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Q & A: Dryer sheets and static cling

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Most recent answer: 05/18/2009
Q:
How do dryer sheets reduce static cling in the dryer? All the answers I can find to this question say that "positive particles" rub off the dryer sheets onto the clothes. This sounds fishy to me. Since the load of clothes is neutral going into the dryer, shouldn't the net charge be zero coming out? What's the real mechanism?
- Dawn (age 41)
Bar Harbor, ME, USA
A:
I really don't know how dryer sheets work but I can explain why the net charge in the machine can change from zero to positive (or negative).  Since there is a constant flow of hot air through the load, water molecules can acquire an ionic charge as they evaporate out of the clothes.  These charged molecules are then exhausted through a vent to the outside leaving a net charge inside.

LeeH

From what I've been able to find, the dryer sheets give off some conducting polymer. It allows current to flow to any charged spots, neutralizing them. Since there's a lot of metal in a dryer, and it's likely to be electrically grounded, I doubt that much net charge can build up. However, the cloth could acquire some charge, with the opposite charge in the dryer itself. That would happen in the same way that charge can build up whenever you rub a piece of cloth against some different material.

Mike W.

(published on 05/18/2009)

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