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What is Static Shock?




What is Static Shock?

Static electricity, which causes shocks, is not the ordinary current electricity that runs through wires and powers our home appliances. Static electricity is the result of an unbalance between the number of charges within or on the surface of any object or body. The reason behind this unbalance is that when two objects are rubbed together or make close contact, one of these objects become abundant in positive charges by giving up an electron and the other one gets excess of negative charges by taking up the electron and filling the vacancies available in the outer shell [1] [2]. As shown in the diagram below, the grey part can be termed as the carpet while the black one as an object. It causes electrons to have a higher negative charge and leaves the carpet with a higher positive charge.

A very common phenomenon is the rubbing of our feet on the carpet which gives us a negative charge or when we open the nearest door using the knob – we experience a slight shock which is the result of electrons jumping from knob to our body. There are many other examples in our daily life [2].

Situations which can lead to a static shock include:

Touching microwave

Although microwaves use current electricity to work, you can experience a very heavy shock if they’re not grounded properly or the circuitry is naked without any covering near the LED panel. The microwave is working on 240V and can cause serious injuries. However, this is only the case of electric shock and not static shock. Microwave can be a good example of static shock as well. The body of a microwave is also a metal, so whenever you move through your living room to your kitchen to grab something from the microwave, you can get a slight itch known as the static shock. This is due to your movement over the carpet, where you can get an excess of electrons, and upon touching the microwave you are transferring those electrons to the oven. Next time, whenever you crave a midnight snack and reach for the microwave, you need to keep that phenomenon in mind and prevent yourself.

Rising of our hairs

Especially in winter, our hairs rise in some situations, depicting that we have either got a strong electric current in them (or maybe we have an expensive hair gel). Well, the actual phenomenon is not as it seems. This rise in our hairs is also due to a static shock that is built up due to a cap or hat that’s on our head for too long, so an unbalance of charges has occurred between them. When we take off our hat, our hairs get an excess of negative charge by taking electrons from the hat. Each hair tries to repel the nearest one by staying away and rising as all of them contain the same negative charge [3].

Contact with Fridge, Computer, car door or other metal appliances:

As described earlier, two objects rubbing together give rise to the unbalance of charges within or on the surface of those objects. So whenever you rub your shoe or feet across the floors either carpeted or consisting of nylon matting in your houses you are bound to get a static shock in the next few minutes. It’s not particularly your feet, it can be your hands or other body parts too, but your feet are more likely to come in contact with charged bodies. You will get a positive charge or negative charge upon this contact and the next immediate object you touch if it is metal is very likely to target that abundant charge in your body, consequently giving you a little shock. The most common ones include your door knob, your computer or PC having open wires, the fridge in the kitchen, and yes it can be your car’s handle too [4].

Is lightning an example of static electricity?


Lightning during rain or storms is a very common and solid example of static electricity in nature. The shock we experience in our homes is an infinitesimally small percentage of shock or spark produced by the lightning bolt. The turbulences in the clouds caused by the rain or thunderstorm produces charges that build up so high until they are shifted from one cloud to another or are shifted to any object on the ground. While the slight static shocks experienced in a household are nothing compared to lightning as the temperature is 27,000 degrees Celsius and it is almost six times greater than the surface of the sun [6].

Why static shock is frequently experienced in Winters as compared to Summers?

Have you ever thought, the little shocks you get through static electricity are more frequent in winters than summers and almost everything in the house is giving you a slight zap?

Yes, this phenomenon is true. Winters have got something for the static electricity which summers do not offer. Winters are more dried up and have less moisture in the atmosphere. Although we use humidifiers and other heaters to level up the humidity in the air, summers are still more moisturizing. In winters, we scratch our feet on the carpet more to get some heat and this increases the odds of getting the shock. Moreover, the moisture in summers can dissipate those extra electrons we carry either through our shoes or feet and on other metals. The dry air leads to more clinging of electrons or charges leading to a shock!

Few other daily life examples of static shocks include [4]:

  • Rubbing the snow with our bikes or skis in winters
  • Interacting with furry animals 
  • Putting on sweaters in winters
  • While printing papers through a photocopier
  • Cleaning and waxing a car
  • Dry cleaning or wiping the glass window
  • Rubbing balloons on the neck
  • Flying through dust, air, snow, or rain
  • Turning pages in a book

All the above-mentioned situations are associated with changing humidity, temperature, and conditions. The below table shows the amount of electrostatic discharge or the static current generated and the RH (Relative humidity) values in the atmosphere.

Prevention from static shocks

It must be irritating and exhausting in winters to be always on the verge of getting a static shock from almost everything around. You must hesitate whenever you are going for a door’s knob or a car’s handle, wearing a sweater, or petting your cat. We have also some cure for this irritation. A few of the easy preventions from these types of static shocks are listed below.

