How to Prevent Static Cling This Winter


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.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.