Everything in the world consists of tiny particles called “atoms.” Atoms contain even tinier particles called “protons,” “neutrons” and “electrons.”

Most atoms are neutral, which means the protons (positive-charge particles) are balanced with the electrons (negative-charge particles), so they cancel each other out.

Sometimes, however, the outer layer of an atom gets rubbed off. This creates atoms with a slightly positive charge.

The item that rubs off the outer layer of the atom “steals” some of the extra electrons, giving it a slightly negative charge. We call this built-up electric charge “static electricity.”

When you come in from playing in the snow and remove your hat, the hat rubs your hair and electrons move from your hair to the hat, creating a static charge. When objects have the same charge, they repel each other, which means they try to get as far from each other as possible.

This is why static electricity makes your hair stand up. Each hair has a negative charge and repels against the other hairs.

When people think of static electricity, they often think of the shock it can cause. If you have ever scooted your sock-covered feet across the carpet, you have probably experienced the zap of static electricity.

As you walk over carpet in socks, your feet rub electrons off the carpet, leaving you with a slightly negative static charge. When you reach for a doorknob, you get a shock as electrons jump from you to the knob, which conducts electricity.

You’ve probably noticed that static electricity is more noticeable during the winter months. This is because the air is very dry.

In the summer, the humidity and moisture in the air help electrons move more quickly, which makes it harder to build up a big static charge.


26 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi there, Angelina! We’re so excited that you commented today! We Wonder if something happened to all the old comments while we were tidying up Wonderopolis– We’ll be sure to check with our Wonder Friends to see if there are any comments that are out of place! Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

      We make sure that EVERYONE has a chance to comment at Wonderopolis– and we sure are glad you’re here now! Did you learn anything new about static electricity? :)

  1. We are studying electricity in our science class and we learned that our hair can contain static electricity.

    We also learned that static electricity is more noticeable during the winter months.

    • HOW cool! We’re so excited to hear that our Wonder Friends in Mrs. McWilliams Gr. 6 Science are WONDERing with us today! It’s SUPER that our Wonder connected to your lesson about static electricity! Thanks for sharing what you have learned, too! :-)

  2. Enjoyed the article Wonder! I am a first year teacher and enjoy your site! I look forward to using the site in the future.

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Ms. Inabinett! We’re thrilled you’re here and we look forward to WONDERing with you and your students soon! Have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

  3. Is static electricity the same as electricity if not then please explain why. I had a heated arguement with roommates and need clarification

    • Great question, Sean! While they are both electricity, static electricity is the build up of electrons while current electricity is the constant flow of electrons. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

    • We are glad you are enjoying WONDERopolis, montpellier fc transfers! There is a new WONDER posted each day, so be sure to check back soon! :)

  4. In my class we are doing static electricity for work and I’m supose to make a poster

    What would you say was the most Importent static electricity information to put on a poster?

    • Hello, Carly! This WONDER was filled with important information about static electricity. Where should we start? What was your favorite part or fact you learned? Remember when using information from somewhere it’s always important to cite your sources. The official Wonderopolis Permissions Policy states:

      Wonderopolis materials may be cited or excerpted in periodicals, books, and educational materials under the following stipulations:

        1. A URL of the material referenced is provided so that readers may access it online
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      Since our Wonders are sometimes updated, the proper way to cite the publishing date is to list the date you consulted our page for your research. Thanks for visiting WONDERopolis and WONDERing with us! Good luck on your poster, Carly! :)

    • Welcome back, fnaf123! We often experience static electricity in the winter time. Do you remember why? Keep up the great WONDERing! :)

    • Hello, papaburger! We hate to hear you are not enjoying your time at WONDERopolis. Did you know there are over 1,400 WONDERS for you to explore and a new WONDER of the Day every weekday? We are confident you can find something you WONDER about here. We hope you will continue to WONDER with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is static electricity?
  • Why do you sometimes get shocked when you touch a doorknob?
  • Why is static electricity more common in the winter?

Wonder Gallery

Wonder #98- Static Electricity Static Image2Vimeo Video

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What does cereal have to do with science? Get ready to snap, crackle and jump as you harness the power of static electricity to make cereal dance.


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Do you know Thomas Alva Edison? His genius gave us electric lights and a system that produced and delivered electrical power. Visit the online Edison Invents! exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to learn all about Edison and his many world-changing inventions.


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