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For years now, I have been a veritable static machine, followed everywhere I go by clingy clothes, floating hair and enough periodic micro-shocks to power a small general hospital. And as someone who’s never been particularly keen on “science” or “understanding the reasons things happen,” I’ve never actually taken the time to figure out how to get rid of static cling. Instead, I’ve simply treated it as a mystery of nature and flat-out accepted that I’m prone to what I assume is just the air hating me more than most people.
The only culprit I’ve ever been able to pin-point? My luxurious mane. I have an exciting combo of hair that is both pretty long and incredibly fine. Before you ask, it’s extremely hard to maintain and has incurred a mountain of judgment, wrath and genuine distress from every hairdresser I’ve ever seen. That, combined with unintentionally upsetting some sort of Static Demon years ago (my best guess), means that I’m pretty constantly in static cling distress. In dry winters, I’ve developed a pure muscle-memory instinct to brace for shocks before touching my car door, any cats in the area or (unfortunately) my boyfriend. I keep my hair under a hat or in a tight bun where it can’t escape and potentially harm innocent bystanders. In other words, for all intents and purposes, I am the physical embodiment of static electricity for a good portion of the year.
Never once did it occur to me there was a solution for static cling—other than just kind of shrugging and accepting being cursed for the rest of my life. But it turns out there are a number of solutions online that don’t require anything other than a few common household items. I wondered—Carrie Bradshaw-style—could any of these everyday objects help me out of my staticky situation? I decided to test a few of these home remedies out for myself and see if any of them could free me from my clingy, shocky prison. And spoiler alert: A handful actually did.
Before perusing the internet, I turned to my mom to see what static cling remedies she recommended. She suggested flicking a little water on myself—a strategy that’s backed up by a bunch of sources online, and one that seems pretty obvious in hindsight. With mom wisdom in mind and hope in my heart, I set out to sprinkle water all over myself.
This strategy to get rid of static cling definitely worked. And as a bonus, it was totally free and didn’t require tracking down some bizarre piece of 1920s domestic life (safety pins—who has those?!). The only con here is that while water neutralizes the static pretty instantly, it can wear off pretty quickly. And if you’re as staticky as I am, this can mean a few too many trips to the sink.
2. A Metal Hanger
A lot of sources recommended running a metal clothes hanger over your clothes to discharge static cling on clothing. This sounds a lot like science, and I was very prone to trust it—but somehow, I couldn’t get it to work for me. I expected to hear some magical metallic crackling and be left completely cling-free, but instead, I was left exactly as staticky as I had come.
3. Dryer Sheets
Here’s something that might have immediately occurred to you upon reading this heading: Dryer sheets? Not super convenient, especially considering the going recommendation is to keep them in your pockets at all times. (I’m all for instant access, but I’m never going to stuff my skinny jeans with dryer sheets.)
These failed the home test and didn’t do much to alleviate The Cling. Thankfully, this meant I didn’t have to go full Bag Lady and carry them around everywhere with me. But also sort of unthankfully, because I did have to walk all the way to Rite Aid to buy dryer sheets for this static cling experiment.
Ah, well, at least I didn’t have to excuse myself from any conversations to casually rub myself down with a little sheet.
4. Homemade Static Guard
A few places recommend mixing in a capful of fabric softener with a spray bottle full of water and treating yourself to a little spritz when you’re getting clingy. This worked pretty well and lasted a long time—a whole afternoon free from static from one round of spritzes!—but the tradeoff is that you might, if you’re like me, forget to adjust the nozzle and get a little more than just a light splash.
On the plus side, though, it did leave me smelling aggressively fresh.
This was a solid, if distinct, second to the ol’ homemade static guard, in terms of static banishing. The only big difference between the two is that at the end of this one I smelled like a beauty pageant instead of like fresh laundry. I’d recommend it for spot treating in small quantities (it’s less volatile than a squirt bottle), but it shouldn’t be your go-to if you find yourself in a battle to the death with non-stop static cling. (Unless you’re a big fan of the smell of hairspray for some reason. In which case, go nuts.)
I was pretty not amped about lathering up with lotion to combat my static problem—mostly because feeling slimy is about as desirable as being shocky. But in reality, it only took a little lotion on my hands to rid me of static—even in my hair—for a fairly long time. So long, in fact, that it actually ruined my attempts to get re-staticky so I could test more solutions. So you could say it was helpful to an inconvenient degree.
TL;DR? If you suffer from unfair amounts of static electricity, like I do, reach for some lotion, grab some hairspray or take some time playing Mad Scientist and whip up your own fabric softener and water solution. Definitely don’t bother with dryer sheets or hangers. And if you’re in a pinch, remember your good ol’ pal h2o.
A version of this story was originally published in December 2014.