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What causes static cling

Static cling is an annoying effect of static electricity. That occurs when clothes cling together after being removed from the dryer. It is caused by rubbing the various materials together when they are very dry. These problems can be reduced by treating the materials or eliminating the static electricity that causes them.

Static cling can also be referred to as a tendency for light objects to stick (cling) to other objects owing to static electricity. It is common in clothing but occurs with other items, such as the tendency of dust to be attracted to, and stick to, plastic items. The main cause of static cling is that the materials involved become charged with static electricity.

Cause and prevention

Clothing with similar charges repel each other, but that is not noticeable as is the clinging effect. Likewise on electrical devices a static cling may be present.

Friction

When clothes made of certain fibers typically, synthetic materials like polyester rub against each other or against dry skin to create static electricity. An electrostatic charge builds up on clothes due to the triboelectric effect when pieces of fabric rub against each other, as happens particularly in a clothes dryer. 

It is especially noticeable when humidity is low, allowing static electricity to build up. Such clothes will cling together when taken out of the dryer. Besides rubbing together, the water is removed from the material, as well as the surrounding air. Static electricity is more active in dry conditions.

Nature of fabric

Some clothes  take on a positive (+) charge and some have a negative (−) electrical charge, thus causing them to attract or cling. Such clothes will also start to cling to your legs as you walk, especially on days where the humidity is low or the air is dry. The skin becomes positive (+) in charge and the polyester clothes gain a negative (−) charge, thus causing them to attract.

Thermal management of electronic devices and systems 

This may lead to a static cling on computer screens and at times on phones as well. Which results in dust accumulation. Dust accumulation caused by static cling is a significant issue for computers and other electronic devices with heat generating components that need to be cooled by airflow. Dust is carried into the computer by the airflow created by case- and component fans. 

Methods to reduce potential static cling

When drying clothes

  1. One common method to reduce or eliminate static cling on clothes is to use fabric softener in the washer, use dryer sheets in the clothes dryer or to use an anti-static spray on the clothes. Unfortunately, these are chemical solutions that may harm the environment and cause allergic reactions in some people.

Wash and dry cottons and synthetic fabrics separately.

  1. Try not using the dryer at all for nylon and other synthetic fabrics.
  1. Do not dry the clothes completely and let them air dry the last amount.
  1. Spray the clothes with a light mist of water.

Conclusion

In clothing, static cling occurs from static electricity. The separate positive and negatively charged surfaces attract each other. Certain substances can reduce static cling and are often included in fabric softener and dryer sheets. Antistatic agents, which make the surfaces slightly conductive, can be used on fabrics to avoid it all. 

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