November 27, 2006 11:26 PM   Subscribe

OK this might seem really silly but I'm having a static electricity problem and it's driving me insane. I don't seem to be able to go shopping anymore without getting loud painful zaps when I touch the shelving or even tins of food or anything with a foil cover, not to mention the shopping trolley. I'm sure this would be funny if it weren't so painful. It hapens when I'm driving too as soon as I step out of the car ZAP. It doesn't seem to matter what I'm wearing, if my hair is dry or wet....the weather..nothing. It's really making life a bit miserable...Any solutions?
posted by Civa to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Keep something conductive (like a metal key) handy, and touch it to things you might get a shock from. The charge will still go through your hand, but it won't jump from it, and so won't hurt.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:58 PM on November 27, 2006

But if it happens outside when it's raining... something else is going on!
posted by crabintheocean at 12:01 AM on November 28, 2006

This is just a fact of life in the winter, when the air has low humidity. You might experiment with different kinds of fabric softeners in the dryer, and I think there are some sprays you can try for car seats and the like (since sitting in an insulated car seat for a while is a common way to build up charge.) But really, it just seems to affect some people a lot more than others. The best way to deal with it is as crabintheocean said, get in the habit of using a key or coin or something else metallic to discharge yourself painlessly.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:01 AM on November 28, 2006

Stop wearing rubber-souled shoes.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:14 AM on November 28, 2006

I got it when I wore certain socks.. so I stopped..
posted by lundman at 12:38 AM on November 28, 2006

For the key thing.. When charge arcs to whatever you are touching (about to touch?), a large current flows through a very small area of skin. That leads to heat, which causes pain, and occasionally burns, I believe. When you hold a key, the contact area between you and the key is necessarily much larger. Less current per square area of skin leads to less energy per area, and on top of that the larger area has more thermal mass, so you get a lot less heat. No more pain.
posted by Chuckles at 12:46 AM on November 28, 2006

I feel like I nearly blew the tip off my finger on the filing cabinet this winter gone, about a dozen times. My colleagues suggested that I moisturise, either with hand cream, or by increasing the humidity in the office. I never tried it, so can't speak for the efficacy.
posted by b33j at 12:55 AM on November 28, 2006

as for the car problem it seems to me like it happens more when it is dusty and the car has a layer of dust on it, so wash your car. another thing i started doing with the car is closing the door by the glass window instead of the metal doorframe. i sympathize with you for this problem, because it can be tremendously discouraging and frustrating, even though it is in reality a minor pain. i used to dread getting out of the car or touching certain handles and such because i knew what was coming. hasn't bothered me in a while, though, so there's hope.
posted by farmersckn at 1:36 AM on November 28, 2006

I sympathize. I get this really bad too. Rainy days, sunny days, doesn't matter. To the point where my 3-year-old actually pointed out how strange it was, because you'd be able to hear each and every shock.

I carry around one of those fabric softener sheets in my pocket, and when I go shopping I rub my hands with it before touching the shelving, or the cans, or whatever. To touch the car door, I use it as you would use a tissue to pick up something gross. I look a bit OCD, but I figured I looked OCD when it appeared I was touching everything 3 times before moving on (I was actually trying to touch it quick to get the shock out of the way, but not doing it because it hurts!). On the really bad days, I'd also rub the dryer sheet across my hair. Every little bit helps.

Don't bother with those anti-static sprays. I tried that in the car hoping that it would help, but it did nothing except make the car smell weird.

Tapping whatever you're about to touch with a quarter worked pretty well for me, when I had a quater in my pocket.

But really, the dryer sheets made a world of a difference. Don't get the generic kinds though - the brand name ones really made the difference, unfortunately.
posted by Iamtherealme at 2:18 AM on November 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

This happens to me often when getting out of the car. After stepping out, I've gotten in the habit of tapping the window with a knuckle before grabbing and shutting the door. That seems to get the job done.

As for inside stores... I don't think there's much you can do (aside from ditching the rubber-soled shoes, as SCDB suggests). There's one store I visit semi-frequently in which I ALWAYS build up a charge when walking around. The minute I touch a shelf or metal door, *ZAP*. Must be the material they used for the flooring or something.
posted by jal0021 at 2:23 AM on November 28, 2006

New shoes? New underwear? New clothing of any sort? I have a similar problem and I think the insoles I bought for my shoes are causing it.

