Ask The Expert

What causes static electricity?



Q: What causes static electricity on our clothes—and what can we do about it?

 

A: “Static cling is an electrical charge caused by friction which occurs when one surface rubs against another surface,” explains Andrew Rivkin, president of Embassy Cleaners in Larchmont and Scarsdale. “It’s typically more prevalent when humidity is low because the atmosphere is less conductive in a low-humidity environment.” Hmmm...low humidity and lots of rubbing—sounds like the inside of a household clothes dryer. That’s why static cling is at its worst with machine-dried clothing. “In the case of static cling, the electrical charge is contained on the surface of the fabric,” says Rivkin, who adds that treating fabrics with an anti-static agent—found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets—makes the surface less conductive and distributes the charge more evenly.

Or, instead of spending extra bucks on a can of Static Guard, Rivkin says you can make your own version by mixing a bit of fabric softener with some water in a spray bottle.