A Laundry Experiment — 10 Ways to Reduce Static Cling

posted by Andrea | 02/14/2011

Over the past several weeks I’ve noticed our clothes seem to have lots of static cling. We’ve literally been “shocking” ourselves everytime we get dressed!

I didn’t know if it was the new house, the new furnace, the new washer and dryer, or just dry West Michigan winter weather…but I knew it needed to change.

So, I conducted a little laundry experiment…

What is Static Cling?

The following is a direct quote from WhatIsStaticCling.com:

“Static cling is a property of substances that make them cling to each other because of opposite electrical charges. When the conditions are dry and two different kinds of materials come in contact with each other, sometimes there is an exchange of electrons between the two substances. This exchange of electrons leaves one substance with a positive charge and the other with a negative charge. Basic laws of science state that unlike charges attract, thus the two substances will attract one another, which is termed as static cling.”

So to put it simply:

When conditions are very dry {like in a dryer} and two materials are are rubbed together {like in a dryer} electrons can cause those two materials to stick together — a.k.a. Static Cling.

How can you eliminate Static Cling?

Good Question! I asked about static cling on Facebook a week ago and got all kinds of great ideas to try.

So this past week I did about 347 loads of laundry in order to try out each of the suggested methods. I washed everything from rugs, towels, sheets, and blankets, to sweaters, dress pants, and even winter coats. I learned a ton about static cling and am fully caught up on all our laundry!

The following is a list of ideas given to me via Facebook. Some of them worked better than others, and many of them are FREE!

1. Humidifier: Using a humidifier can help reduce static cling by making your home “less dry” — but it’s not the most practical, especially for dry Michigan winters.

2. Lotion: rubbing lotion on your legs and arms before getting dressed really helps to reduce static cling. I also tried putting lotion on my hands right before folding the laundry, which seemed to help.

3. Hair Spray: If you’re wearing something with static cling, simply spray a bit of hairspray on that area. Problem fixed! I was a bit hesitant to try this because I thought it would make my clothes sticky, but it didn’t.

4. Dryer Sheet: Keep a few extra dryer sheets in your purse or car and rub them on areas of clingy clothing. I use this method whenever my skirt or dress clings to my tights. {I’ve been doing this forever and it’s always been a quick fix}

5. Damp Rag: Put a damp rag into the dryer at the end of the dryer cycle. I was surprised that this method did work pretty well, however our fleece items still were pretty staticy.

6. Hanging Clothes to Dry: This obviously doesn’t work as well in the winter…and I also don’t like the feeling of my clothes when they hang to dry, but it’s a great eco-option that DOES help to reduce static cling.

7. Dryer Balls: I tried these dryer balls but they really didn’t seem to help with our static cling issue. I gave them a really good effort, but they are now at the bottom of my Goodwill bag!

8. Tin Foil: I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous to try this method. Something about putting tinfoil in the dryer just doesn’t sound like a smart idea…but I tried it. And I it did help.

9. Safety Pins: Seriously, I had never heard of this before, but I gave it a shot, and it worked REALLY well. All I did was pin two safety pins on two different items in the dryer and everything came out static free!

10: Vinegar: I’ve actually been using vinegar for the last couple of weeks so I know it works well. Just pour about 1/4 c. of white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser on your washing machine. You should have no need for a dryer sheet — and NO, you can’t smell the vinegar. {if you’re interested, here are 9 other uses for vinegar.}

What worked the best?

Hands down, the best solution {in my opinion} is combining the vinegar and the safety pins. After about 286 loads of laundry, that combo seemed to work the best. Plus, it’s  eco-friendly — and practically free!

Another thing I learned is that using less detergent and washing your clothing less frequently also helps to reduce static cling.

Did I miss something?

What are your best static cling solutions?

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62 comments

  1. Sue

    02/14/2011

    I use static guard.. on my hair.. I cannot stand when it attacks me..LOL
    or just run the hair brush under the facuet when running with cool water.

    I only use dryer sheets when I am drying fleece.. it is just bad.. but I really do not like to use dryers sheets.

    I hang alot of our laundryto dry.. so that cuts down too..

    I am a big fan of the humidifier.. when we bought our house 10 years ago the one attached to the heater did not work and I did not want to pay to replace it.. So we got a hand me down whole house one.. it looks like a piece of furniture. You do have to fill it with water about every 3-4 days..BUT It cut down so much of the zapping of each other. It is a simple appliance.. just a fan and the motor that moves the filter. (My dog was very happy about getting this she was getting tired of getting zapped everytime we went to pet her ) .!

