Getting rid of static electricity is tricky. I have first-hand experience after my experiment. Read on to find out which hacks to avoid and which actually work.
Can you feel that crackle? That electric attraction? That spark? Then you’ve either just bumped into your crush – or you’re dealing with statically charged clothing. It’s just as nerve-racking, but it definitely doesn’t trigger any happy hormones.
Statically charged fabric sticks uncomfortably to the skin, makes hair stand on end and, in the worst-case scenario, causes mini electric shocks. It’s a textile nightmare that increasingly haunts us during the cold months. But what causes it? To find out, we have to make a brief excursion into physics and look at the smallest building blocks of all matter: atoms.
In a neutral state, an atom has as many positively charged protons as negatively charged electrons. However, when different surfaces touch and separate, electrons can transfer from one atom to another. This creates an imbalance, which creates electrostatic voltage. How strong this is particularly depends on the physical properties of the materials, the level of friction and humidity.
A cool, dry climate favours static electricity, which is why our clothes attract more crackle in autumn and winter. This is particularly noticeable with synthetic fibres such as polyester or polyacrylic, as they have low conductivity. There are multiple hacks to combat this unwanted phenomenon, at least if you believe the internet. But what really works? I put some of the theories to the test.
1. Metal hangers
You know those flimsy wire hangers you often get from dry cleaners? They’re said to help discharge your garment. All you have to do is run the hanger over the affected garment, allowing the metal to discharge the fabric. So, that’s what I did. Multiple times. I turned it upside down and inside out. It always crackled wildly – and there was hardly any improvement in the charged state of my polyester pleated trousers. Fail.
2. Safety pins
A metal safety pin tucked away somewhere on your garment is said to act as a kind of mini lightning rod. I can’t judge whether the hack prevents small electric shocks yet. But what I can say with certainty after my attempt is that if your garment is already statically charged, a safety pin won’t do anything about it. So, at best, it’s a preventative measure. However, the effect is too small for me to poke holes in my clothes.
3. Dryer sheets
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets put a protective film around textile fibres in the washing machine or tumble dryer. So, fabrics not only appear softer, but are also less statically charged. Personally, I don’t use products like that because they reduce the absorbency of fabrics, can damage them in the long run and the intense scent bothers me. To combat static electricity, some sites recommend running dryer sheets over affected fabrics by hand. That’s more of an option for me because I can use them in a targeted manner instead of for an entire load of laundry. For the test, I rubbed both sides of a crackling knitted dress made of polyacrylic, nylon and wool with Comfort tumble dryer sheets – which, by the way, was surprisingly time-consuming. The dress smelled intensely fresh afterwards, but was still charged.
4. Anti-static sprays
Special anti-static sprays are designed to neutralise and prevent static. Galaxus has one in its range that’s suitable for textiles made from synthetic fibres and is said to leave no stains or scent. As instructed, I sprayed the inside and outside of my pleated trousers with it – it was super easy – and tried them on after five minutes. Static electricity was still noticeable, but noticeably reduced. It also helped with my knitted dress. A very passable result.
What makes me suspicious, however, is that the ingredients are not listed anywhere. So what on earth is in this spray? The uncertainty worries me in terms of both my skin and my clothes. However, I suspect that, like comparable products, it works using cationic surfactants, which also give most fabric softeners their anti-static effect. In any case, I haven’t noticed any skin irritation or stains after two uses.
5. Body lotion
I still prefer to use my tried and tested method: moisturising my skin properly. If I notice when I’m getting dressed that my statically charged trousers are sticking to my legs, I take them off again for a moment. Then I apply a generous amount of body lotion and let it soak in before I put on my trousers again. It sounds simple, but for me it’s the most effective trick to combat static electricity. Where the fabric is on tights, for example, rather than directly on my skin, I’ll use the anti-static spray in the future.