What Is "Static Shock" And Why Is It So Prevalent In The Winter Compared To The Summer?

What Is "Static Shock" And Why Is It So Prevalent In The Winter Compared To The Summer? Photo: WNYT.

Allison Finch
Updated: December 01, 2020 03:35 PM
Created: November 30, 2020 02:12 PM

Heading back to chemistry class, everything is made up of atoms. In each atom there are positively charged protons, negatively charged electrons, and neutrally charged neutrons. When you pull up a blanket or put some clothes on, you lose electrons and your body becomes positively charged. While your body is now positively charged, other objects in your house, or around you, are negatively charged. When you go to touch something negatively charged (for example a doorknob) then you feel a shock. This shock that you feel is a small discharge of static electricity and your body returns to a neutrally charged state. A bigger example of static electricity would be lightning.  

Why is static electricity more prevalent in the winter compared to the summer?

That is because in the warmer months of the year the air can hold more moisture, and these charges are conducted away from you, thus you don’t get shocked as often. In the colder months of the year, the air can’t hold as much moisture, which makes the air drier. The charges aren’t conducted away from you, and you end up experience static shock more often.

In the colder months of the year, it is common to turn the heat on in your house. This pulls the dry air from outside and warms it up without adding any moisture to it. So the dry air from outside only becomes drier when it is brought into your house as heat.

How can you avoid static electricity in the winter?

The easiest way to avoid static shock would be to add water vapor into your home by using a humidifier. Since wool is a big conductor, it would be helpful to wear 100% cotton when possible to avoid static electricity. Lastly, dry air can give you dry skin, so it is very important to moisturize your skin too.  

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