    We buy one filter a year at sears and the cost is about 10.00 a year and the water.

    Sue in NJ

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I never thought to use static guard on my hair! Although, I have pretty short hair now so it doesn’t get very staticy.

    And thanks for the info about the humidifier! I’ll have to look into that.

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    I grew up with long hair, and my mom taught me to spritz a little Static Guard on my hair brush. It works!

    [Reply]

  2. Keri M.

    02/14/2011

    I noticed that when we started to line-dry our clothes for environmental and economical reasons, we also eliminated static cling. Bonus! Now, even if I through the clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes to soften them, they are not getting overly hot and static-y. I’m pretty sure our static was from the clothes getting overly hot and bothered.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the tip Keri,

    One of the first things I want to do once the weather gets warmer is install a clothesline in our back yard — and now I have another good reason to do that!

    [Reply]

    Keri M. Reply:

    Yes, actually hanging an outdoor line is a Spring project of mine too. In the winter, our indoor air is so dry that the clothes dry just fine in the basement.

    [Reply]

  3. J

    02/14/2011

    Another timely article . I thought it was the dryer sheets we were using. I look forward to trying these tricks.

    [Reply]

  4. Miko's Girl

    02/15/2011

    Great advice. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  5. Melissa

    02/15/2011

    Love that you tested all this! I use 5-6 dryer balls and really like them, but they don’t totally eliminate the problem. Crazy that the safety pins work. I’m going to give that a try. And I can attest to the vinegar working for this and many other things. Great list!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Melissa! I figured this little experiment would be a good excuse to get all caught up on laundry…and it was!

    [Reply]

  6. Melissa

    02/15/2011

    I love projects that have double benefits like that!

    [Reply]

  7. oh amanda

    03/01/2011

    Seriously. That’s genius!

    [Reply]

  8. Cathie

    03/18/2011

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!
    Static electricity is the bane of my winter existence. I am absolutely going to try the safety pin-thing. (I already use vinegar sometimes, but mostly I considered it a cheaper version of fabric softener. I guess I should ditch the softener, and just use the vinegar, huh?)
    Now, how do I keep from getting shocked when I open the file cabinet after getting up out of my synthetically covered seat???

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Cathie! I’ve had great luck with my vinegar and safety pins…so yes, you should try it again!

    And unfortunately, I don’t have a great solution for your “shocking” file cabinet :) My in-laws had a similar problem and they installed a humidifier on their furnace. That seemed to solve the problem.

    [Reply]

  9. Franny Frugal

    03/22/2011

    I’ve read one of the biggest contributor to static cling is over-drying. If you adjust the drying time down until the clothes are just barely dry there is NO STATIC CLING! Thankfully my dryer has an “ECO” option that judges when clothes are dry and it seems to be the perfect amount of time. Occasionally I’ll find waist bands or thicker clothing pieces still a little damp, but I hang them up and they dry super quick in the dry desert air we have here in Utah.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, you are totally right. Over-drying clothes can also cause static cling.

    I often hang our items in the summer time — but cold Michigan winters definitely require a dryer!

    [Reply]

  10. Megan

    03/22/2011

    I have heard about using vinegar as well, but I’ve always heard that it should be added when you would normally add fabric softener. (I’ve never used fabric softener so I’m not sure at what point in the process this would be.) Do you just add your vinegar at the beginning? I usually throw my laundry in before I go to work and dry it when I get home, so I’m not around to add anything mid-cycle.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’ve had experience with both top loading and front loading washers and I’ve always just put the vinegar in the “fabric softener dispenser” right at the beginning of the wash cycle {same time I add the detergent and clothing}.

    If you have a top loading washer, there should be a small cup in the center of the machine {when you lift up the lid} — add the vinegar there. If you have a front loading washer, there should be a pull-out compartment towards the top. Pull it out and you should see a spot for “fabric softener”.

    Hope this helps!

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    Thanks so much!

    [Reply]

    Ryan Reply:

    We used to have an old machine that didn’t have a fabric softener dispenser, so I used vinegar in a downy ball for a no hassle alternative.

    [Reply]

  11. Tammy

    07/06/2011

    I finally tried this today and I’m sold! I used the vinegar and safety pins. So excited to simplify another area of my life.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay — so glad you like this method too! it really does simplify our laundry routine!