Prevention from metal objects

Nowadays, our household is full of electrical and digital appliances and all of them feature either a metal handle or an outer opening which is made up of any type of metal. These are the worst things in terms of getting a shock. A very easy method is to keep yourself in contact with metal objects. Keep touching your bare hand on something inside the car which is made of metal so when you get outside you will not be getting any sudden shock from the car door’s handle. This is an easy trick in the case of metals to constantly remain in touch with them to avoid the accumulation of excess of charges [5].

Prevention from clothing and carpet

Nylon carpets are also one of the common reasons that trigger the process of losing an electron on your feet or shoes. To avoid this, get rid of any shoes that have rubber soles or socks made up of wool or nylon. Try wearing leather shoes or cotton socks which will minimize the electrostatic effect produced through rubbing on the carpet. In winters, the furniture fabric is also the main reason behind the static current, so you need to avoid any woolen or nylon accessories by covering them with cotton covers to get rid of this jerk.

Moreover, wearing and taking off sweaters also triggers a slight current in the body which is made of wool or other friendly material prone to electrostatic current. If you switch your clothing to cotton, not only will you avoid static shock, but it will also be more comfortable to roam and sit around the house with cotton clothing [9].

Prevention during outdoor activities especially from shopping carts in a store:

You always build up a charge when you walk around, even its quantity and intensity may vary and can or cannot lead to a shock. When you are walking outside, especially in a grocery store holding a trolley or shopping cart, you may experience the shock more often because the wheels of the trolley can get an excess of charge by constantly rubbing through the floor, and you get a jerk or current when you reach for an item in the cabinet or touch any railing. To avoid this, try wearing leather shoes whenever you roam outside or go for shopping. Another prevention is to hold a key chain or a key in your hand every time keep touching it to nearby stairs, railings, and cabinets to get rid of charge before you feel the shock from this charge. This touching of metal will transfer the excessive electrons and will keep you safe.

Prevention during the winter season:

Apart from wearing leather-soled shoes, cotton clothing can help reduce the static current up to a certain level. To maximize the prevention and further decrease any chances of the building up of static charges in the home during winters, you need to increase the humidity level. As the dry air increases the chances for the current, you need to target that dried air for the prevention. Certain types of devices called humidifiers can be used to increase the humidity percentage in the air. Normally it can be kept from 30 to 40%, making it comparable to the summer season as moisture diminishes the charges produced or accumulated [6]. The specific devices for this phenomenon are described later in this article. The below graph shows the relation of humidity versus the static charge produced in the human body.

Prevention from light switches:

Different light switches have metal bolts to stick to the wall and most of the people also get a jolt when turning an appliance’s on/off switches. To avoid any shocks from these switches or the bolts associated with their board, you need to make sure you are not wearing any wool or synthetic clothing, and your shoes should be leather. Apart from that, use a hand moisturizer every time when you are using your hands on something made of metal. Moisturizers will also keep your skin fresh and smooth, and at the same time, they will help you avoid any type of static shocks as water resist accumulating of charges. Products such as moisturizers are also described later in the article. Moreover, wipe the switches with dryer sheets made up of cotton material which will minimize the electrostatic effect [11].

Prevention of static shock from pets especially cats and dogs:

Whenever the humidity level falls below 30% in the air, the chances of shock increase and you cannot play with your pet’s fur. This is because it will result in a sudden jolt for you and your pet too whether it’s a dog, cat, or any other animal with excessive fur to give rise to electrostatic current. People may use certain humidifiers for this purpose, but a very good option is to go for moisturizers which can help keep the body and fur moist. You can buy any good lotion, sprays, or moisturizer which is free from any harmful effects and apply it on your pet’s fur and then slightly brush through all its hairs making them less dried. You can also use certainly soaked rags that will keep their fur little moist and free from any static shocks. Brushing your pet’s fur with natural ingredients including oil and lotions is also a viable measure to cope up with their dryness for medical reasons [12]. 

Different types of cotton rugs and sheets can also be opted for other home appliances not only for prevention from static current but also for cleaning purposes which is a good substitute to synthetic wipes used.

Different products for prevention of static shocks:

A common man is somehow unaware of the preventions from these static shocks, but most of the companies have rules and regulations from the authorities to care for the workers and handle them necessary products to wear in order to avoid any type of shocks in the workplace. A picture depicting different products associated with a worker in a factory is shown below:

Have you ever thought of using conductors in your body and clothing to avoid these shocks?

clothing to avoid shocks

When a person becomes aware of the fact that insulators keep the charge in the body and later result in a static shock, he must be thinking about why he can’t use a wire to transfer all his body charges to the ground. Well yes, it can be done to some extent. Different researchers presented the ideas of using a copper wire at the car bottom which will be used to get rid of any shocks, interferences, and charges building up in the car body. Although it was not successful but had a good representation as shown in the figure. The same experiment was done for a shoe containing an anti-static car strip in the shoe sole.

