'Why Do I Keep Shocking Everything I Touch?' Here's How to Get Rid of Static Electricity

There's a reason you may notice it more in the winter.

If you rub a balloon against your clothes or wear socks on a carpet, you may feel a light shock. This is due to built-up static electricity, which is an imbalance of electric charges between two things. That imbalance causes a discharge that feels like a physical shock. It's normal, but if you're experiencing frequent, annoying static shocks on the daily, you may be wondering: "Why do I keep shocking everything I touch?"

Keep reading for an expert's explanation as to why these shocks can happen, and how to get rid of static electricity as well—hopefully preventing those unwelcome zaps!

Why do I keep shocking everything I touch?

Excess static electricity is always a shock to the system—literally—but if you're experiencing shocks more so than not, annoying is an understatement. It can be downright distracting and cause you to want to get to the bottom of it.

It is a bit of a phenomenon, though the general idea is that two things (including people) that have opposing amounts of electricity will cause a discharge that feels a bit like a jolt or that makes an audible zap upon touching.

Your hair may even stand up—without the help of a balloon or a fuzzy rug.

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What's happening is that atoms aren't balanced with the same number of protons and electrons. When electrons and protons are balanced, the charge is neutral, according to LibreTexts.org. But when there is an imbalance of electrons and protons, the extra electrons will deplete so that they can meet the protons where they're at.

Losing the electrons at such a quick rate produces a palpable shock known as a static electric shock.

Parade consulted Dr. Michael Morse, Ph.D., an electrical injury expert.

"Static shocks occur when you build up a charge on your body. In dry air, merely passing through the air can leave a charge," Dr. Morse says.

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It's true—static electric shocks tend to happen more often when the weather is colder and dryer since there is less moisture in the air. Without that necessary humidity, electricity builds up in our bodies instead.

That electricity needs to get out somehow, so it discharges whenever it comes in contact with something that isn't balanced the same as your body. This will typically happen when you touch something metal—like a car door or knob.

The science of shocks aside, if it keeps happening to you, the question remains: "Why do I keep shocking everything I touch?"

"You keep building up a charge and then coming into contact with things that can release your charge so it can return to the earth," Dr. Morse explains. "We tend to feel shocks above a certain threshold. The fact that you are carrying an electrical charge above that threshold means that you will feel the shock."

In layman's terms, your body has collected too much built-up electricity and that's why you keep shocking everything. Chances are, your shocks are probably more frequent during the cold, dry winter and that alone could be the cause.



Symptoms of too much electricity in the body

An electric current runs through the tissues of our body, Better Health Channel explains. Since our bodies conduct electricity and build up an excess during the colder, dryer weather, there are some symptoms to look out for.

The nerves can be negatively affected by an electric shock as high as 100 milliamperes and may even experience long-lasting damage. A shock that high in voltage can cause confusion, amnesia, seizure, cardiac or respiratory arrest, psychiatric disorders, and/or marks on the skin.

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However, static electricity shocks are usually only 0.25 mA, so the repercussions are much less dangerous. Symptoms of excess electricity in the body may include:

  • Frequent shocks

  • Pain

  • Numbness to the area

  • Sensitivity to touch

  • Pins and needles sensation

  • Feeling cold

  • Prickling, pinching or burning—particularly in the hands or feet

  • Other symptoms of nerve damage

According to Dr. Morse, the risk of suffering an injury from a standard static shock is relatively low.

"This is so dependent on the type of shock and the pathway of the shock through the body and the duration of the shock," Dr. Morse explains. "A bird can sit on a 7000-volt wire and suffer no harm. A brief shock from household wiring under the right circumstances can fibrillate the heart. Shocks with higher energy can cause nerve damage or even greater energy can cause burns."

Dr. Morse adds, "The human body has limited capacity to carry a static charge so the chance of an injury from the static charge that a person can carry is very small. Retracting rapidly from being shocked does occasionally cause injuries."

How to get rid of static electricity from the body

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms—including frequent static electric shocks—it's no lost cause. You can "cope," so to speak, by doing a few things known to alleviate excess static electricity. After all, removing static electricity is all about giving the charge an alternative way out.

"The way to remove a static charge is to create pathways for the charge to dissipate," Dr. Morse explains. "One solution is to not wear insulating shoes. Another is to frequently touch things that will release your charge to ground."

Here are some more tips for removing static electricity from the body:

  • Use a humidifier to add more moisture into indoor air and prevent charge build-up

  • Moisturize your skin to avoid shocks outdoors

  • Apply anti-static spray to carpets, rugs and clothes

  • Use baking soda in the laundry

  • Add dryer sheets to the dryer

  • Avoid wearing wool, fur, rubber-soled shoes and synthetic fibers that are prone to electricity build-up; wear leather instead

  • Attach a safety pin to your clothes while wearing them

  • Touch metal objects frequently to dispel those charges and get excess out of the body

  • Avoid touching metal altogether

  • Add wool dryer balls to the dryer

How to prevent static shock when touching metal

Touching metal objects—like a door handle, car door or a window frame, to name a few—often causes a static shock. This is because metal holds a positive charge and when you touch a metal object, the extra electrons in your body transfer to the object to net it out.

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"Metal is just a convenient conductive pathway on the charge's return to ground," Dr. Morse says. "If one remembers that they are carrying the charge, all that they need to do is to do things that dissipate the charge or prevent it from building up to the point that when there is a discharge, they feel a shock. The key is to always keep the charge below the threshold of feeling a shock."

To prevent static shock when touching metal, you can carry a metal object around with you. Something like a key, paper clip, safety pin, or even a coin will neutralize a charge and prevent the shock. But in order for this to work, you must touch the metal object to the other metal object instead of touching it with your hand.

Specifically, when getting out of the car, hold onto the metal part of the door before getting up from the seat and placing your feet on the outside ground. This reroutes the charge from your body so it doesn't shock you.

Alternatively, you can also reroute the charge by touching the glass window even before you touch the metal door.

Next up, how to properly write a check so you never have to Google it again.