    [Reply]

  12. I save money by not buying… | Farewell, Office.

    07/26/2011

    [...] static, right? The scent is just an added bonus. I read Simple Organized Living’s post on How to Reduce Static Cling and took her advice rather than conducting 347 experimental loads myself. I have been using vinegar [...]

  13. Homemade Laundry Detergent | Skipper Clan

    09/19/2011

    [...] I often spent $3-$4 on a bottle designed to wash 32 loads of clothes. After having success using vinegar in place of fabric softener, I thought this seemed like the next logical [...]

  14. sarah

    09/28/2011

    I’ve found that in the height of winter when the inside air is dryer than the desert I need every trick in the book. Vinegar is a great fabric softner and reduces the static cling double bonus. I’m a committed line dryer and use my drying racks over our forced air heat registers (ours are in the floor ) for 2 reasons: drying my families clothes without the added cost of running the dryer and I increase the humidity level in the house without a humidifier (they just don’t seem to last anyway)

    [Reply]

  15. Dawn

    11/09/2011

    Thanks for your time in doing this experiment as well as sharing your results.

    I think I am going to try the safety pin idea but I am wondering if I could pin two small rags instead of a couple of the wet laundry items to throw into the dryer with each load (reusing the rags without having to remove the safety pins each time) if it would work as well. Or will the rags have to be wet in order to work.

    Going to give it a try.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes Dawn — I’m certain it would work to just pin a rag… and I don’t think the rag would have to be wet. It will naturally get a little damp tumbling around with all the wet clothing.

    [Reply]

  16. Can Clothes Really Be Static & Toxin Free?

    12/10/2011

    [...] garments in the dryer had the biggest impact.  She did the experiment so you don’t have to (see http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/14/a-laundry-experiment-10-ways-to-reduce-static-cling/ for her [...]

  17. dev

    01/21/2012

    I have been using vinegar for awhile and love it! I have an HE FL machine and I find(so I don’t have to actually measure) I reuse an old plastic coffee creamer bottle and fill it half with water and half vinegar. And then I poor up to the max. line in the fabric softener dispenser. I’ve found if I try to eyeball the right amount I use too much and the clothes still smell like vinegar after being dried. My husband HATES any static or vinegar smell and he can’t tell the difference between loads treated with vinegar or fabric softener. Even the kids polyester fleece blankets are soft and static free!

    [Reply]

  18. Camille

    01/30/2012

    I’m a little late to the party here, but I thought I would mention soap nuts. When I switched to using soap nuts to do laundry, the static cling disappeared!

    [Reply]

    Sandy Reply:

    what are soap nuts… what are they made of and where do you get them?

    [Reply]

  19. Priscilla

    02/08/2012

    The Safety Pin idea worked, thank you! I purposely did not put vinegar in the wash cycle…and tested the safety pins (put some in an old clean sock) in my dryer with blankets that are always full of static when coming out of the dryer.

    [Reply]

  20. Melissa

    02/14/2012

    Just wondering what size safety pins? And for the vinegar. What is someone has very sensitive skim or is allergic to vinegar? And I have made my own laundry soap and it works really good. The only thing it does not work for is my sons blankets and sheets after he has had an accident on them. But other than that I have saved so much on my Laundry soap its crazy.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Melissa, any size safety pink should work — it’s just the metal that is needed.
    Also, I don’t have any information about people who are allergic to vinegar… however, vinegar should be fine for anyone with sensitive skin. It doesn’t have hard chemicals like store-bought fabric softener.

    [Reply]

  21. Sandy Weatherwax

    03/11/2012

    safety pins? seriously? can it possibly be so simple? There is a product called Static Cling that seems to work fine… but not sure about the chemicals that may exist there… safety pins, huh? hmm! what a surprise… ‘k … I’ll have to try this… just too good to be true! lol!

    [Reply]

  22. Sandy

    03/11/2012

    I’m really interested in the Vinegar in place of dryer sheets… Static cling is still an issue with the dryer sheets-not as bad as without-but still there. And as time goes by, using dryer sheets , the clothes develop a film on them that almost makes them water proof… like the washrags… and towels… has anyone else noticed that… and the residue builds up on the dryer screen too! Several times I’ve taken the screen to the sink with a brush and scrubbed the heck out of it… and it took quite a bit of elbow grease to clean it… and I was still unable to get all the residue off the screen… but that’s a fire hazard-all that residue can catch fire… and- well you know from there… what can happen.I will definitely try the vinegar! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Sandy, I’ve noticed that build-up on my towels for sure. They actually don’t dry as well if you use fabric softener! I think you’ll love using vinegar b/c over time, it will actually remove the soapy/waxy build-up on your clothes that has accumulated from left-over fabric softener and detergent.

