How to Prevent Static Cling This Winter

iStock
iStock

As we get deeper into winter, getting dressed to go outside becomes an ordeal. Not only do we have to worry about wearing enough layers to stay warm, we also have to deal with static electricity giving our garments a life of their own.

If you’re hoping to tackle static cling head-on this season, it helps to first understand the science behind why it happens. TIME recently spoke with two experts, Rutgers University biomedical engineering professor Troy Shinbrot and George Mason University professor of earth sciences Robert Hazen, about why this sticky phenomenon becomes so pervasive once the temperatures drop.

According to Shinbrot, the culprit is an excess of either positive or negative electrical charge. All atoms contain both positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. When balanced in number, these charges cancel each other out; but when two objects make contact, electrons can come dislodged from their original atoms and jump to another, disrupting the object's “neutral” charge.

The “cling” part comes in when these imbalanced atoms start sticking together. Opposites attract, atomically speaking, so when wool tights with too much positive charge are introduced to a dress with a neutral or negative charge, the protons in the tights will adhere to the electrons in the dress. Like charges, on the other hand, repel each other. If you get a bunch of positively charged atoms in one place the protons will push away from one another. This is why your hair sometimes acts like it wants to float off your head after you brush it. “Like people on a crowded beach who want to put space between themselves, they all stand up and spread out,” Hazen told TIME.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of why static cling is at its worst in the winter. For that we’ll need to shift gears briefly from atomic physics to meteorology: According to WCCO Minneapolis meteorologist Chris Shaffer, cold air means dry air (anyone who’s gone through multiple bottles of hand cream in January can attest to this).

In the summertime, water molecules in the air attract most surplus protons or electrons around you, so charges on your clothes or hair rarely stay imbalanced long enough for you to notice them. But when the air outside is cold and ill-equipped to retain moisture, these charges can quickly get out of control.

That doesn’t mean you’re forced to live with static cling until spring rolls around. There are ways to take the seasonal annoyance into your own hands: When getting dressed in the morning, keep a spray bottle filled with water and a tablespoon of fabric softener nearby. A spritz or two should be enough to tame sticky fabrics when the air is dry. For static that disrupts your 'do, a little hair spray will work to the same effect. And it's important not to underestimate the power of dryer sheets. The positively charged material combats the negative charges that build up as your clothes dry, and they can even be used outside the laundry room to wipe down unruly hair.

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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The Reason Dogs Are Terrified of Thunderstorms—And How You Can Help

The face of a dog who clearly knows that a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
The face of a dog who clearly knows that a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Charles Deluvio, Unsplash

Deafening thunder can be a little scary even for a full-grown human who knows it’s harmless, so your dog’s terror is understandable. But why exactly do thunderstorms send so many of our pawed pals into a tailspin?

Many dogs are distressed by unexpected loud noises—a condition known as noise aversion, or noise phobia in more severe cases—and sudden thunderclaps fall into that category. What separates a wailing siren or fireworks show from a thunderstorm in a dog's mind, however, is that dogs may actually realize a thunderstorm is coming.

As National Geographic explains, not only can dogs easily see when the sky gets dark and feel when the wind picks up, but they can also perceive the shift in barometric pressure that occurs before a storm. The anxiety of knowing loud noise is on its way may upset your dog as much as the noise itself.

Static electricity could also add to this anxiety, especially for dogs with long and/or thick hair. Tufts University veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, who also co-founded the Center for Canine Behavior Studies, told National Geographic that a static shock when brushing up against metal may heighten your dog’s agitation during a storm.

It’s difficult to nail down why each dog despises thunderstorms. As Purina points out, one could simply be thrown off by a break from routine, while another may be most troubled by the lightning. In any case, there are ways to help calm your stressed pet.

If your dog’s favorite spot during a storm is in the bathroom, they could be trying to stay near smooth, static-less surfaces for fear of getting shocked. Suiting them up in an anti-static jacket or petting them down with anti-static dryer sheets may help.

You can also make a safe haven for your pup where they’ll be oblivious to signs of a storm. Purina behavior research scientist Ragen T.S. McGowan suggests draping a blanket over their crate, which can help muffle noise. For dogs that don’t use (or like) crates, a cozy room with drawn blinds and a white noise machine can work instead.

Consulting your veterinarian is a good idea, too; if your dog’s thunderstorm-related stress is really causing issues, an anti-anxiety prescription could be the best option.

[h/t National Geographic]