Is static in your clothes dangerous?

The crackles and sparks of static electricity that accompany taking off clothes made of man-made fibres can be pretty impressive, but they’re rarely life threatening. The amount of static that builds up on your clothes depends on the material and how dry the atmosphere is.

All fabrics have some tendency to build up a static charge, but synthetics like nylon, polyester and acrylic are particularly good at generating, and then holding on to, static charge. But whatever your clothes are made out of, nor how much you rub different layers together, if the air is humid the static charge will leak away into the atmosphere.

You can imagine that the Australian man who reportedly managed to burn a carpet as he walked over it, wished that it had been a rainy day or that he’d rethought his outfit. The story goes that he was wearing his best nylon jacket and woollen shirt for a job interview and as he walked into the building, the carpet beneath his feet started to scorch and make loud crackling noises. The fire brigade was called and when they finally tracked down the sparking candidate, they found he had 40,000 Volts across him. It just shows, it’s important to be well dressed for an interview.

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