    [Reply]

  23. Jen

    04/08/2012

    Andrea, THANK YOU for your safety pin idea! I figured making my own “sheet” full of pins would be even better! I pinned a bunch of safety pins all around a clean square dishcloth, making sure the pins wouldn’t snag on anything. So far, it has worked perfectly and we haven’t needed to use dryer sheets! We also live near Houston, a humid area, but static still happens. I have also read that overdrying causes more static, so we are careful not to overdry and the homemade “dryer sheet” is all we need. I have also noticed less lint to clean from the dryer. I also started making my own detergent, but have been using vinegar in my Downy ball for several years now (the name brand fabric softener dispenser ball that releases on its own in the wash). I am getting used to my clothes just smelling fresh and clean as opposed to perfumey, and I am excited about the money we are saving!

    I found an even easier way to make my own laundry detergent. I tried the liquid method, but it was too messy and time consuming, so I switched to making powdered detergent, but hated grating the soap (and part of my hand sometimes). I found a method, which I have deemed the “poof method”, where you MICROWAVE the bar soap and it poofs up and dries, so it doesn’t need to be hand grated! After it cools, it is dry and then you grind it in the food processor and add it to borax and washing soda! It comes out much finer and powdery than just grating soap (I also tried to make the grated soap finer in the food processor, but it just turned it to pellets, so the microwave method works the best!) I used Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Soap. I forgot how much it was, but I got three bars for less than $5 (which was cheaper than the one bar of Dr. Bronner’s lavender bar soap I bought at the same time. I didn’t know about the poof method when I made detergent with Dr. Bronner’s the first time last month, so I don’t know its poofability ;-). The Kirk’s soap is all natural and has a light clean scent. I live in Texas, so I purchased it in the natural products section of H.E.B. (which is only in Texas and a few in Mexico). It can be ordered online and I am sure can be found at other local stores. I microwaved one bar for 90 seconds in a square glass dish and the middle part didn’t poof up, so I scraped out the part that did and zapped the unpoofed part again for another few minutes, and it worked. The second bar I tried poofed up after 4 or 5 minutes straight and didn’t need to be repoofed. After I let the poofed soap cool a bit, I ground it up in my little Cusinart food processor, then added it to the borax and washing soda. I got the microwave method from this blog (I also credited your safety pin method on his blog!): http://www.myearthgarden.com/2010/08/simple-homemade-laundry-detergent-powder/

    Sorry this post is so long, but I am so excited about this, I wanted everyone to know how easy and economical it is!

    [Reply]

    Penny O Reply:

    THANK YOU for the powdered soap recipe! I’ve been hesitant to make the liquid due to not having a dedicated big pot, or a funnel, or 2 gallon containers. I’ll be copying your recipe to my pinterest site.

    Thanks again!

    [Reply]

  24. Brian

    04/10/2012

    It never says on the the Amazon product description that those dryer balls reduce static from what I can see. We have a couple and they do as described. They help reduce the drying time somewhat. Just thought you might want to fix that since that is not the intended use for the product!

    [Reply]

  25. Kate

    06/20/2012

    I know i’m pretty late in joining this article but i since i’ve gone to soapnuts i almost never need to use any sort of fabric softener or static guard. From what i’ve read most of the static on our clothing and elsewhere often results from the man made chemicals we use and synthethic fibers. If i’m doing a large load of synthetics materials i might include a flannel rag that’s been soaked in fabric softener and allowed to dry in with the cloths or i’ll try the vinegar in with the wash but i’ve only had to do this twice since i’ve begun using the soapnuts.

    [Reply]

  26. Tia

    10/08/2012

    I have an issue with dog hair sticking to our clothes that is the main reason I use dryer sheets they help the clothes come out of the dyer dog hair free do you think one of these tricks will work for that.

    [Reply]

  27. Whit

    11/10/2012

    Have you ever tried wool dryer balls?? I made mine own for a few dollars and they work great! I use two at a time for a load in my dryer. Not only does the wool absorb the static, it helps your clothes dry faster. I love them!

    [Reply]

  28. RD

    01/29/2013

    it also helps to use organic clothes like cotton and not man made ones like polyester.

    i’ve been using vinegar in my laundry for years, it works most of the times, like i said, organic materiaal is best any day of the year.