I work with plastics, winding and converting rolls, and that generates bolts that can leave marks. Lots of fun! Touching things with metal first is a good way to do it.
posted by tomble at 2:25 AM on November 28, 2006

I use an elbow to touch an object first if I am getting static shocks.
posted by rongorongo at 2:40 AM on November 28, 2006

Wearing a lot of polyester will contribute to the charge, as will the aforementioned rubber-soled shoes. I get the same thing. I've found that wearing a thumb-ring helps, since it's easier to use than a coin. On days when I have all my rings on (two on each hand, with a thumb and a pinky on the left hand that touch pretty much everything) I really don't get zapped at all.
posted by Jilder at 3:23 AM on November 28, 2006

Randomly enough, this WikiHow post showed up in my rss reader this morning.
posted by chrissyboy at 4:08 AM on November 28, 2006

I only have it around the car usually, but I use my elbow to hit the metal first. It still zaps, but you don't have enough nerves in the elbow for it to be painful.

I keep a grounded anti-static strip near the computer keyboard in the winter, it hooks to the screw in an outlet, since that one dry winter I touched the mouse and blew out the motherboard. Actually, it pretty much reduced a fairly new computer to a smoldering heap of rubble, all I could salvage was the drive. We usually don't get that dry/cold though.

I'd be tempted to blame something in your clothing, look for any synthetic fabrics, they're bad for that. Or your shoes.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:40 AM on November 28, 2006

When getting out of the car, securely grasp the metal of the door or door frame before putting your foot on the ground.
posted by krisjohn at 4:47 AM on November 28, 2006

I always get shocked in the winter too. I bump my car door with my hip/backside before I close it, so when I do get shocked (and I will), it hardly hurts at all.
posted by chiababe at 4:59 AM on November 28, 2006

krisjohn beat me to it.

Grasp the metal door frame before getting out of the car. I sympathize, though. I get terrible static shocks at the office. I've never found any solution for those. Filing cabinets, door knobs, metal screws, etc... Painful and embarrassing because I always jump. I think my office mates think I'm a little nuts.
posted by lyam at 6:21 AM on November 28, 2006

Is your skin really dry lately? Use moisturizer and carry a sheet of fabric softener around with you.
posted by hooray at 6:37 AM on November 28, 2006

ditto rongorongo except when this happens to me (it stopped a few months ago, but I still have the habit) I habitually brush whatever metal I pass with the back of my knuckles. It doesn't sting as much when the shock happens and discharges whatever static in time for when I touch whatever else might zap me from the more sensitive fingertips or inside of hand.
posted by devbrain at 6:42 AM on November 28, 2006

There is a product called Static Guard. Spray it on the bottom of your shoes and you are golden...
posted by nineRED at 7:25 AM on November 28, 2006

Another vote for moisturise.
I used to get static shocks all the time. Combination of wollen slacks and hairy, manly legs :). Moisturising them really cut it down.
posted by Arthur Dent at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2006

I used to get this quite a lot. It seems to come and go in phases: I'll have it for 6 months and then spend 3 years without it happening again. My guess is it's a clothing/footwear thing.

Anyway, something I have noticed when experiencing this (and from playing with those shocker games, like the russian roulette and so on) is that the pain element seems to be caused by your muscles being forced to spasm (from the electrical signal). I found that if I clenched my fist and then touched the metal object first (car door, etc) then the "zap" would happen and be painless, and I could then continue without fear of getting blasted. You can also use this to your advantage with those shocker games; if you tense the muscles in your arm and hand then the "shock" is significantly reduced. I'm guessing this is at least in part why other posters above have found that using knuckles or elbows is a good way to dissipate it, because in doing so (at least in my head) you would have to tense those muscles to achieve it.

Of course, YMMV, but this worked for me. Maybe I'm just a freak ;)
posted by jon4009 at 9:07 AM on November 28, 2006

When getting out of the car, securely grasp the metal of the door or door frame before putting your foot on the ground.

Nope. Tried that and all it meant was that I was securely grasping the door when it shocked me the moment my ass left the seat.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:26 AM on November 28, 2006

And Static Guard works for all of ten seconds.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:27 AM on November 28, 2006

If your fingernails are long enough, you can touch the metal object with a nail to discharge the static. That's if you don't have a key or coin handy - it still hurts a little, but not as much as a fingertip. I find that anything covered by clothing (hip, elbow, etc) doesn't discharge sufficiently to make a difference, so I'm surprised to hear that this works for some people. Rock on, you lucky folks!
posted by Quietgal at 9:34 AM on November 28, 2006

I brush the back of my hand across doors before I push them open. It's become such a habit that I do it all the time. Still shocks (when there's a charge) but not painful.
posted by phearlez at 10:27 AM on November 28, 2006


Been neurotic about this all my life. I shut my car door in the manner mentioned by lyam, and I carry something like a coin or key around all day in the office to avoid shocks. I'm sure my officemates think I'm OCD or something.
posted by everichon at 1:44 PM on November 28, 2006

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