Date: Around 1993
What is the physics of static electricity buildup on clothes in a
dryer? How does a liquid fabric softener in the rinse cycle prevent
subsequent static in the dryer?
The static develops in the last part of the cycle, when the
clothes are dry; the presence of water or water vapor inhibits its buildup
Some materials are charge donors (they fairly readily give up electrons) and
others are charge acceptors. Many synthetic materials are one or the other.
Sweaters and socks often seem to make a dandy donor-receptor pair. Fabric
softeners are waxy materials distantly related to soap. Fabric softeners work
by coating your laundry with lubricant and humectant chemicals. The
lubricants let the fibers slide past each other, reducing wrinkling. The
humectants help the fabric retain moisture to dissipate the static charges.
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Update: June 2012