    [Reply]

  29. Monica

    02/20/2013

    Do you not worry about the safety pins rusting? I would be afraid I’d forget to put them on/or remove them afterwards.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Monica, I actually just pin the safety pins on an old rag and throw the rag in the drier with each load. Also, the safety pins shouldn’t rust because they aren’t wet — they only go in the dryer :)

    [Reply]

  30. Linda Phillips

    03/21/2013

    Do you find you have to switch out your safety pins after a certain number of loads. I had about 10 loads come out static free and now have a load that just came out with a lot of static.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well, I guess I don’t really know because I have a small dish of safety pins in our laundry room so I’m always just grabbing a couple at random. This would be very interesting to know though!
    I know that in our home, it’s much dryer in the winter time and our clothes get more staticy in the winter (especially this time of year) so that could be part of it too?

    [Reply]

  31. dee

    04/15/2013

    I usually use vinegar in the
    Rinse with
    a few drops of essential oils, but more important is the types of clothing materials that are dried together, don’t dry cotton with synthetics -sox and shirts I will be trying the safety pins next!

    [Reply]

  32. Leslie A

    06/28/2013

    Thanks for the idea! I felt the same way about the foil, but tried it anyway…with some success. Vinegar works…sort of. I am looking forward to trying the safety pins! I haven’t heard that one before :)

    [Reply]

  33. Joie

    09/07/2013

    I was using the vinegar and safety pins and it either great, then it seemed to stop working…..this seems like a silly question, but do I need to swap out pins after a while?

    [Reply]

    Joie Reply:

    I didn’t read the above comments before posting obviously wasn’t a silly question after all. Looks like ill go but a box and see if it helps to switch them.

    [Reply]

  34. Teresa

    01/04/2014

    Thanks for the ideas! I switched to wool dryerballs and vinegar and just recently with the cold started getting static. I will try the pins! Thanks!

    [Reply]

  35. Buffin

    01/12/2014

    I was told never to put vinegar into my high efficiency washer by the manufacturer. Were they just trying to get me to buy special laundry products?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Honestly, I don’t feel qualified to answer that for you. All I can say is that I’ve ALWAYS used vinegar in my front-loading HE washer and never had any issues.

    [Reply]

  36. Bets

    01/19/2014

    I am trying to reduce chemical expose so decided to try and do laundry without adding fabric softener to the wash load and dry sheets to the dryer. I purchased some wool dryer balls and their website indicated that they do not help with static cling. They are meant to help soften the clothes and reduce drying time. Their site suggested pinning 2 items together with 2 safety pins. I took 2 rags and pinned them together as I did not want to risk damaging the clothes. No luck. I then took and put the pins into the 3 dryer balls (so 6 very large pins in total) and added two balls of crumbled tin foil. No luck. The most success I have had was taking and separating the clothes after they came out of the wash – drying cottons only with cottons, and poly/nylon with poly/nylon. Its winter in Minnesota. I am going to try the vinegar as I have read that elsewhere.

    [Reply]

  37. Kathleen K

    01/29/2014

    Used 1/4 cup white vinegar and 2 binder clips (couldn’t find safety pins!) on a load of 5 fleece blankets – not a snap, crackle or pop outta them when folding them! And yup, no vinegar smell on the blankets either!
    Thanks for doing the experiments! I’d been searching for a home remedy this dry winter!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Kathleen — glad you found something that worked!

    [Reply]

  38. Linda Draper

    02/04/2014

    Thanks for the great ideas! I am off to the sewing room now to find the safety pins!

    [Reply]

  39. max

    02/13/2014

    I used computer hard drive anti-static bag and it worked! Just put in the dryer with my clothes. could not find any safety pins around the house!

    [Reply]

    ashleydenise Reply:

    LOVE this idea! Have a bunch of those!

    [Reply]

  40. Shannon

    02/26/2014

    Hi Andrea….found your blog via a post by How To Instructions on Facebook. Having a great time reading your posts.

    I have been using dryer balls for about 7 years now and the trick to not getting/reducing static cling is to not over dry the clothes. If, when the dry cycle is done, I feel that they need a bit more time I either put a bit of water in my dryer balls (there is a hole in the side….I just squeeze the ball and let it go under running water to fill it a little bit) or I put in a damp face cloth. I also use vinegar in my front loader (when I remember)

    Take care!

    [Reply]