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I have an office desk with a computer on it. After sitting in front of my computer for some period, if I get up and touch metal, I always get a spark.

In order to avoid surprises, I habitually touch metal whenever I get up now.

How can I prevent this build up of static electricity?

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Tip to avoid the jolt: carry a piece of metal, and when you think you got static, grab the metal and touch ground with it. The metal will get the spark instead of your skin. I use car keys. –  Endy Tjahjono Sep 22 '11 at 4:15
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3 Answers 3

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Happens to me all the time. I keep a spray-bottle of diluted fabric softener close by to spray down seats and coats that cause most of my shocks. I have heard that keeping dryer sheets in your pocket can help but I have had limited success with that. An added benefit is that my office space smells better after a couple of sprays from the bottle.

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I confirm that this works. After several days spraying the fabric of my seat, I collected much less static :) I'm using softener that contains polyquaternium 7 and 39. –  Endy Tjahjono Sep 22 '11 at 4:11
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Hopefully this is just a combination of the dry winter air with various materials in your environment. You can get anti-static mats that are used for electronics work, perhaps they would make a decent mouse pad. They also have wrist straps, but those would be a pain to take on and off whenever you want to get up.

A more universal solution is to get a humidifier for the home. The humidity helps remove any build up. But don't turn it up too high since you don't want mildew or mold problems, and you don't want to create condensation issues in the windows.

Beyond that, review what materials you have separating you from a ground. I'm currently on carpeting, with a plastic chair mat, on a chair with plastic wheels and a fabric seat. In the winter time here, I'm a shock hazard. I may just try one of those anti-static mats.

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Hmm, just checked the weather in Jakarta... I thought you might be further south than that, so maybe dry winter air doesn't explain this at all. –  BMitch Aug 2 '11 at 11:44
    
I would go with the humidifier. HVAC systems tend to suck all the moisture out of the air, causing the air to be very dry both summer and winter. If this is a home office consider installing a whole house humidifier, if it's in a building where you have no control over the HVAC system a small humidifier near the desk should do the trick. –  Tester101 Aug 2 '11 at 12:01
    
Jakarta air is humid but the room is air conditioned all day long. Maybe it's very dry. Also, this is an office and I have no control over the HVAC (in the IT dept). –  Endy Tjahjono Aug 2 '11 at 13:26
    
Here is a quote from a document from a company that specializes in data center design (Capitoline). "for very low humidity the static build up can occur simply from the passage of dry air over cables and power supplies." So if you have a lot of computers and/or server stacks in an area with low humidity, static can be an issue. –  Tester101 Aug 2 '11 at 14:47
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Sound like something is not grounded like either the desk itself or a lamp, etc. that is on the desk. Make sure all items are plugged into outlets with a ground and if you are using an adapter (three prong to two prong adapter) make sure that the ground screw is in use.

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I have a feeling that the entire office is not grounded. I'll ask building management to look into it but I don't have high hopes. Any other way to alleviate my problem? –  Endy Tjahjono Aug 2 '11 at 10:30
    
You can ground your desk by running a wire from the metal parts of the desk to a water pipe or an exposed steam pipe (or something like not). Of course this may not be easily done since there may not be any pipes exposed or they may be painted but this is one way to ground your desk. Be careful when dealing with electricity and if you are not sure then wait for building management. –  Jeff Widmer Aug 2 '11 at 10:42
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