Static electricity: How to avoid shocks in cold, dry weather

Bzzt. You know the feeling.

GetUpStudio, Getty Images

If frigid temps weren't cruel enough, winter also marks static electricity season in much of the United States as Americans pad about their homes in fear that anything — a door knob, a light switch, a child's stray balloon — could turn on them with a zap.

What makes cold weather so shocking? It's not the lack of heat; it's the lack of humidity. The heaters that combat cold air also sap it of moisture, as our friends at Newsy explain, leaving less water vapor in the air to conduct charges away from you. As humidity drops, the voltage of static discharges goes up, turning everyday items into (very) mild threats.

One solution, then, is to up your home's humidity. A humidifier helps, as North Carolina's WBTV notes, but so does a boiling pot of water on the stove. Adding houseplants can also up the vapor quotient in a room, per the station.

Other shocking solutions: 

Go without wool: Yes, those thick socks you got for Christmas from Aunt Judy feel soo cozy.But auntie might not know wool acts as an insulator, letting your body build up a charge until — bzzzt — you ground yourself by touching a metal faucet. Cashmere works much the same, Australia's ABC reports, so avoid such sweaters, even in sweater weather. A cotton hoodie and cotton socks make for safer choices.

Say no to rubber: Shoes with rubber soles will let static electricity build and build on your body, as Martin Sevior, a physicist at the University of Melbourne, told ABC. That makes for a nice shock when you grab a shopping cart on midwinter food runs. Leather is better.

Avoid electric cars: We're not talking Toyota Priuses. The jolts many drivers feel when they exit their cars in the winter can be solved in a couple ways, according to Popular Mechanics: Rubbing an offending car's seats with dryer sheets or spraying them with fabric softener every few weeks works, but so does touching a metal door handle before leaving your seat. When entering the car, just touch the metal part of your key and the metal door handle to shake off a spark, the magazine reports.

Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner

More: 8 things you shouldn't leave in your car in subzero weather

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