Static cling is a phenomenon caused by static electricity. When dry materials rub against each other, they can exchange electrons, creating an electrical charge. This charge can build up in the form of static electricity and cause two objects, typically clothing, to stick or hold together.
When electrons are exchanged, one object will gain them, becoming negatively charged, while the other will lose them, becoming positively charged. Oppositely charged objects will then become attracted to each other. That is why clothes sometimes stick to each other when they are taken out of a clothes dryer — different items of clothing that have opposite charges are attracted to each other.
Static cling is not only seen with clothing, and many different types of signs work on due to this phenomenon. For example, many car decals, signs, or bumper stickers, are static stickers. These signs are useful because they are easily removed without damaging the surface, although they may not be ideal for long term use, especially on surfaces like the outside of a car that is exposed to environmental elements.
It is possible to prevent static cling in several ways. Increasing the moisture of either the environment or the items that are clinging can help alleviate it. One way to increase the humidity in the environment is with a humidifier or by misting the air with water.
Hair that clings to combs or brushes may be a result of overly dry hair. Shampooing and conditioning too frequently can strip the hair of needed oils, allowing it to dry out and cling to things. Using an ionic hair dryer, which dries the hair while reducing the static charge, can also be helpful.
The best way to stop static cling on clothing is to wash with a fabric softener or use a dryer sheet in the dry cycle. For those who are sensitive to these harsher chemicals, adding 0.5 cup (about 118 ml) of vinegar or borax to the wash can also help prevent static. People may also want to avoid synthetic materials, which create cling more easily than natural fabrics.
To reduce static in clothes that are being worn, people can use a moisturizer or lotion, both on the skin and on the clothing. Taking a dryer sheet and rubbing it on the fabric can help stop the attraction. Another method is to straighten out a metal clothes hanger and brush it down the inside of the clothes. There are also specially-made anti-static sprays that are available for purchase.