Different products which work and are available in the market are described below:

Anti-static wristbands:

Different types of bands are available in the market and can be easily used on the wrist. These bands consist of conductive fabric which is connected to the ground through any metal strip avoiding any types of sudden static shocks and keeping the electronic equipment safe on which a person is working. One of these bands is shown below in the figure:

 These anti-static wristbands can be easily bought from the market or any online website for an estimated price of $2. 

Anti-static gloves:

While working with any electronic circuit or appliance, you must have some protective equipment for your hands too as you make use of your fingers for any function. Anti-static gloves are available in the market made up of different materials i.e. nylon, woven, cotton, arc flash, and polyester depending upon the workplace and duty of the worker. You can also rub your hands over your pet without any doubt of getting shocked with these anti-static gloves. They are available for a price of less than a dollar.

Anti-static matting:

Anti-static mattings are used in different households and labs while working with any sensitive equipment which can be damaged through a slight static shock. Anti-static mats are totally opposite of non-conductive mats or sheets as they are only used to prevent electric shocks, not the static ones. Anti-static mats differ in their price depending upon their dimensions and thickness. It is also easily available in the market a good product to get rid of static shocks.

Anti-static coating for floors and metallic objects:

To avoid contact with metal objects in order to prevent static shocks, different material coatings are done on its surface. These anti-static coatings consist of different conducting polymers i.e. Licron Crystal for covering the metal, plastics, and many other surfaces. It works for up to 100% humidity and is durable for a very long time giving a good finish to the floor or object making it free from any electrostatic discharge in the future. These coatings are a good option in terms of expense as compared to changing the whole floor or the objects.


Humidifiers are the most widely used and one of the finest products for the prevention of static shocks in homes. These devices are used especially in winters to increase the humidity percentage in the air diminishing the static charges build upon the human body or other objects. Humidifiers are a good product for treating dry skin, nose, and throat

But, as the excess of everything is bad, so does this product add up to respiratory diseases. Humidifiers are still widely used in almost every part of the world and can be bought easily from the market or e-commerce website. The price ranges from $50 to more than $400 depending upon the size, the output needed from it, and the quality. 

Why do I experience shocks when my colleagues do not?

experience shocks

Yes, there are very bright chances that you and your friend having different experiences with the objects exhibiting static shock. There are a couple of reasons behind this phenomenon.

  • It depends on the body’s capacity of feeling shocks which varies from 2000 to 4000V.
  • It depends upon the size of your body, feet, and the shoe sole. Bigger body and feet and thinner shoe soles lead to more static shock being experienced by the body as greater charges accumulate.
  • It depends upon the way you walk on the floor, the way you sit in a chair, and the capacity of the body to generate charges when in contact with other objects.

[1] J. Lucas, “What Is Static Electricity?,” LiveScience, 24 July 2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.livescience.com/51656-static-electricity.html. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[2] S. Deffner, “Where Static Electricity Comes From and How It Works,” Discover Magazine, 9 January 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/where-static-electricity-comes-from-and-how-it-works. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[3] C. Woodford, “Static electricity,” EplaintheStuff, 9th April 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-static-electricity-works.html. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[4] Master, “Examples of Static Electricity,” Funbrains, 1 June 2017. [Online]. Available: https://funbrains.net/examples-static-electricity/. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[5] A. SUNDERMIER, “Here’s Why You Get Those Annoying Static Electricity Shocks,” BUSINESS INSIDER, 20 October 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-why-we-get-those-annoying-static-electricity-shocks. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[6] R. Kurtus, “Static Electricity and Lightning,” School for Champions, 12 Feb 2009. [Online]. Available: https://www.school-for-champions.com/science/static_lightning.htm#.XqHksWgzbIW. [Accessed 25 April 2020].

[7] J. McTavish, “What are some of the most common examples of static electricity?,” 23 Sept 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-most-common-examples-of-static-electricity. [Accessed 24th April 2020].

[8] WikiHow, “How to Remove Static Electricity,” WikiHow, 14 August 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.wikihow.com/Remove-Static-Electricity. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[9] WIkiHow, “How to Avoid (Static) Electric Shock,” WikiHOw, 28 March 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-(Static)-Electric-Shock. [Accessed 25 April 2020].

[10] A. Williams, “How to avoid getting shocked by static electricity during winter,” AccuWeather, [Online]. Available: https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/how-to-avoid-getting-shocked-by-static-electricity-during-winter-2/432215. [Accessed 24 April 2020].

[11] W. Gordon, “How Can I Avoid Static Electricity Shocks in Cold, Dry Weather?,” Lifehacker, 19 November 2019. [Online]. Available: https://lifehacker.com/how-can-i-avoid-static-electricity-shocks-in-cold-dry-5851341. [Accessed 25 April 2020].

[12] M. NORTON, “Static Electricity and Your Pet,” apr.org, 15 November 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.apr.org/post/static-electricity-and-your-pet. [Accessed 25 April 2020].

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