Laundry Science 101: Static Cling

August 8th, 2013 3:50 PM | 6 Comments

laundryAt some point all of us have experienced a shock or two from static, or your pants legs/skirt hugging your legs. This article discusses how to get rid of static cling! You can even remove static cling using items you already have in your own home!

What is static and why does it happen?

From WhatIsStaticCling.com:

“Static cling is a property of substances that make them cling to each other because of opposite electrical charges. When the conditions are dry and two different kinds of materials come in contact with each other, sometimes there is an exchange of  electrons between the two substances. This exchange of electrons leaves one substance with a positive charge and the other with a negative charge. Basic laws of science state that unlike charges attract, thus the two substances will attract one another, which is termed as static cling.”

In plain English as it relates to laundry  – when 2 different fabrics (think cotton and polyester) are dry and rub together, they exchange electrons and create an electrical charge. The charge builds up in the form of static electricity  and can cause 2 fabrics to stick together.

Static tends to be worse in the winter or in really dry areas. The reason is because moist air will discharge the electricity. The water vapors in the air will pick up the charge from the fabric and take the charge away.

How fix clingy cloths and sparky blankets:

Dry Less

Since Static builds up in an environment devoid of moisture, your clothes will get more static if you overdry them. The simple solution is to not run your dryer for as long a time. The moist air in the dryer will keep clothing from building up a charge until there is no moist air left. There’s an added bonus in drying less which is fewer wrinkles and saving energy.

Dryer Sheets

If you use dryer sheets, they have a substance on them that adds an antistatic coating to the fabric.  Instead of fabrics rubbing together, its an antistatic coating rubbing against an antistatic coating. No electrons are rubbing off so you don’t get any static cling. Unfortunately many dryer sheets contain chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin, eczema and other conditions and some can contain carcinogens, so research dryer sheets and the ingredients before you buy. Also some fabrics should not be used with dryer sheets like performance fabrics and cloth diapers. The waxy antistatic coating interferes with the wicking action of the fabrics and reduces or eliminates the fabric’s ability to absorb moisture and can cause these specialty fabrics to repel.

Eco nuts Dryer Balls thumbDryer Balls

Experiments have shown that they do not reduce static, but some people swear by them so I have included them here as something that works for some people but not for all.
Dryer balls can help reduce static by minimizing the contact that clothes have with one another, however it will not work if there are very few dryer balls in the dryer or if the dryer runs too long.  The bonus and real purpose of using dryer balls is that they will soften your clothes and reduce your dry time, saving you energy and money, so you can run your dryer for even less time. However, if you run your dryer for longer while using the dryer balls, static charge can still build up on clothes once they have completely dried.  Many Dryer Ball companies claim they eliminate static cling – that is not the case. For best results use 4-8 balls (or more if you have a large dryer) and stop the dryer when the clothes are dry and do not let it run over.  If you stop the dryer when there is still moisture in the air in the machine but the clothes are dry, you will see a reduction in static. Eco Nuts has dryer balls available for purchase here, though Eco Nuts makes no claims about reducing static.

aluminumfoilballAluminum Foil

An old trick for helping to remove static is to throw a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer. The foil will discharge as clothes come in contact with it.  If you are experiencing a lot of static, using more than one ball is ideal to make sure all fabric touches the foil.

 

clothespinLine Drying

It’s not always an option (especially in the dry winter months) but the best way to keep fabric-friction from happening  is to line or air dry. If you have one garment that tends to really get clingy, then hang-drying may be a good option to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Separate Fabrics

If you have a fabric item like polar fleece or performance fabrics that are meant to dry quickly, dry it on the lowest setting for a shorter time. Fabrics engineered to dry fast will build up a charge if dried on a regular setting with other clothes.

safetypinSafety Pins

Try putting pins on 2 different fabrics before putting them in the dryer. The metal will help to discharge. This is very effective.

 

While You’re Wearing Clothes……

To get rid of static while you’re wearing clothes, wet your hands with some water and rub on the clothes or hair. If your skin is really dry, try a moisturizing lotion. The moisture will remove the charge. You can also spritz your clothes with a spray bottle containing water which will help to remove the charge.

 

 

 

  • Scott Jordan

    Great article!!

  • Dianne W.

    I used to take travel-size anti-static spray on trips. After reading this article I’ll use my travel (empty) 1 oz. spray bottle and just spritz with plain water. What a savings! Thanks.

  • Erin

    Fantastic article! I wonder how many times you can use the aluminum foil ball?

  • Katie Gray

    I love it when you explain laundry science, it always makes me feel like I know a secret that no one else does.

  • Thanks for demystifying!

    Please clarify: Do dryer sheets make any absorbent cotton fabric less absorbent? Or only cotton diapers?

    I’m researching this for one of my customers. I’m recommending that she use dryer balls, but need more info about dryer sheets first.

  • Kit

    Love these, easy to make, too. They break up down filling in jackets, etc si it dries with great loft, no clumps- easier on the dryer than shoes or tennis balls. Kill static by not mixing synthetics with natural fabrics or wool with anything except wool. (except econuts or home made dryer balls). Using the permanent press’s cycle helps reduce static and wrinkles, especially all cotton