It’s that time of year again — static is the most wonderful time of the year’s unfortunate side effect. That’s why you keep finding your hair standing on end, your clothes sticking together, and your doorknobs charged.
So what gives? At the most simple level, static is the buildup of a positive or negative electrical charge. It often happens when two objects rub against each other and get their atoms in a jumble. This atomic confusion results in an imbalance in charges that makes objects attract one another.
“If, after rubbing against the metal insides of your dryer, your sweater comes out with a surplus or deficit of electrons, those atomic imbalances will cause parts of the sweater to cling together—and to your skin,” Troy Shinbrot, a professor of biomedical engineering at Rutgers recently explained to TIME.
In warmer months, water molecules present in humid air attract these wayward atoms, making static cling much less likely. Robert Hazen, a professor of Earth sciences at George Mason University, recommends using this fact against it during the winter. If you’re struggling with static cling, he suggests spritzing a little water on your clothes or—even better—moisturizing your skin. This should prevent static in the same way humidity keeps clothes from getting too clingy.
Another hack? Toss a damp washcloth into your dryer for the last 5 minutes of its cycle — just be careful not to let it dry out completely. You can also follow Shinbrot’s advice, and rub your skin and clothes with a carbon fiber brush to relieve them of their charge.