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I don't know what it is about this office, but it seems everything I touch (doorknob, bathroom faucet, edge of kitchen sink in the break room), I get zapped by static electricity. It's getting old. I feel like that scene in Office Space.

I've worked in other offices and it's not nearly this crazy. This has been going on for months so it's not the weather.

Why does this happen and is there any way I can defend against this evil?

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My chair usually creates a lot of static, so the same happens to me. What I usually do is to touch any big metal object before I get up (my desk is metallic, so I use that) to discharge myself. Another popular trick is to touch the doorknob, faucet, etc with a metallic object, so that the discharge goes from that instead of your fingers. Or you can use an antistatic strap, if it really bothers you.

Regarding the physical processes, when you rub against other materials (e.g. a carpet) you can get electrically charged. That's called triboelectric effect. If you then touch a metallic object, there will be an electrical discharge, like a tiny ray, that goes from your skin to the object and can be painful but not dangerous. If the air is dry (like in an office with air conditioning), you'll build more charge because the humidity makes the air ore conducting and you will slowly discharge with no sparks.

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    $\begingroup$ shoes with leather soles should help as well if the charge is generated by walking... $\endgroup$
    – Christoph
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ If touching the metallic doorknob creates a shock, then how does first touching a big metal object help -- isn't that the exact same thing as touching the metallic doorknob, so won't it also create a shock? $\endgroup$
    – oyvey
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ @oyvey I can't back this up with fact, but I've lived at high altitude for a while and my theory is that when you grip a metal object (even a key), you're increasing the surface area that you're discharging through. The pain (I assume) comes from the fact that you get zapped via a small point; very often a fingertip. The discharge point is still localised to a small location on the thing you're holding, but the flow out of your body into the object is spread out over a larger contact area. Some people also like to go for the back of the hand as a less sensitive patch of skin. $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 10:17
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Touch it with a key or something metal first.

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Lay an earthed conductive doormat in front of the door, so when you walk on it the built up static charge on your body is drained through the mat.

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I developed a habit years ago of always touching the door first before touching the doorknob, or touching anything non-metallic before touching metal. It doesn't always work, but usually helps by transferring some of the charge to something that's not a good conductor (but hopefully not a good insulator). In Michigan during winter, this is a useful habit!

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My main suggestion would be to try a different pair of shoes.

Do you wear slippers and/or does the floor feel like plastic?

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