into the ground.
When lightning strikes near the
building, it would hit the highest part of the
structure, which is the lightning rod. Since the rod is
made of metal, the current would quickly flow through
the rod, into the ground, where it would be dissipated.
In this way, damage to the house would be minimal.
For a long time people thought that the
static electricity was attracted to the pointed end of
the rod. Recent studies showed that a larger, rounded
surface would be effective than a sharp point. Needless
to say, it was a clever and useful invention by Benjamin
Lighting can also strike people out in
the rain. It is not a good idea to stand under a tree
during a thunderstorm, in case the tree gets struck with
lightning. Also, it is not a good idea to walk out in an
open area with an umbrella, because if you are the
highest object in the field, you may be a target for the
There are cases where people have been
hit by lightning and lived through it. In fact, one man
had been struck by lightning 7 different times with no
major harm done to him. (But I heard he does glow in the
But most people who get hit by lightning
are seriously injured. Although such lightning strikes
are rare, you still should use caution.
Static electricity can cause sparks and
other problems. You should try different materials and
clothes, as well as to ground yourself often, to prevent
personal sparks. Grounding is also used to prevent
sparks from damaging computers and houses and causing