The same forces that cause lightning storms to develop cause static cling in clothes. But whether you love a lightning storm or cringe at the first flash, no one wants that same static electricity in their laundry basket or hovering between a sock and their pants leg.
What Causes Static Cling in the Dryer?
Stray electrons build up in the atmosphere and some are negatively charged, others are positively charged. Oppositely charged objects attract each other and objects with the same kind of charge repel each other. When the opposite electrons meet...Zap! But if these charged electrons aren't strong enough to zap, they cling.
The tumbling action of the dryer causes fabrics to rub against each other and build up the electrostatic charges that zap and cling.
You've probably noticed that static cling is much worse in the winter than summer months. Static electricity is formed more easily when the air is dry or the humidity is low. When the air is humid, water molecules can collect on the surface of various materials and prevent the buildup of electrical charges.
Now that you know there is lightning in your laundry room, what can you do to prevent static cling and get rid of it?
6 Tips to Prevent Static Cling
- Increase humidity in your home. In our little science lesson, we learned that static cling is lessened when the air is humid. Adding a humidifier or plants to a home will increase humidity and reduce static cling. One simple way to increase humidity is to stop using a clothes dryer and allow your clothes to air dry on an indoor drying rack or clothesline.
- Increase humidity in your clothes. Rather than letting your clothes dry completely in the dryer, take them out while still slightly damp. You'll find less static cling, and you'll be saving money on energy. As an added plus, you'll reduce the number of wrinkles in your clothes.
- Separate and conquer. Before drying clothes, separate natural fiber fabrics from synthetic fiber fabrics. There will be less static cling. If possible, air dry synthetics, which are typically the chief culprit in static cling.
- Air dry clothes. The tumbling action of the dryer causes fabrics to rub against each other and build up electrostatic charges. Hanging clothes to dry on a drying rack or from hangers will eliminate this problem.
- Use fabric softeners or dryer sheets or bars. Fabric softeners that are used in the rinse cycle of the washer lubricate fabrics with chemicals that make them feel silkier and create less friction to the touch. Dryer sheets emit the same substances, activated by the heat of the dryer, to coat the surfaces of the fabrics. Dryer sheets are more effective than fabric softeners in reducing static cling because they work where the electrostatic problems are created. These non-woven fabric sheets are coated with a liquid surfactant that is activated by heat. One side of the surfactant molecule has a positively charged atom that bonds loosely to the surface of negatively charged fabrics. The other side of the surfactant molecule is a long-chain, fatty material that leaves a slightly oily coating the surface of the fabric preventing static buildup.
- Wear leather-soled shoes. Choose leather-soled shoes over rubber soles if you are plagued by static cling. Leather soles allow electricity to freely flow through your body after contact with a build-up of electrons, rather than rubber soles which will lock it in one place.
How to Eliminate Static Cling Once It Strikes
But what do you do if static cling attacks while you're wearing clothes? We've all had that moment when our trousers cling to our socks or a dress sticks to hosiery. Try one of these solutions:
- Use a static reducing spray. Static reducing sprays neutralize electrical charges by increasing hygroscopic (humidity-attracting) substances. Static Guard is a leading brand that comes in two scents and two sizes including a handy travel-size can.
- Rub the clinging areas with a damp cloth or paper towel. Increasing humidity will offer temporary relief of electrostatic forces.
- Run a wire clothes hanger or piece of aluminum foil between the clinging areas. The metal helps discharge the electricity, thereby removing the static.
- Moisturize your skin. By rubbing lotion into your skin, you are increasing the surface humidity (moisture), and that will keep fabrics from clinging to your skin.